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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Sara Evans is about to put smiles on a lot of faces with the release of Copy That. The 13-song collection finds Evans putting her distinctive creative stamp on some of the most iconic songs in country and pop music as well as shining a spotlight on some little known gems.
Released on her own Born to Fly Records, Copy That is Evans’ first solo studio album since 2017’s critically acclaimed Words. On Copy That she shines a spotlight on songs that have served as the soundtrack for the American experience for the last six decades. Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet joins Evans for a buoyant rendition of the Stevie Nicks and Kenny Loggins classic “Whenever I Call You Friend” and Old Crow Medicine Show adds their unique flavor to the Hank Williams standard “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Her cover of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ 1982 hit “Come On Eileen” is absolutely infectious and her pulsating rendition of The Knack’s “My Sharona” shows a rockin’ side of Evans rarely heard.
Over the last two decades, Evans has carved a successful career anchored by her insightful songwriting and warm, evocative voice. With such enduring hits as “Suds in the Bucket,” “A Real Fine Place to Start,” “Perfect” and “A Little Bit Stronger,” she’s earned recognition as the fifth most played female artist at country radio and continues to be a force on the road with tour dates criss-crossing the country. For her ninth studio album, the Missouri native serves up an eclectic bounty of songs that have shaped her life and storied career.
“I’ve always put cover songs on my records just because I think they are so fun. My fans have been asking for a covers record for years and now just seemed like the right time,” says Evans, who has always been a champion for great songwriting and has covered Gavin DeGraw, Radney Foster and others on previous records. “We first started out thinking we’d really change some of the songs, but then every time we started to record it we were like, ‘That part is so good, let’s just do that!’ We wanted to honor those songwriters and musicians and say, ‘What you did on this record was amazing. Now we’re just going to make it a little more modern.’”
Evans co-produced Copy That with Jarrad K — known for his work with Ruston Kelly, Weezer and the Goo Goo Dolls — at Chateau Noir in East Nashville. “I started listening to Ruston Kelly’s album and just became obsessed with it,” she says. “That’s what I do. I obsess over different artists and listen for months. Then my whole family gets addicted to it, so we became obsessed with Ruston Kelly and I said, ‘I have to find out who produced that. I want to work with him.’”
When Evans met Jarrad, they quickly discovered they were kindred spirits. “We just immediately bonded. He’s like my little brother now,” she says with a smile. “At our first meeting, we immediately fell in love musically. We were talking about the Ruston record and had such a connection. We had another dinner and then we were like, ‘Let’s do it! Let’s go for it!’ So we started just sending song ideas to each other.”
Evans admits it was difficult culling the thousands of songs they liked down to the 13 that made the album. “I knew I had to have a Patsy Cline song. I knew I had to have a John Mayer. I wanted a Wallflowers song because of how important Matt Chamberlain, the drummer, has been to my music,” she says of recording the Wallflowers’ “6th Avenue Heartache.” “Things are so different these days the way people make records, but Jarrad and I both agreed that we had to have everything real, everything super authentic, people in the studio together.”
That approach created magic that can be heard on every track. Evans recruited her son Avery to play guitar, which made the experience even sweeter. “The first day we did ‘She’s Got You’ and Carole King’s ‘It’s Too Late,’ and then we did Chicago’s ‘Hard To Say I’m Sorry.’ Avery ended up playing on the whole album.”
The project further became a family affair when Evans’ daughters Olivia and Audrey added their vocals to the album. “It was so fun. I can’t even describe it,” she says with a big smile and obvious maternal pride. “Some things are just magical and you know they are from God. I know God put me with Jarrad and having my girls with me in the studio all day every day was so special. They are truly my best friends.”
Evans admits some of the songs she chose might surprise fans, but that was part of the fun. “I was getting ready to go to my second song meeting with Jarrad and I heard ‘My Sharona’ in the car,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! We have to record that’ because it made me so happy. It’s badass! ‘My Sharona’ is worthy of being covered. It’s so iconic and I love surprising and shocking people who can’t believe that a female would cover that.”
As a big John Mayer fan, she knew she had to record one of his songs, but opted for something lesser known and more personal. “My family was against me covering John Mayer because we love him so much,” she admits. “They were like, ‘You can’t cover anything that was really popular. It has to be something obscure,’ so that’s why I chose ‘All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye.’ That was always mine and Jay’s song because I would travel so much.”
In early 2020, Evans and her family moved back to Nashville after spending the past 11 years near Birmingham, where her husband, retired quarterback Jay Barker, works as a radio personality. “It’s been the best decision,” she says of returning to Nashville. “I love the fact that I raised the kids in Alabama and it was a great thing to do. But it’s simply so much easier doing my career from here, and that’s another reason why making this album was so awesome is because I could just wake up and drive across town to the studio and not figure out how to bus up from Birmingham.”
These days, Evans is enjoying the creative process more than ever and it’s easy to hear her passion in listening to Copy That. “I’m just having fun. I love being on the road,” says Evans. “We’re working a ton. I’m having so much fun and am just deeply in love with music and performing.”