Sara Lynn Evans (born February 5, 1971) is an American country music singer and songwriter.
Evans has released eight studio albums: Three Chords and the Truth (1997), No Place That Far (1998), Born to Fly (2000), Restless (2003), Real Fine Place (2005), Stronger (2011), Slow Me Down (2014), Words (2017), plus one Christmas album, At Christmas (2014). Of her albums, Born to Fly is her best-selling, with a double-platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of two million copies. She has charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts; while none of the singles from her debut album made Top 40 there, she had her first major hit in late 1998-early 1999 with "No Place That Far", the second single from the album of the same name, which went to No. 1. Four additional singles have reached No. 1 as well: "Born to Fly" (2000-2001), "Suds in the Bucket" (2004), "A Real Fine Place to Start" (2005), and "A Little Bit Stronger" (2010-2011), plus four more that reached Top 10. Several of her singles have also crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, where she has seven Top 40 entries. Evans has also won one award each from Billboard, the Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), and a Dove Award.
While Evans' debut album was defined by neotraditionalist country influences, most of her subsequent material has taken a more slick, country pop production, similar to Faith Hill and Martina McBride. Evans has collaborated with The Warren Brothers, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Mindy McCready, Lorrie Morgan, Phil Vassar, and Pat Green among others. She has covered songs by Edwin McCain ("I Could Not Ask for More"), Bruce Hornsby ("Every Little Kiss"), Radney Foster ("A Real Fine Place to Start"), Rod Stewart ("My Heart Can't Tell You No"), and Gavin DeGraw ("Not Over You").
Early life and the rise to fame
Evans was born in Boonville, Missouri, in 1971, and is of Welsh, English, Irish, and Native American descent. She was raised on a farm near New Franklin, Missouri, the eldest girl of seven children. By five, she was singing weekends in her family's band. At the age of eight, she was struck by an automobile in front of the family home, and her legs suffered multiple fractures. Recuperating for months in a wheelchair, she continued singing to help pay her medical bills. When she was 16, she began performing at a nightclub near Columbia, Missouri, a gig that lasted two years.
Evans moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1991 to be a country music artist. She met fellow musician Craig Schelske and left Nashville with him in 1992, moving to Oregon. They married in 1993. She returned to Nashville in 1995 and began recording demos. Nashville songwriter Harlan Howard was impressed by her demo of his song "Tiger by the Tail". He decided to help her music career, leading to a signed contract with RCA Nashville.
In 1997, Evans released her debut album for RCA, Three Chords and the Truth. Although none of its three singles ("True Lies," the title track, and "Shame About That") reached the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, the album received critical praise for its neotraditional country sound. In 1998, Evans released her second album, No Place That Far. The album's lead single, "Cryin' Game," also failed to reach the Top 40. However, the album's second single and title track, gave Evans her first Number One hit on the Hot Country Songs chart in March 1999. The album was eventually certified Gold by the RIAA, and produced one additional Top 40 country hit in "Fool, I'm a Woman."
Breakthrough with Born to Fly and Restless albums
Evans' third studio album, Born to Fly, was released on October 10, 2000. She insisted on hiring Seattle-based rock drummer Matt Chamberlain (The Wallflowers, Edie Brickell), who brought a different sound to her music. The album's title track ("Born to Fly"), which was released as the lead single, was a Number One hit on the Hot Country Songs chart. Three more singles were released from the album ("I Could Not Ask for More," "I Keep Looking," and "Saints & Angels"), the first two reaching the Top 10, and the latter becoming a Top 20 hit. Born to Fly was eventually certified 2× Platinum by the RIAA in 2004.
In 2001, Evans was the most-nominated artist at the Country Music Association awards with seven nominations overall, and she won her first CMA award when "Born to Fly" won the award for Video of the Year, her first major industry award.
