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She’s had five #1 singles, sold millions of records, won the Academy of Country Music’s Top Female Vocalist Award and claimed a Country Music Association trophy for her signature song, “Born To Fly.” It’s tough to imagine many accomplishments Sara Evans hasn’t already checked off her bucket list.
And yet, with the release of her eighth studio album, Words demonstrates that she’s still willing to leap into the unknown, taking greater control of her career and calling the shots in a way that’s unusual in country music – particularly unusual for a woman in the genre.
Words is the first project on Evans’ own label: Born To Fly Records, appropriately named after that CMA-winning signature song, which celebrated risk and adventure. Much is familiar about Words. Evans’ voice is warm and strong, the songs are authentic and memorable, and the actual words themselves resonate with the realities of everyday life.
But the album was an eye-opening experience for Evans as a creative force. As the head of her own small, flexible company, she was able to take a streamlined approach to building it. Instead of subjecting the music to multiple departments, each with their own view of one part of her career, Evans approached it with an instinctual, gut-level focus on making a project that represents the 2017 version of Sara Evans.
“The only thing I had on my mind with this album is just Grammy-level songs and the coolest music that I can find,” she says. “I didn’t really go about it in any other way. I wasn’t catering to any part of the business. There was never a thought in my head of ‘Will this work on country radio?’ So what has happened with the music is that it is still very much Sara Evans music. It’s just a little bit deeper than I’ve gone in the past.”
There’s an irony there – part of the reason that Sara Evans is one of country’s iconic modern singers is that her music has worked so well on country radio, at concert halls and amphitheaters, and in fans’ personal playlists. And the music she’s made to date is authentically her. But where Born To Fly narrowed the crowd of voices around her, Words is distinctively Sara Evans. For a woman who always tackled the music her own way, the new album is 100% her own.
It’s a big reason that the album is titled Words. The songs generate a number of words – flexible, commanding, sassy, daring, loving, hopeful, resilient – that all embody parts of Evans’ inimitable persona.
“Songs are a combination of words and melodies, and it’s the words that matter most to me,” she says. “When we go into these pitch meetings, people always ask, ‘What are you looking for? Are you OK with doing something that’s a little more pop?’ I always tell them, ‘Just play me great lyrics.’ That’s what I’m looking for.”
Evans co-wrote three of the album’s 14 songs, instinctively picking material along the way that matches her world view. Thirteen additional females racked up writing credits on the project, including Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, Pistol Annies’ Ashley Monroe, The Isaacs’ Sonya Isaacs, Hillary Lindsey (“Blue Ain’t Your Color”), Caitlyn Smith (“Wasting All These Tears”), Heather Morgan (“Beat Of The Music”) and Liz Hengber (“For My Broken Heart”). Read more