Sara Evans’ country music career has built gradually, but now she’s reaping the rewards with her first Greatest Hits CD. The collection includes fan favorites like “Born to Fly” and “No Place That Far,” as well as four new songs. Here, she reflects on her latest music video, her first big hit and why her kids have changed the way she makes albums.
CMT: What do you remember the most about making the new video, “As If”?
Sara Evans: That particular day was a stressful day, personally, for me. There was a lot of stuff going on. I remember thinking, ’Oh, I just don’t want to be here. I’m not in the mood. I’m probably going to hate everything that I wear.’ It was the first time we worked with Roman White and, instantly, he changed my whole attitude, and it was the best video shoot ever. I mean, seriously, it was so much fun. His concept was so funny — shopping for men. We had a great time, and my part only took about 10 hours, which is relatively short for a video shoot. I was mad, though, that I literally couldn’t buy one of those men to take home.
Since you had a slow start, were you concerned that Nashville wasn’t going to work out for you?
Not really. My first album was Three Chords and the Truth, and it was really, really traditional, and even retro to a certain extent. Looking back now, I think it was a bit of a mistake to take it that far, but at the time, that’s where my mind was and that’s what I was listening to. That’s what I was really into. I grew up singing real old-time country music. I remember when I first moved to Nashville, everybody commented on that — “You’re so country.” So I thought, “Well, all right, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll go really far that way.” Although there are other aspects to my voice, and the way I sing, and the kind of music that I like.
So I wasn’t really concerned. I knew that if we came in a little bit from being so far left of center, that eventually we would hit it. I felt so confident about my record label, and I knew that (RCA Nashville label chief) Joe Galante was behind me 100 percent. But that’s not to say that I didn’t get impatient. I did. (laughs) I would start venting at home or to management, like, “Why isn’t this happening? What is wrong with me? Why doesn’t country radio like me? I mean, I’m country!” “Three Chords and the Truth” was a straight-down-the-line country song. But then I realized I was very lucky because I got my record deal so quickly. It took me four months to get a record deal. So just because it took me a little longer to get my first hit, I was still lucky. I had absolutely no reason to complain.
The Wizard of Oz is a classic, so when you filmed the video for “Born to Fly,” did you think, “I hope I don’t screw this up … .”
I thought it was going to be a little like The Wizard of Oz, but we’re not trying to copy The Wizard of Oz. I thought it would be funny and sexy to be a modern-day Dorothy and wear a half-shirt. And it turned out exactly the way Peter [Zavadil, the director] wrote the treatment. It turned out even better than I imagined it would. I had no idea how Peter was going to do all that, like with the flying people and the tornado and the flying house and especially the part where I’m laying on the green couch and people are flying by, saying “Saaaaa-raaaaah!” Everything about it looked so magical and amazing. When I look back and watch that video, I am in shock. It should have won video of the year — and it did win video of the year (at the CMA Awards). I’m proud of Peter for that.
When you hear a catchy song like “Real Fine Place to Start,” and you know it’s a hit, what happens next?
If we’re not in the process of making an album or searching for songs, then I’ll just hold on to it. I’ll put it on hold and try to keep it. But for “Real Fine Place to Start,” for instance, Radney [Foster] gave me a CD and said, “I have a song I want you to listen to.” I called my brother, Matt, and said, “I’ve found the first single.” I love Radney Foster. He’s one of my favorite singers in the world. For his version of “Real Fine Place to Start,” I kept it in my car for six months and played it just because I liked it. Our recording of it is a lot different than his, but that’s what we usually do. You can tell the ones that are my favorites, because when we go into start making a record, those are the ones I cut first.
Do you think the end result is different when you rush through making an album, instead of taking your time? Do you think your fans can tell the difference?
I’m not sure. When I go back and listen to Born to Fly, that album is so detailed. That was a turning point in my life. We had “No Place That Far,” but a couple of singles didn’t do so well after that. I only had one child at the time, and I remember I spent every day and every night thinking about that record, thinking about string parts and harmony parts. I’m not so sure that most people notice that as much as I do, and so I’ve backed off of it a little bit, because seriously, I have three kids now and I don’t have the time, but I still care very much about what goes on my record.