After working country listeners into a lather with “Suds in the Bucket,” Sara Evans continues to make a splash at country radio. With a recent No. 1 hit (“A Real Fine Place to Start”) and a new album (Real Fine Place) that debuted at No. 1 on the country chart, she found time to answer a variety of questions from her fans. Here, Evans discusses her near-death experiences on a video set, her surprising tips for a satisfying marriage and why she always skips dessert.
1. I love the video for “A Real Fine Place to Start.” What do you remember the most about filming it?
I remember many things from that video shoot. It was the day after the ACM Awards, and I was exhausted but really excited about shooting the video. Three things happened to me that almost took my life. I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. And I almost fell off that big cliff that I’m standing on. And then around the bonfire, I had on that little silk shirt, and the flames kept popping onto that shirt, almost sending me up in flames.
2. I was surprised to see that one of my favorite songs on the album, “Missing Missouri,” which sounded completely autobiographical for you, was actually written by three men [Mark Kerr, Trent Tomlinson and Danny Wells]. Was this song written with you in mind, or did you just get lucky?
They wrote it for me, absolutely. They researched my life. The only part I wrote was the bridge, where it says, “Late summer nights sneaking out the window/Me and the girls driving down the back roads.” I wrote the bridge because the bridge they had didn’t really fit me. But that song is truly amazing, and I know it’s going to be played all over Missouri constantly because it is a tribute to where I’m from. … It says, “Every time the bus wheels hit the boot heel/There’s no limelight/And I’m all right/Because I’m almost home.” It’s so true. You feel that way when you go back to your hometown. Or at least I do. No makeup, no wardrobe, nothing. It’s just me and Mom and a glass of iced tea.
3. Songs you wrote are among my favorites on all of your albums. Why do you always work with co-writers? Do you write primarily lyrics or melodies, or both?
I like to work with co-writers because I think it’s really fun to bounce ideas off each other. I have written several songs alone but none that I have recorded yet because most of them are really, really, really personal. Co-writing is great. I mean, two heads are better than one. Believe it or not, I write most of the lyrics. I write melodies, too, but I think lyrics are my strong point.
4. When you’re listening to the radio and one of your songs comes on, what do you do? Do you turn the station or sing along with it? Or just listen quietly?
Turn it up. I turn it up and listen because I feel like this is a dream come true for me. Every time I hear one of my songs on the radio, I’m not going to pass that moment by. I’m going to take it in every single time it happens, because it won’t always be that way. It’s a dream. Yeah, I turn it up, and me and the kids jam out.
5. I have enjoyed all of your videos, especially “Born to Fly,” “No Place That Far” and “Suds in the Bucket.” Do you write the treatments for those videos?
Those three that you mentioned were written by Peter Zavadil. Peter has produced so many of my videos now that, basically, there is no treatment. We call each other and talk about what we’re thinking and how I’m feeling and whether or not I’ve just had a baby or I’m pregnant. I was pregnant in the “Suds in the Bucket” video, four months pregnant. I was very nauseous, and so that video had to be not a lot of work for me. Get in there, do it and get out because I was not feeling well. But then “Real Fine Place” was a video where I really wanted to show off. I just had a baby and shed the baby weight. I wanted to strut my stuff, so I stayed out there all day long shooting. It depends. We don’t really write treatments. We talk about the vibe of the video, and it takes off on its own.
6. Why is the music so loud at your concerts? I attended your show in Camden, N.J., and was very disappointed. The show was great, but your beautiful voice was drowned out by the music.
Huh. Camden, N.J. Well, I’ll have to talk to my people about that. Nobody ever likes to hear that. It could have been the room. It could have been the gear. There could have been a problem. I mean, for the most part, there’s no front-of-house production manager that would ever deliberately try to keep your voice down below the music, so I apologize for that. He will be fired! No, I’m just kidding.