Evans released her fourth studio album, Restless, on August 19, 2003. The album's lead single, "Backseat of a Greyhound Bus," was a Top 20 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart. The album debuted at No. 3 on the Top Country Albums chart and at No. 20 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of over 40,000 copies. "Perfect," the album's second single, was a No. 2 hit on the country charts. However, the album's third single, "Suds in the Bucket," was the most successful single; it became Evans' third Number One hit on the Hot Country Songs chart and was also her fifth Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Additionally, it was Evans' first ever Gold-certified single by the RIAA. The album's fourth and final single, "Tonight," failed to reach the Top 40 country charts. Restless received a nomination in the 2005 Academy of Country Music Awards.
Continued success with Real Fine Place and Greatest Hits
Evans' fifth studio album, Real Fine Place, was released on October 4, 2005. The album's lead single, "A Real Fine Place to Start," reached No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 2005, as well as reaching the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. It was certified Gold by the RIAA. The album sold 130,000 copies in its first week, which allowed it to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. "Cheatin'" was released as the second single from Real Fine Place and became a Top 10 country hit, reaching a peak of No. 9 on the Hot Country Songs chart. The album produced two additional chart singles in "Coalmine" (co-written by Richie McDonald, lead singer of Lonestar) and "You'll Always Be My Baby" (a Top 15 hit). Evans released a gift book that coincided with the album's fourth single. It was written by Evans, Tony Martin and Tom Shapiro, and was also titled You'll Always Be My Baby. Several members of Evans' family sing backing vocals: her mother and father, Patricia Boggs, and Jack Evans; her sisters, Lesley Evans Lyons and Ashley Evans Simpson; and her brother, Matt Evans, who also served as production assistant and co-wrote two tracks.
On December 6, 2005, Evans released the compilation album Feels Like Home through Cracker Barrel stores. The album includes a live version of "Born to Fly" and an acoustic version of "No Place That Far." In 2006, Evans released another compilation album, Always There through Hallmark stores for Mothers' Day. The album featured six of her favorite already-released songs, including a live version of "Suds in the Bucket" and an acoustic version of "Born to Fly," as well as two new songs: "You Ought to Know by Now" and "Brooklyn & Austin."
On May 23, 2006, Evans performed at the 2006 ACM awards show in Las Vegas, where she won her first ACM for Top Female Vocalist. R&R also announced Evans as the Female Vocalist of the Year in its 2006 Readers' Poll.
On October 9, 2007, Evans released her first Greatest Hits collection. The compilation features four new songs, including the lead-off single "As If," which was a Top 15 hit on the country charts. It was announced on October 15, 2007, that Evans would host the 41st annual CMA Awards show with LeAnn Rimes on November 7, 2007. Two further singles were released from the album ("Some Things Never Change" and "Love You With All My Heart"); the former was a minor Top 30 hit, while the latter became Evans' first single to fail to chart.
A libertarian Republican, Evans also showed support for Texas Congressman Ron Paul in the 2008 Presidential election and was the headliner at his "Rally For The Republic" on September 2, 2008 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the same day as the Republican National Convention in neighboring St. Paul.
Evans also became a spokesperson for National Eating Disorders Association, and has spoken out widely on this subject, as she has been personally affected by it. She also hosted a charity event, Fashion for Every Body, which featured a fashion show, silent auction and performance by Evans.
The single "Low" was released to radio on September 29, 2008, to promote Billy: The Early Years (for the movie released October 10). The song is featured on the movie's soundtrack which was released on October 7, 2008, and also includes other big name country artists. "Low" debuted (and peaked) on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart at No. 59 on October 12, 2008. It only remained on the chart for one week but returned for a second week in January 2009 at the same position before again falling off the chart.
A book called The Sweet By and By, written by Evans with author Rachel Hauck, was released on January 5, 2010. It is the first release of a four-book deal inked with Thomas Nelson Fiction. The second book, Softly and Tenderly, was released January 14, 2011, and the third, Love Lifted Me, was released January 3, 2012.
Evans stated in a video posting to her fan club on December 23, 2008, that she was working with her brother Matt Evans and producer Nathan Chapman on her sixth studio album. "Feels Just Like a Love Song", was released on July 20, 2009. The song debuted and peaked at No. 59 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart; after spending two weeks on the chart, it fell off. It was intended as the lead-off single to Evans' sixth studio album, Stronger, but was later cut from the final track listing.
