Sara Evans on Picking 13 Female Songwriters for Her New Album: 'It Wasn't Something I Did on Purpose'

Sara Evans
Kristin Barlowe

Sara Evans

This Friday (July 21), veteran hitmaker Sara Evans releases her eighth studio album, Words. She tells Billboard that it’s a project she can’t wait for fans to hear.

“I’ve been proud of and loved all my records, but there is something different about this one," Evans tells Billboard. "I was just doing an interview about the album, and the lady came in from listening to the record, and she was sobbing. Eighty percent of this album will make you cry, and twenty percent will make you so happy. It’s really deep with incredible lyrics. That’s why I decided to call the album Words. I feel like without a great lyric, you can’t really have a great song – one that you truly believe in. Words are everything in this life – they can tear you down and abuse you, or they can make you feel so wonderful and loved. It’s really important the words that we say to people – especially the ones that you love.”

The album is the first on her very own Born To Fly label, named after her Hot Country Songs No. 1 from 2000. After an almost two-decade run with RCA, the singer said it just felt like the time to roll the dice on her own venture.

“I’m a huge record industry mogul now,” she said light-heartedly. “It’s something that we had been wanting to do for a while. It was just the perfect opportunity. I’ve always prayed for guidance. My way of doing things is that I am going to go for it, and if it’s going to be a disaster, I will pray that God will have a way of stopping it. From the minute we started talking about having our own label, every door just opened.”

It might be conventional wisdom to think that with her own label, a new creative freedom is here. But Evans stresses that’s pretty much been the case since the beginning. “I will say that Joe Galante signed me to a seven-album deal with RCA, and he was wonderful. He did give me freedom artistically. He said ‘Do what you want.’ I think a few times we disagreed on things – he might have wanted me to record a song that he thought was a hit and I hated it, but for the most part, I’ve always pretty much done what I wanted.”

However, there are differences with her own label that are taking some ongoing adjustment. “With the photo shoot, the artwork, everything is pretty much my decision. There is a lot of responsibility that goes with it, but at the same time, it’s really fun. I feel like I’m grown and out on my own now, and not relying on my parents to take care of me. That’s what RCA was all of these years. They were my label, my parents. Now, I feel like once we get past the launch of Words, I want to look at where do I want my office to be and what do I want it to look like. Then, I want to sign and produce other artists, and develop them.”

A mark of Words that has been highly touted is that there are 14 female singer-songwriters (including Evans) with cuts on the album. Make no mistake about it, she’s proud of that. But it wasn’t intentional.

“Typically, when I get pitched a song, I don’t want to know who wrote it or when it was written. Just play me the song, and let me hear the song on its own. When I was finished recording the album, (A&R rep) Tracy Gershon told me ‘Do you realize that there are fourteen female singer-songwriters on this album including you?' That wasn’t something that I did on purpose, and I want to emphasize that. If I had just said I was only picking female writers, that wouldn’t have meant they were the best songs. It just ended up that way, which made me even more proud. These are some amazing female songwriters, and obviously I have good taste,” she says with confidence.

One of those songs is the heartbreaking “Make Room At The Bottom,” which Ashley Monroe co-wrote and recorded for her debut Satisfied in 2006. Evans says that the song made an impact – both with her and another certain family member. “I had never heard it, and didn’t know it was an older song. It was really awesome on the part of the song pluggers and the publishers to think about the song for me. I love it when publishers do that. They really do their jobs, and they dig in, and find songs that they think I would love and that I would deliver well. As soon as I heard it, I loved it. I wanted to hold it. Then I took it home and played it for my kids. My son Avery said ‘Mom, if you don’t cut this song, I will lose all hope in you.’ He’s seventeen, but very wise beyond his years. For him to say that about the song is huge to me. It’s a deep, dark, depressing song. And, he still has faith in me,” she says, thankfully.

Words comes out as Evans marks her twentieth year as a recording artist. Does it seem that many years have passed since her debut, Three Chords and The Truth, in 1997?

“It doesn’t even seem real. It’s absolutely flown by. I feel like I am just starting, and I don’t feel like I’m there. I have so much music in me. I feel like I’m a better vocalist than I have ever been. I feel like I am at the top of my game as an artist. In some ways, it feels like a long time ago – because I’ve lived ten lives between then and now, and been through so much. I’ve created these human beings that are now coming up competing with me in music. But I still feel like the same girl who moved here from Missouri, just knowing that I was born to be a singer, and that it’s truly what I was meant to do.”