7. How often do you hire new band members? Where do you hire from?
I hate to hire and fire. I like to keep the same band for as long as I can. Most of my band has been with me for six years, and the rest of them have been with me for three years, almost four. My brother is my bandleader. Whenever we need to replace someone or we want to add someone to the group, that’s all him. He auditions them and finds them. I don’t have time for all that now. I have three kids.
8. I saw you’re on the Desperate Housewives soundtrack. Are you addicted to that show? If so, who is your favorite of the housewives?
Susan is my favorite because she is so crazy and so … just… chaotic. Her life is chaotic. I wouldn’t say that I’m addicted to the show, but I like it very much.
9. Have you ever passed on a song that you wish you had recorded after you heard someone else do it?
No. I get asked that question a lot, and that’s a great question. But I have to say that I never have. … Just because it later became a hit by somebody else doesn’t mean that it was right for me. … Art is opinion. No, I’ve never passed on a song that then became a hit and I regretted it. Hopefully, that will never happen.
10. Do you think you need that big break to succeed? Or do you think good, old-fashioned hard work is the key? Or a combination of both?
It’s a combination. I heard Martina McBride say on a show the other night that no one can prepare you for what it’s like — what it’s really like — and that is so true. It is such hard work. The whole thing about people being divas, it’s just really not true. It’s such hard work, especially when you are a mom and a wife and you have so many people that you are responsible for, and you have other priorities. I probably work 70 hours a week, most of the time. I’m constantly working: As a mom, as an artist, as a producer, as a songwriter, an entertainer, on the road. There’s just so much. There are wardrobe fittings, interviews. It is nonstop. And if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it. But I love it. I thrive on it, and my kids go with me wherever I go. If you want to make it in a business like this, you have to be ready in advance for the sheer amount of work that you will be doing, both physical and mental.
11. What is your most memorable moment as a country singer?
Oh, there are a whole bunch of them. My first time on the Grand Ole Opry. Performing at the Ryman Auditorium with George Jones. Having George Jones sing on my record. The first time I met Sheryl Crow. I mean, the list goes on and on. Meeting Loretta Lynn. Meeting Dolly Parton. Being on tour with Reba McEntire. There are still so many dreams that I have and so many things waiting to happen, I hope, that are just going to blow me away. The first time I heard my song on the radio, my first No. 1 record. Career-wise, there are a whole bunch of those first-time things.
12. Which country stars have the best sense of humor and are funniest to you?
Brad Paisley is very funny. Who else is funny? I think Reba McEntire is very funny. Those are the only two I can think of right now. … Dolly Parton is hilarious. Loretta Lynn is hilarious.
13. I read the liner notes to the Restless album and was impressed with your openness about your Christian faith. What can you tell us about the background of your faith and how it impacts your daily life?
I grew up going to a small church in Boonesboro, Mo., and I was baptized as a child, but I became a born again Christian when I was 21 years old, after meeting Craig [Schelske, her husband]. Craig witnessed to me and brought me to the Lord. It plays a part in everything I do. A lot of people come up to me, other Christians, and say, “When are you going to make a Christian record?” I’m like, “Every album I make is a Christian album because I am a Christian, and this is my art.”
Every single day, I am aware of how I need to be grateful and how I need to be an example to other people for the Lord, how I need to be a servant to other people, even though I have all these people that work for me and they are carrying my clothes and doing all this. The main thing I try to do is to serve others, serve those who work for me. Make sure they’re OK, and ask them what they need. Trying to live by the Ten Commandments, which is nearly impossible, and then trying to imitate Jesus. That’s the goal of every Christian, to try to grow. I definitely have times in my life where I’m not walking with God and I’m not praying or reading the Bible, but my faith is always there. I know God never leaves me.
14. As a “retired” home schooler, I’m curious to know if you and your husband are considering home schooling your children on the road when they reach school age.
