Sara Evans has been having a very busy day. By the time she arrives at the Ram Country studios to perform music from her brand-new album, she's already done five straight hours of radio interviews, and is understandably feeling a little bit on the wilted side.
Given that, one can't begrudge her the red solo cup in her hand...which she admits, with a smile and without apology, contains a beer.
It's this sort of casual, down-to-earth attitude that makes Evans adorable -- and accessible -- to a wide range of fans. It would be all too easy for the singer to come off as intimidating: She is extraordinarily beautiful, has a mighty vocal range (after a few sips of her liquid refreshment, Evans manages to shake the studio roof with her vocals, then dash off for an Opry appearance shortly after), and balances a Superwoman's slate of career/family responsiblities with apparent ease. However, there is a consistent real-girl charm to her that has followed throughout her 17-year career, all the way up to latest release "Slow Me Down."
The album comes three years after her critically acclaimed "Stronger," which served as a comeback of sorts after her gut-wrenching 2007 divorce. Now happily remarried and helming up a blended family of seven children (three from her side, four from husband Jay Barker), Evans admits the process of creating "Slow Me Down" was "a lot more organized" than her last record. "Definitely a much smoother process."
Of course, even though she's in an emotionally stable place now, there's a new challenge: Balancing her work with her family responsiblities. Recording an album while managing her busy household requires an extraordinary amount of organization -- and, to make it even more challenging, Evans and Barker have set down roots in Alabama. Evans must travel to Nashville to do much of her work.
Evans isn't denying it's tough going. "My life is very, very, very, very full; and very busy," she states. "So for me it takes a lot of planning ahead, and making sure that I've got my priorities in place."
She adds that she feels time has helped her in this regard, however: "My oldest [child] is now 14. The biggest goal of my life is to find and strike that balance between career and home life -- being a country music artist, and being a mom and a wife. So, with now having 14 years of experience behind me, I feel like I've got it down to a system. The first 5 years of my son's life were spent completely on the road with me. He went everywhere I went. And then my girls as well. Now that they're getting older, it's posing a little bit more of a challenge, because they have lives and they have schedules and they have activities that they're involved in."
Evans details that, like most working moms, she has learned to figure out a balance that works for her situation. "For the most part, I'm able to be home during the school week, and then travel on the weekends for shows, and the kids go with me. And then I work a lot in the summer and the kids travel with me in the summer. So I feel I've got it down. There are times though when I feel overwhelmed, as any working mom ...I'm really tired, I just need a good night's sleep, I need my husband to like talk me off the ledge and tell me that I'm doing a great job."
It's hard to argue that the star isn't doing a good job. Her latest album is a mix of sonic influences, including an emotional Gavin DeGraw cover ("it's one of my favorites; like probably top five songs I've ever recorded," she enthuses) and a duet with Vince Gill which she calls the "countriest song I ever recorded."
All that taken into account, however, followers of Evans's career will no doubt notice that parts of the album come across as a bit more pop-oriented than some of her previous work, in particular the title track, which Evans thinks sounds as if it could be recorded by Belinda Carlisle: "Something like that, or even Reba McEntire in the '80s and '90s."
At any rate, it doesn't sound like anything on the radio these days. And that's fine with Evans. "I don't think I deliberately tried to make a pop sounding record. It just kind of happened that way. And what happens with me a lot of times is I will find a song that then becomes like the centerpiece to the project. Sort of like when you're decorating a room and you have this painting, and you love this painting. And so you're going to decorate the entire room around this one painting. Slow Me Down' was that song on this project. So when we found [it], I was like, this is the starting point. This is the heart, this is the centerpiece of the whole project. And so everything I do now kind of needs to work in the context of this song."
Overall, Evans seems to radiate contentment with where she is in life: Both unable to "slow down" and certainly more than "a little bit stronger!" When the 43-year-old was asked how she feels about being such a great role model for women over 40, she answers honestly: "You know, I feel younger than I did in my 30s...I mean I really do. I feel like I look better. I feel like I sing better. I feel like I have more energy. And I'm not really sure why"
"I think knowledge is power, and so the more you learn about yourself, the more you can actually take control of who you want to be, and how you want to look, and the way that you want your life to go."