In 2009, ABC Daytime and SOAPnet sponsored a tour, headlined by Evans, that featured performances throughout the summer. Additionally, soap performers made appearances at her shows. Evans participated in performances on the networks, as well as on-air interstitial campaigns and online promotions.
In late 2009, Evans released a four-song Christmas EP, I'll Be Home for Christmas, to coincide with her 2009 Christmas tour. The EP includes the title track as well as "O Come All Ye Faithful", "Go Tell It on the Mountain", and "New Again" (a duet with Brad Paisley). It was released on November 3, 2009 to digital retailers.
During Evans' 2010 fanclub party on June 10, 2010, she debuted the first single from her sixth studio album, Stronger, which was released on March 8, 2011. The song, titled "A Little Bit Stronger," was released to radio on September 27, 2010. One of the few songs on the album not co-written by the artist, it was pitched to Evans by its songwriter, Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum. Additionally, the song was included on the soundtrack to the 2010 film Country Strong. It debuted at No. 56 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for the week of October 2, 2010 and hit No. 1 in May 2011. Evans sang the song on the finale of season 12 of the American ABC TV show Dancing with the Stars on May 24, 2011. "A Little Bit Stronger" became Evans' first Platinum-certified single by the RIAA.
"My Heart Can't Tell You No" was released as the second single from Stronger on June 20, 2011. It ultimately reached a peak of No. 21 on the country charts in January 2012. "Anywhere" was released as the album's official third single on July 23, 2012.
Slow Me Down and At Christmas
Evans began preparations for her seventh studio album in mid-2012 and entered the recording studio in early November. On August 15, 2013, Evans announced a new single called "Slow Me Down", which was made available for digital download on September 3, 2013, with a release to country radio on September 23. "Slow Me Down" served as the lead single and title track to the album, released on March 11, 2014. The album debuted at number 9 on the US Billboard 200 and number 2 on the Top Country Albums chart, while the single peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart in May 2014.
"Can't Stop Loving You" (a duet with Isaac Slade of The Fray) was originally slated to be the album's second single with a release date of July 21, 2014, but its release was delayed and ultimately cancelled, and "Put My Heart Down" was released as the album's second single in September 2014.
At Christmas, Sara's first full-length Christmas album was also released in 2014. The album featured many Christmas classics including "Go Tell It on the Mountain", "Silent Night", "Winter Wonderland" and "Twelve Days of Christmas" which also featured Evans' two daughters.
New Record Label and Words
In August 2015, Evans parted ways with RCA Nashville, her longtime label home of nearly twenty years. Almost twelve months later in July 2016 it was reported that she had signed with a new record company, though details were brief and no official announcement was made. In an interview with The Boot, she comments, "That's really exciting to me because it seems like a fresh start and a chance to work with new people who have different talents and who are creative in their own ways. I had a great, long run with Sony Records, and had great relationships and lots of success. But this is a new chapter for me, and I'm really excited about it." In August 2016, Evans revealed she'd signed a new recording contract with Concord Music Group to join Sugar Hill Records, a Nashville-based imprint that is part of the Concord family and began working on her eighth studio record.
On June 10, 2016, Evans released a duet with Todd Chrisley entitled "Infinite Love", which the two performed together on the season finale of Chrisley Knows Best. "Infinite Love" was written by Chrisley and Nashville songwriter-producer Shane Stevens, and co-produced by Stevens and Nash Overstreet.
Following a department restructure within the Sugar Hill Record Label, Evans announced that she would instead be launching her own record label, Born to Fly Records, in conjunction with a distribution deal with Sony RED. This move would lead to the release of her first independent album. Of the label, Evans stated that "it's like I'm taking complete control of my music" and stressing how she no longer has to follow anyone else's rules.". The new studio album, titled "Words", was released July 21, 2017.
In 1998, Evans appeared on The Nashville Network's "The George Jones Show" with George Jones, Loretta Lynn, and Billy Ray Cyrus where she performed her rendition of Patsy Cline's "Imagine That" with a full band, and her original composition "Three Chords and the Truth" while seated on a couch accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. At the conclusion of the latter Jones remarked "You gonna be big. You gonna be real big.".