Avery is in kindergarten now, and we worked it out with the school that when we’re in town, he goes to school. When we are out of town, he comes with me. They send his work with him. My nanny goes and picks it up, then we go out on the road and do school during the day on the road. He’s only in kindergarten. So far, it’s working out great. It’s very easy to do. But I will not be touring as much as I am now once all three kids get older, because I have a lot of dreams that don’t involve being on the road. I love to perform, and I know that I would miss it, but that’s a sacrifice that I’m going to have to make for myself. … I will be sacrificing something that I love to do for my kids — and that is I can’t tour as much. I want to be going to football games and coaching softball teams. That’s a whole other category of dreams that I still have yet to fulfill.
15. What kind of books do you like to read? Also, what kind of books do you like to read to your children?
I like to read any books to my children. I love children’s books and we read to them a lot. Avery can read already, and I love to read. I love John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell. I love the Oprah Book Club. I usually always like everything she suggests. I’m reading Of Mice and Men right now, and I read East of Eden last year. I love to read. I don’t have a lot of time to do it, but I love to.
16. What is the best advice you’ve ever received on marriage?
I don’t know that anybody gave me this advice, but here’s what I think is the best advice I could give someone: Keep your romance alive with your spouse. Keep yourself looking your best for your spouse. Acting your best. Behaving your best. It appalls me how many married couples behave so badly to their spouses, in terms of what they will say. A lot of it really is women. A lot of women will speak very harshly to their husbands … critical, you know, kind of naggy. Men hate to be criticized. It’s really hard on them. They can’t take it. My advice would be just to be sweet to one another, and don’t fight in front of your kids. The best gift that you can give your children is to have a great marriage.
It makes me so mad when women talk about hating having sex with their husbands. I think it’s ridiculous. There are so many girls that get together and are like, “Oh, I’m just so tired, and I don’t want to do it.” He is practically begging the wife to have sex, and that is so common in marriage, especially after you have been married for more than five years. I just think, “Women, you have a responsibility to your men.” I guarantee you, it will make your relationship great. Granted, hopefully you are married to a decent man. If you are married to a pig, now that’s different.
17. Was it easy or difficult growing up with so many brothers and sisters? I have five brothers and sisters, and I don’t know what I would do without them.
It was easy. It was wonderful. Craig and I are both from [families of] seven kids, and we love it. We love our siblings. They are our best friends. Oh, it would have been so lonely without them.
18. What is your advice to high school girls and their friendships?
Don’t be afraid to do the right thing, and don’t be afraid to lead your girlfriends into doing the right thing. You don’t have to be like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. … I think a lot of girls these days have their cell phones, have My Super Sweet 16 show. It’s gotten out of control a little bit with teenagers thinking they are twenty-something. My advice with your friends would be to take it slow. You don’t have to grow up too fast. Encourage your girlfriends to do the right thing. Encourage them to not have sex until they are married. Encourage them to be honorable and to focus on school and grades, and you know, cheerleading or whatever you want to do. Support each other in those decisions to do the right thing.
19. How do you get your hair in those nice big spirals and so full of life? My hair has lots of volume, but I can’t seem to get it into big spirals.
I have a great hair stylist. She actually will take a strand of my hair and roll it up into a curl and she will put a straight iron on it, on that circle that she made. It takes a lot of product. You have to use product in your hair. I could never do it myself.
20. How do you stay trim and fit? You look amazing. I want to know your secret!
I always watch what I eat. I never eat dessert. I try to eat lean meats, vegetables. Really, this whole thing with, “How do you stay thin?” — I think that people deep down know how to stay thin. Don’t overeat and don’t starve yourself either. It’s everything in moderation. That’s the way I like to live life: Everything in moderation. If you’re sitting there and you’ve had two pieces of pizza and you feel stuffed, don’t go for that third one. It’s common sense. I have no diet tricks, I have no “I never eat carbs” or “I never …” I eat a little bit and as soon as I feel full, I stop. Then I don’t eat again until I’m hungry. But one thing that I do stay away from is desserts. I do not eat dessert because I think it’s unnecessary. It’s nobody’s birthday. (laughs)