Sara Evans entered Nashville's Starstruck Studios on Oct. 23 for the final day of recording for her seventh studio album, slated from RCA in the first quarter of 2014.
The singer played a couple of the tracks for Billboard, including the traditional-based "Better Off." The cut will feature an Evans good luck charm from the past -- Vince Gill, who harmonized with the singer on "No Place That Far," her first chart-topper from 1998. She said listening to the track brought to mind one of her heroes. "That's Patty Loveless from the 1990s," she said excitedly. "It's such a great song."
Evans was excited to finish the album, which she says she has high hopes for. "I feel great about it," she says. "We have four amazing songs that I would have cut at the beginning of the project. We waited, and kept looking until the label insisted that we go in. So, we finally settled on them as the last four, and they are all great. Two of them I wrote," she says with a smile.
The label is excited to have Evans complete the album, because interest in the lead single, "Slow Me Down," has been very high since the release of the tune in August. "We were at a pitch meeting, and someone played it for us. As soon as we heard the line 'Hurry Up and Slow Me Down,' the first time we heard that line, I started clapping and thanking the publisher for bringing it. That's the kind of response that the song has been getting continually even with the demo. It was one of these things where we just knew – this is a killer song. We brought the label in, and they said 'There you go. That's our first single.' It keeps getting that reaction from radio and the fans. I feel very lucky to have gotten that one"
Evans has just completed a video for the song, which can be seen here:
Working with Evans on the project is veteran producer Mark Bright. It's not the first time Bright and Evans have collaborated, working together on 2005's Real Fine Place. Bright told Billboard that with Evans very happy with her family life, the studio experience has been phenomenal. "She was in a lot different place in her life on Real Fine Place. With this album, she's really happy, which makes a big difference as far as song selection and being able to have fun in the studio and not have all these things weighing on you."
The producer notes that her change in address over the past few years has been one that has affected her for the better. "Birmingham has been a great fit for her. She's really happy with her family. It's noticeably different, but all in a positive kind of way."
Bright has been pleased with the way radio has embraced the new music thus far. "You never know, but we felt good about it. Everybody was on the same page about that being the single. To see radio come en masse and support it has been very gratifying. I definitely don't take that for granted. All of that really quickens the step of the final session today a bit."
Evans says that a difference in making this album was she feels she is now more successfully balancing family, the road, and satisfying her creative streak. "I try to write a big part of each album, and that takes time because you have to get with your co-writers, work through the scheduling, write it, then someone has to demo it – which is a process all within itself. Then, I'm working all the time. People ask me 'Are you touring now?' I'm always on tour, working about every weekend," she says with a laugh. "I have to balance it out, where I'm not away from the kids too much. It takes a long time, especially not living in Nashville. It's not like I can just run over to the studio, throw on harmony or whatever. It has to be a whole days' worth of work."
With the tracks now cut, the songstress confesses she's "most definitely comfortable" with the new music. "Vocally, this is one of the most challenging albums I've done. 'Better Off' is really hard, and so is 'Put My Heart Down,' and 'Slow Me Down.' So, I'm realizing my live shows are going to get hard over the next few years, singing all these new songs," she says.
Stay tuned as Billboard continues to follow Sara's progress on the new release over the next few months!