In April 2004, Evans appeared as a special guest on "Nashville Star". She appeared on the game show "Million Dollar Password" in June 2008.
In September 2006, Evans joined other celebrities on ABC's Dancing with the Stars as the first country music singer on the program, with professional dancer Tony Dovolani as partner, and launching a fan web site to provide behind-the-scenes material on her participation. On October 12, 2006, Evans left the program, citing personal reasons.
Also in 2006, Evans guest starred on Jeff Foxworthy's TV show, Foxworthy's Big Night Out.
Evans made an appearance judging on HGTV Design Star in which she chose which of two redesigned rooms at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center was most like her own style. This aired on July 6, 2008
In October 2008, Evans also hosted a charity skating fundraiser, "Skating for Life". Olympic skaters skated to Evans' songs.
In May 2008, Evans appeared on first episode of CMT Crossroads with Maroon 5.
In March 2009, Evans hosted the ACM GAC Top New Artist Special, which launched the fan voting for the ACMs three new categories: Top New Female Vocalist, Top New Male Vocalist and Top New Vocal Duo or Group.
Evans sang "God Bless America" during the All Star Game in St Louis, Missouri on July 12, 2009.
In June 2011 Evans appeared on the Flatts Fest 2011 Tour with Rascal Flatts, Justin Moore, and Easton Corbin. Evans also sang the national Anthem at Game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals.
In 2012, Evans made an appearance on the OWN series Lovetown, USA, which aired September 17, 2012.
In 2014, Evans appeared on ABC's Nashville, playing herself, which aired on October 29, 2014. She performed a duet version of her single, "Put My Heart Down," with Luke Wheeler, one of the show's characters. Evans herself helped inspire the creation of the series lead Rayna Jaymes, as the writers consulted with her about her experiences as a working mother in the country music industry so that Rayna's character would come across as authentic.
In 2015, Evans appeared on third episode of CMT Crossroads with REO Speedwagon.
In 2016, Evans appeared on the season finale of USA Network's Chrisley Knows Best to perform "Infinite Love," a duet with Todd Chrisley. Evans and several of her siblings also competed against the Chrisley family on the season finale of ABC's Celebrity Family Feud. The Evans team won, and then proceeded to win the "Fast Money" round, earning $25,000 for their charity of choice, the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Sara Evans' Band
- Sara Evans - lead vocals
- Lesley Evans Lyons - Background Vocals (Sara's sister)
- Jim Bloodgood - drums
- Matt Evans - bass guitar, band leader, harmony vocals (Sara's brother)
- Ben Thompson - lead guitar, acoustic guitar
- Brent Wilson - lead guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, harmony vocals
- Adam Hampton Keys, Vocals
Evans married Craig Schelske, an aspiring politician, on September 25, 1993. They have three children: Avery Jack (born August 21, 1999), Olivia Margaret (born January 22, 2003) and Audrey Elizabeth (October 6, 2004).
The day following Evans' departure from the Dancing with the Stars in 2006, it was disclosed that Evans had filed for divorce from Schelske. In court documents, Evans accused Schelske of being unemployed, of abusing alcohol, of infidelity (including with the family nanny), that the children walked in on him watching adult entertainment, of maintaining sexually explicit photographs of himself and others, and of verbal abuse. Schelske denied all of his wife's claims; he explained that the "interrupted adult entertainment viewing" was inadvertent and involved both Schelske and Evans, and that his explicit photograph collection was limited to images of the married couple, and counterclaimed that Evans had numerous personal problems. Schelske also accused Evans of multiple affairs with fellow musicians and artists, including country star Kenny Chesney; a representative for Chesney called the allegations "ridiculous".
On September 28, 2007, the divorce between Evans and Schelske became final. Evans was ordered to pay Schelske $500,000 in alimony over a ten-year period, and was awarded primary custody of their three children. Subsequently, Evans' ex-nanny sued her for $3 million, claiming that Evans had smeared her name by accusing her of an affair with Schelske. The lawsuit was settled in July 2009 for $500,000.
