Sara Evans Keeps It in the Family With Barker Family Band EP & Tour: Hear Cover of Beyonce's 'XO' (Exclusive)

David McClister
The Barker Family Band

Sara Evans' career is coming full-circle with her upcoming EP and tour. The Missouri native began her career as a 5-year-old performing in her family’s band. This spring, she’ll hit the road as part of a family group again with her 19-year-old son Avery and 16-year-old daughter Olivia as The Barker Family Band.

The ACM and CMA Award-winning singer is working on a new solo album coming later this year, but The Barker Family Band EP will drop April 12 on Evans’ own Born to Fly Records. The group’s cover of Beyoncé’s “XO” premieres below.

The idea to do the project originated one night at the family’s home in Birmingham, Alabama. “Avery came downstairs with his acoustic [guitar], and they started singing ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac,” says Evans, who is married to former quarterback/radio personality Jay Barker. “Olivia was singing the lead. I came in with the high harmony and Avery was singing the low harmony. I recorded it. They told me that I couldn’t film them, but I could film the chandelier. I recorded it and posted it to Instagram and that just sparked the idea.”

Soon after, Evans met with her manager Craig Dunn to discuss the side project. The trio’s six-city outing -- officially named City Winery and Sirius XM Y2Kountry present Sara Evans and The Barker Family Band—Bloodline Tour -- kicks off May 7 at the City Winery in Washington, D.C., before dates at City Winery locations in New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and Nashville. “I didn’t even really know if anybody would want to buy the show or tour, and now we’re getting calls from promoters saying, ‘Hey, why just City Winerys? We want to be a part of this too,’” Evans says. “It’s been exciting for me that other people think this is a cool idea too.”

In response to requests they are getting, Evans says they are considering expanding the tour, but a lot has to do with Avery and Olivia’s schedules. “Avery and Olivia are their own artists and I don’t know how long they want to be onstage with Mom,” she admits. 

Evans says the show will include some of her hits -- reworked for her and Olivia to share lead vocals -- as well as classic tunes and the songs on the EP.

Recorded in Nashville, Avery co-produced the project with Evans and Ben Fowler and played acoustic and electric guitar on the tracks. In addition to Evans’ 2000 hit “Born to Fly,” the EP includes Evans singing lead on “Dreams” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and Olivia taking lead on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “XO.” Avery and Olivia wrote an original, “The View,” which features Olivia on lead vocals.

Evans is eager for the rest of the world to hear her talented offspring, who are from her first marriage to Craig Schelske. “It’s me just being proud of my kids and wanting to show my kids off, and also me being proud of the fact that they are following in my footsteps,” she says.

Evans says she would have been surprised if they’d chosen another path. “I would think it was strange if they weren’t interested in music because it’s been their whole lives. They grew up on the road with me. They don’t know anything else. It’s a dream come true for me because at least once I wanted the opportunity to perform with them. We sound great together. There’s nothing like sibling and family harmony.”

Evans’ brother, Matt Evans, who has played bass and been her bandleader for years, will also go on tour with The Barker Family Band. Would her husband and band namesake Jay ever perform with the band? “Hell no, he would never do that,” Evans says with a laugh. “Honestly, he can sing. He has unbelievable rhythm and he’s an amazing dancer. That’s really what made me take the plunge and fall in love with him because he came out to see me on the road. We had just gotten the new Justin Timberlake album and we were listening to it on the bus. He started dancing and I was like, ‘What?!? Since when do you dance like this?’ I had no idea. It was amazing.”

Evans’ youngest daughter, 14-year-old Audrey, isn’t part of the act yet. “Audrey has a great voice and we keep telling her, ‘You need to start singing,’ but she’s always been more into dance.” Avery and Olivia, however, are committed to making music their careers. Avery moved to Nashville last August. “He’s totally doing the Nashville thing and the music scene,” Evans says proudly. “He’s writing with some people and really enjoying it. I’m so jealous of him. He lives in a really cool part of town. I remember what that was like, when Matt and I first moved to Nashville. It’s such a great feeling and you’re like, ‘My whole life is ahead of me.’”

Olivia is still living at home in Birmingham but has started attending school online so she can pursue music. “I’m not advising her to go into country at all. She needs to be heard,” says Evans, acknowledging the dearth of women on country radio. 

“I think she’ll lean more towards the pop world,” Evans says. “She loves Joni Mitchell, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Ella Fitzgerald.”

Evans, Avery and Olivia will continue pursuing their solo careers, but for right now the veteran singer/songwriter is happy to be performing once again in a family band. “What I love the most is that it’s just so natural that we would make music together and do this little project,” Evans says. “They have grown up on the road and it’s completely legitimate and authentic to who they are as people. They don’t want to be in a band with their mom forever. It’s just a one-time thing, and it’s something that’s very, very special and precious to me.”