Family is always a welcome addition on Sara Evans’ tours.
The country singer’s brother, Matt Evans, is her backing band’s bassist and leader. Her mom is her hairdresser and makeup artist. And Evans’ three children, who were pretty much raised on the road, join her on most tours.
“All three of my children learned how to walk on a tour bus,” Evans said from her home in Birmingham, Ala., less than a week away from the start of her holiday tour, which heads to Proctors tonight.
“They love missing school to go on the road. What they don’t love is doing their schoolwork on the road — it’s very hard to get them to sit down and do it. Then I’ll say,
‘If you don’t do your work, you can’t travel with me,’ and so they’re like, ‘Fine.’ ”
For Gazette music writer Michael Hochanadel's review of this show, click here.
Evans has always had a strong family connection in her musical life, singing along with her six siblings in her family’s band by the time she was 5. Brother Matt has been Evans’ songwriting partner and musical director since the two moved to Nashville from their home state of Missouri in the early ’90s.
“He’s truly one of my best friends on the planet, and has always had my back,” Evans said. “He’s three years older than me, so we have this great working relationship — I respect him as my older brother, and because I’m his boss, he respects me, too. But it’s a great mutual friendship — people are always saying we’re like Donny and Marie [Osmond].”
With her holiday tour, the family focus is highlighted even further. Half of her set will feature her hits, including “Born to Fly,” “Suds in the Bucket” and “A Real Fine Place to Start,” with the other half focusing on classic Christmas songs such as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” the title track to last year’s holiday EP made up of songs previously recorded by Evans.
Fun first time around
This is only Evans’ second holiday tour, following last year’s in conjunction with the EP release. At first, she was actually a bit wary of the idea of mounting a holiday show.
“We did this last year; it was primarily on the West Coast, and I wasn’t sure what I would think about doing a Christmas tour,” Evans said. “It turned out to be so much fun, and just a really great change for us to be able to sing songs that aren’t the hits.
“Also, just to get everybody in the Christmas spirit — it sounds kind of cheesy, but when you perform these songs, you really do start to remember things. Many nights, I’ve kind of choked up singing these songs. It’s very nostalgic; you kind of remember what it’s all about.”
Evans will have plenty of new material to tackle on the road this time out. “Stronger,” her first all-new studio album since 2005’s “Real Fine Place,” is due to be released early next year, with two singles, “Feels Just Like a Love Song” and “A Little Bit Stronger,” already released to radio.
During the interim period, Evans released “Greatest Hits,” which featured four new songs, in 2007. Evans also divorced longtime husband Craig Schelske that year, marrying radio show host Jay Barker the following summer. These changes contributed to the album’s delay.
“I haven’t made any new music, released any new music, in almost three years,” Evans said. “I got married and moved to Birmingham, and with all those changes I had a lot of adjusting to do. I decided not to release any new music because I knew I wouldn’t have the heart to go out and promote it properly, and I didn’t want to leave my husband to go on tour. I still don’t want to leave him, but I feel more settled; things are in motion in Birmingham.”
A novel idea
In addition, Evans published her first novel, “Sweet By and By,” early this year. It’s the first in a series of three novels, with a story focusing on a mother-daughter relationship in the South. The second is due out in January.
“When I was approached about writing this novel, I thought, ‘Well, I’ll take this meeting, but there’s no way that I can write a novel’ — you know, I’m creative, but I’m not that creative,” Evans said. “But I went away, thinking about it, praying about it, asking myself what I could write about, and then it came to me. I will write a story that is similar to all of my favorite stories and movies, which are all Southern-inspired, like ‘Steel Magnolias’ or ‘The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.’ ”
The past few years have been a heavily creative time for the singer, in her music as well. Evans co-wrote about six songs on the album, with Matt and producers Nathan Chapman and Tony Brown. It’s the most she’s written for an album in a while, as “Real Fine Place” featured mostly outside writing credits due to the birth of Evans’ third child.
“It’s just fun, but it’s exhausting,” Evans said of the songwriting process. “Usually it’s me getting together with one or two other people, starting around 10 o’clock. We all come with ideas, and we’ll come to a conclusion about which idea we want to write. Sometimes it’s an all-day-into-night affair; sometimes the song writes itself and we’re done in three hours.”
Still enjoys the ‘wows’
Since first hitting the national country scene with her traditional sounding debut album “Three Chords and the Truth,” Evans has been a fixture on both the country and pop crossover charts, with at least four No. 1 hit singles in her career. But no matter how many songs she writes, the thrill she gets when one of those songs hits the charts has not diminished.
“Especially when we write a song that ends up going on the album, and then it ends up as a single, and then it becomes a hit,” Evans said. “Then it’s like, ‘Wow, I remember how the entire process started.’ Like, it was just one sentence that somebody said that inspired this song, and to see those songs make it all the way to where everybody in America knows it, is just such a great feeling of accomplishment.”