Sara Evans was singing “A Little Bit Stronger” at a recent concert when she saw a man toward the front of the audience looking right at her and weeping.
The power of the song she chose as the centerpiece of her March release, Stronger, just underscored how grateful she was to be back with new music.
“When he was looking at me, crying, he had a little smile on his face, too, as if to say ‘I love this song. It means the world to me right now,'” said Evans.”I hated that he was going through something so hard, but I get so much joy as artist and entertainer really connecting with the fans in that way.”
That’s one reason Evans feels that recording the new studio album, her first in six years, was not only fun, but a of a homecoming, too. Although Evans continued to play concerts, write books and educate fans about her passions including the American Red Cross, the hiatus from writing and recording made her feel as if something was missing.
Yet her life was so filled with changes through those years, she had no choice but to leave writing and recording behind for a while. After weathering a high-profile divorce while continuing to raise her three children in a positive environment, Evans found love. When she and football-star-turned-sportscaster Jay Barker married, they settled in Birmingham, Ala. with their blended family of seven children.
“I never intended to take such a long break between studio albums. Life just happened, and I still toured and worked on writing novels but the music had to go on the back burner for awhile,” said Evans who released her latest novel, Softly and Tenderly, in January. “My No. 1 priority is always, no matter what, my family, then my friends and then my career. I have been accused of focusing too much on my career, but that’s honestly not the case. I always put my husband and my children first.”
That doesn’t mean, though, that she didn’t feel a tug to return to writing and recording.
Although she was joyful as opportunities arose to do just that, she was filled with a bit of apprehension, too.
“I spent a whole lot of time writing songs, searching for songs and getting songs from Nashville,” she said. “At time, it was frustrating. I knew I was going to make this record but I had to think about who I am now and what I wanted to say.”
Her manager urged her to take the pressure off herself and take her time selecting the songs she she wanted to record. That support, she said, made all the difference in selecting the ten tracks for the album, six of which she co-wrote.
“Once I relaxed, it all fell into place,” she said, noting the relaxed pace helped her find “A Little Bit Stronger,” which she and her manager predict is a game changer for her career. “When I heard that song I pulled my car over and called my manager and said “Have you heard this?” It became the centerpiece to the whole, entire project.”
Not, to mention, something akin to the theme for her life.
From that point on, Evans threw herself into writing, turning out songs including “What That Drink Cost Me,” about a fatal car crash and “Ticket to Ride,” about finding love.
Although some of the process was especially challenging, such as writing “Ticket to Ride” which has many time changes and what she describes as a “weird tempo,” Evans said the results were well worth the effort.
“I feel like I put together an album full of singles,” she said, noting each song on the album is a jewel, among the best she’s ever recorded. “I feel like I’m called to be an artists and an entertainer. That’s what I was meant to do.”
For more information about Evans’ music, her novels and upcoming concerts and appearances, check her Web site.