Confidence is sexy and creativity is empowering. Rarely have those qualities merged into a more potent package than Sara Evans’ new album Slow Me Down. From the simmering title track, which provided her biggest first week ever at country radio, to the life-affirming message of the album’s closing song, “Revival,” Evans has crafted a compelling body of work filled with the kind of slice-of-life vignettes that fans expect from the award-winning vocalist.
Slow Me Down is Evans’ seventh album for RCA Nashville Records and never has she sounded more self-assured and in control of her artistry. “I have a lot of strong opinions because I’ve been doing this my whole life and I know what I want,” says Evans, who co-produced the album with Mark Bright, who helmed her platinum Real Fine Place album and is also known for his work with Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts and Reba McEntire. “I just love him. I really wanted Mark’s type of personality and production on this. He’s always so bright and chipper and is there to give support, direction and his expertise. Plus he’s such a great song guy.”
On Slow Me Down, Evans has delivered an album that reveals a vibrant tapestry of emotion from the truthful resignation of “Good Love is Hard to Find” to her autobiographical ode to contentment “Sweet Spot.” “You Never Know” is a cautionary tale about the fragility of relationships. Love, joy, heartache and desire swirl throughout the album. “That’s intentional and it’s pretty typical for me,” says Evans, who co-wrote three of the 11 songs on the album. “I try to give my fans a little bit of everything that I am and everything that I like. Nothing is ever contrived about my music. I record the songs that I love.”
In serving up this emotional tour de force, the Missouri native enlists a diverse line-up of special guests including The Fray’s Isaac Slade, who duets with Evans on “Can’t Stop Loving You” and Gavin DeGraw who joins Evans on her cover of his pop hit “Not Over You.” Longtime pal Vince Gill lends his voice to the stone cold country “Better Off,” which Evans describes as the most country song she’s ever recorded.
“Slow Me Down” was named one of Billboard’s “10 Best Singles of 2013” and has been buoyed by a video featuring NASCAR driver Carl Edwards. “It’s got a great lyric. It’s got a fabulous melody and they set the tempo to it just perfectly,” Evans says of the song, which was penned by Marv Green, Jimmy Robbins and Heather Morgan. “It’s one of those songs that’s just undeniable and I love what its saying. ‘Hurry up and slow me down’ is obviously a great play on words, but it means so much more than that. She is basically saying, ‘I’m leaving you and I need you know that I’m willing to give this relationship a chance, but if you don’t change your ways, I’m leaving. But when I’m walking away, I want you to hurry up and slow me down. I want you to pursue me.’”
Over the years, Evans has developed a reputation for delivering thoroughly satisfying albums full of great songs brought to life by her distinctive voice. She has that heart-in-the-throat quality that turned Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn into legends coupled with an edgy contemporary sensibility that keeps her at the vanguard of today’s successful country performers. She’s sold nearly six million records and her last four albums have been certified Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum. She’s scored five No. 1 hits, among them “Suds in the Bucket,” “A Real Fine Place to Start,” “No Place That Far” and “A Little Bit Stronger,” the title track of her chart-topping 2011 album Stronger. The single was No. 1 for two weeks and was certified platinum by the R.I.A.A. Evans has amassed an impressive collection of awards, including female vocalist from the Academy of Country Music and video of the year from the Country Music Association for her ground breaking clip “Born to Fly.”
At the root of all those accolades is a God-given talent fueled by an impressive Midwestern work ethic instilled by her parents. She grew up singing in her family’s band and then moved to Nashville looking for a record deal. Legendary songwriter Harlan Howard heard her on a demo and helped open a door for her at RCA Records where she’s been ever since. “I’ve always felt like I’m a very lucky person,” says Evans. “To be given a gift to sing, I don’t know why the Lord has blessed me with this talent, but it has always made me feel lucky. I always appreciate those special moments like having a No. 1 record or doing a great show. At the end of the show I feel like, ‘This is exactly why I’m doing this!’
Seven albums into an already impressive career and Evans has never been more excited about the music she’s making. “I do feel like I sang with a ton of confidence this time around,” she says. “You always want to get better with your craft and your art. I’m always striving to sing better, write better, and perform better because I’m just very competitive with myself.”
After enduring a messy public divorce, Evans rebounded personally and professionally. She and her three children are now settled in Birmingham with former pro quarterback-turned-sportscaster Jay Barker, whom she married in 2008. “Everything in my professional life is a reflection of my personal life and so I feel very confident. I feel happy and settled,” she says of life in Alabama with the blended family that includes her three children and Barker’s four. “I’m secure in who I am and where I’m going in life. I’m just so obviously in love with Jay and just love being a mom and watching my children come into their teenage years. Avery is 14. Olivia is 11. Audrey is 9. We’re in such a good place right now and I think that I always do better in my career when life is not stressful.”
In addition to her music, Evans is an accomplished author of three books with co-writer Rachel Hauck and writes a lifestyle blog, “A Real Fine Place,” with her sister-in-law Kaelin “K.K” Evans where they share their passion for fashion, beauty, travel and food. She was the first country artist to compete on ABC’s popular “Dancing with the Stars” and she’s been named one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People.” A tireless philanthropist, Evans is involved in several charitable endeavors and has been awarded the Crystal Cross by the American Red Cross. Last year she and Barker launched Rock the South. The festival attracted 50,000 country music fans and raised money for the Children’s Hospital of Birmingham and Alabama Forever, a charity formed to help rebuild the areas in Alabama that were struck by devastating tornados.
Though her new album is titled Slow Me Down its obvious Sara Evans isn’t even taking her foot off the gas these days. “I knew that when I started to make this record that I wanted to go further than I had ever gone before with my music,” she says. “Vocally I wanted to challenge myself and in choosing the songs and writing the songs, I wanted to be more of a perfectionist than I have ever been before. I’m super happy with the outcome. Sonically it sounds different. It sounds bigger than anything I’ve ever done.”