Following their divorce, Evans obtained two temporary restraining orders against Schelske in 2010 and 2011, restricting him from making any derogatory statements about Evans or their former marriage to the media.
Schelske also sued Evans' Nashville attorney John Hollins, Sr. and his firm (Hollins, Wagster, Yarbrough, Weatherly & Raybin, P.C.) for "slander, false light and other damages" after Hollins gave an October 2006 interview to People magazine regarding Evans' divorce claims. That lawsuit resulted in an undisclosed financial settlement and a written apology from Hollins in 2011, which stated in part: "My firm and I represented Sara Evans in a highly contested divorce from Craig Schelske... to the best of my ability. I regret that my actions on behalf of Sara Evans caused Mr. Schelske harm in any way." Schelske issued a public statement thanking God, family, and friends for staying alongside during the period, and stating: "Sara is not my enemy… Hollins… he's the one who did this."
On June 14, 2008, Evans married Jay Barker, a former University of Alabama quarterback, national championship winner and current radio show host. They married in Franklin, Tennessee, with their children as their attendants. Evans and her three children now live in Mountain Brook, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, with Barker and his four children Andrew (1999), Braxton (2000), and twins Sarah Ashlee and Harrison (September 10, 2001).
Awards and nominations
|1997||Billboard Music Video Awards||Best Country New Artist Video of the Year||Won|
|1999||Country Music Association Awards||Vocal Event of the Year for "No Place That Far" (duet with Vince Gill)||Nominated|
|2000||Country Music Association Awards||Horizon Award||Nominated|
|2001||Country Music Association Awards||Video of the Year for "Born to Fly"||Won|
|Single of the Year for "Born to Fly"||Nominated|
|Song of the Year for "Born to Fly"||Nominated|
|Album of the Year for Born to Fly||Nominated|
|Female Vocalist of the Year||Nominated|
|2002||Academy of Country Music Awards||Top Female Vocalist||Nominated|
|Country Music Association Awards||Female Vocalist of the Year||Nominated|
|2004||Country Music Association Awards||Female Vocalist of the Year||Nominated|
|CMT Flameworthy Awards||Female Video of the Year for "Perfect"||Nominated|
|BMI Country Awards||50 Most Performed Country Songs Award for "Perfect"||Won|
|2005||CMT Music Awards||Hottest Video of the Year for "Suds in the Bucket"||Nominated|
|Academy of Country Music Awards||Top Female Vocalist||Nominated|
|Album of the Year for Restless||Nominated|
|Country Music Association Awards||Musical Event of the Year for "New Again" (with Brad Paisley)||Nominated|
|Female Vocalist of the Year||Nominated|
|2006||CMT Music Awards||Female Video of the Year for "A Real Fine Place To Start"||Nominated|
|R&R||Female Vocalist of the Year||Won|
|Academy of Country Music Awards||Top Female Vocalist||Won|
|Country Music Association Awards||Female Vocalist of the Year||Nominated|
|2007||CMT Music Awards||Female Video of the Year for "You'll Always Be My Baby"||Nominated|
|BMI Country Awards||50 Most Performed Country Songs Award for "You'll Always Be My Baby"||Won|
|2008||BMI Country Awards||50 Most Performed Country Songs for "As If"||Won|
|2010||Dove Awards||Special Event Album for Glory Revealed II: The Word of God In Worship||Won|
|2011||CMT Music Awards||Female Video of the Year for "A Little Bit Stronger"||Nominated|
|Country Music Association Awards||Female Vocalist of the Year||Nominated|
|Single of the Year for "A Little Bit Stronger"||Nominated|
|American Music Awards||Favorite Country Female Artist||Nominated|
|2011||American Country Awards||Single by a Female Artist for "A Little Bit Stronger"||Nominated|
- 1997: Three Chords and the Truth
- 1998: No Place That Far
- 2000: Born to Fly
- 2003: Restless
- 2005: Real Fine Place
- 2011: Stronger
- 2014: Slow Me Down
- 2014: At Christmas
- 2017: Words