It's hard to listen to a Sara Evans song and not get emotional. Whether you're rooting for her in her heartrending single, "Slow Me Down," itching to leave home with "Born To Fly," or just laughing at your ex's bad fortunes with "Cheatin'," chances are, if Evans' music is playing, you're feeling something.
Her new album, Slow Me Down, released March 11 by RCA Nashville, is packed with the kinds of songs that have made her famous: They've got fierce lyrics where Evans proclaims her independence but never obscures her doubts, and those addictive country melodies. Also featuring standout duets with Gavin DeGraw, Isaac Slade of The Fray and Vince Gill, the album's heartfelt and raw, and feels as brand new as it does familiar.
BuzzFeed sat down with Evans to talk about "bro country," feminism, and her big television dreams.
When your first album, Three Chords and the Truth, came out, it didn't have any hits. Now you have a lot of them. What did you learn from that initial experience?
Sara Evans: When I first moved to Nashville, I got hired as a demo singer. Everybody was talking about how country I was. "She's so country, she's like [country legend] Loretta Lynn." I sort of took on that personal, like, "Yeah I am really country, compared to a lot of people, so let's go with that." So I went to L.A. and we made sort of like a hillbilly record. I wrote seven songs on it. And I was so proud of it, am so proud of it. It got tons of critical acclaim but it had no real radio success.
I learned a huge lesson in that: There's definitely an effort that needs to be made between being authentic and artsy and cool and who you are, yet being commercial. Having that commercial success. Because I wasn't gonna be satisfied with just the critical acclaim. I wanted it all. I wanted radio hits, because that had been my dream since I was a little girl. Partying and beer drinking and all that; it would have been so dishonest if I had tried to come out with a record like that just to be part of the trend. Now, they're calling it "Bro Country.' So instead I just made the music that I loved and picked songs that I loved.
This is your seventh album. What has been the key to staying relevant all this time?
SE: I've always tried to choose music that I feel is, you know, right for me, and lyrically the things that I want to sing about. I always think it's going into dangerous territory when you start looking for songs or recording songs just because you think they'll be a hit or because you think it's the trend, rather than staying true to who you are. Because I think your fans start seeing through you. So I've tried to always have this consistent sound. Still growing, I don't want every album to sound the same, but it's always a consistent sound and message for me.
A lot of your music talks about independence, freedom, and breaking away, and you have talked about being a woman in a male-dominated field. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
SE: Not at all. I'm exactly the opposite of a feminist. I love men, and I've never really sang a man-hater song. But I will sing about getting stronger after a breakup. There's a song on my new album called "Better Off" that is basically the singer singing to anyone, her niece, or her sister, or her daughter, just saying, 'If he's not treating you the way you deserve to be treated, if he doesn't want to be with you, then you're better off.'
You don't think that's a feminist message?
SE: No, I think that's smart. Because you don't have to be a feminist to say, 'If he doesn't want to be with you, or if he's cheating on you and he leaves you, you're gonna be better off.' Because why would you want to be with someone like that anyway? You deserve to be with someone who loves you.
Slow Me Down has some great duets. If you could pick any artist, dead or alive, to duet with, who would it be?
SE: To be honest with you — and I'm not just saying this because he's on my record — but I really, really do love Isaac Slade. He's been one of my idols. There's something about his voice that I think is so special and so unique in the way he can sound like he's almost screaming, and then he'll come all the way down, to sound like he's almost whispering or crying. Patsy Cline would have been an amazing person to sing with. I love her. And I've always wanted to do a duet with Dwight Yoakam. I think he'll go down in history as one of the best country vocalists of all time.
After so much success in music, what's still on the list that you want to do?
SE: I'm really interested in television. My sister-in-law KK and I started a blog called arealfineplace.com. She's been on the road with me for 13 years. She helped me raise all of my babies on the road and her husband is my brother, he's my bass player. Now they just had their first child and she's on the road with us as well and we are a great team. She calls herself my "side chick." So we — and I'm gonna force her to do it even if she doesn't want to — are really interested in something in television. It can be sort of like a country Chelsea Lately, where we're having guests on, I'm performing, we're chatting it up. That's my current new thing on my wish list. But the music will always remain front and center to my career. I love it too much to ever give it up.
I usually write about healthy food. You're a mom, so we're probably fighting the same battle to make people eat more vegetables. What's your favorite vegetable and how do you like to cook it?
SE: For my children, I would say mashed potatoes. I know that sounds funny, but I like anything home cooked that I can give my children. I'm really against eating out and fast food. We also eat boiled potatoes; we love steamed carrots. I love to make a roast with steamed carrots and onions. I love to make squash, zucchini. My kids, when they come home from school, they're always hungry. They tend to want to go for a bowl of Frosted Flakes, but I don't want them to have that. I want them to have something healthy — carrots and cucumbers, stuff like that. Put it with some ranch dressing, and at least they're eating vegetables.
In 2012, you performed at SeaWorld. Have you seen Blackfish, the documentary about the effect of captivity on orcas at the parks?
SE: I haven't. Someone else asked me about that. I guess I've been so busy. I didn't even know the story.
Are you interested in seeing it? Should we send it to you?
SE:Yes, send it to me.
Well now I'm gonna ask you a really weird question since nobody's kicked me out yet. If you had to choose between a shark attack and an alien abduction, which one would you go with?
SE: The alien abduction would be way too claustrophobic for me. I would feel trapped in the spaceship. So I'd have to go with shark attack. But I would tell the shark to make it quick. And I don't want to be probed.