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Sara Evans: born to sing

By Jeffrey B. Remz, November 2000

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"He's not one of three drummers (in Nashville)," says Evans, a reference to the small circle of studio musicians who play on album after album.

"He just wasn't conditioned to country radio. He just read the charts and played what he felt. The ends of all the songs just go on forever because everyone wanted to keep on playing. He has such a sound and such a groove. They all have these long, drawn out endings, and that's why."

The lead-off single and title track cracked the Top 10. If all goes well, Evans sees an album going five singles deep.

Marcus Hummon, who has penned a number of hits including "Cheap Seats" for Alabama, called Evans' manager to ask to her write with her. The result was the title track with Darrell Scott also helping out.

"Of course, I was excited (about writing with him)," says Evans. "I love his writing. We wrote about three songs together. He's so creative. He can play anything that I sing. He takes me places melodically that I would not have gone. 'Born to Fly' just keeps going up and up and up. Just when you think you've heard the whole melody, it kind of changes again."

"I love what it says," says Evans. "It's just a real positive, dreamy kind of song."

While the title may be "Born to Fly," some might argue Evans was born to sing. The third oldest of seven children, Evans grew up in central Missouri on a farm in New Franklin, a town of 1,200 people.

Her parents, who divorced when she was 12, raised wheat, corn and soybeans with lots of hogs and cattles.

New Franklin was Small Town, USA.

"We went to church, and we were a very conservative family. Seven kids and farmers, so we had no time to do anything else. My parents were real strict. I never did drugs. I never even smoked marijuana."

"It was wonderful. All the other kids were just like me. They were farmers. The only difference was that I was a singer and somewhat of a little celebrity. So, that was fun."

"Basically, life was very simple. It was small town where you picked a boyfriend, and you dated him all through high school."

Evans' singing career started at the ripe, old age of four when she sang in the family bluegrass band. She soon started taking mandolin lessons.

"Music just came real easy for me. For me and all my brothers and sisters. Who knows where that came from? My parents aren't real musical. They both can sing real well."

The family band played bluegrass festivals in the summertime. When she was eight, the band opened for Bill Monroe, though Evans didn't recall much about the music.

"I remember there was a tornado that night, really scary."

A few years later, Evans recorded an album of country cover songs and sold them herself.

Evans doesn't seem to have a very clear memory about the recording. When asked the title, "Gosh, I can't remember, probably 'Sara Evans.'"

It was a low budget affair. "We didn't have any marketing people," she says.

They did make a trip to Nashville, having a booth at Fan Fair.

"We sort of naturally graduated (from bluegrass to country). It wasn't like bluegrass was the only thing we listened to or played, but when we were little, that's what it was. There was no drums. It was all Old Timey, bluegrass songs. When we got older, we did country songs."

"When I got into my teens, my brother Matt (he's still her bassist) and I were the only ones who stayed real serious about music. We played in bar bands. We played country...There were all kinds of little Eagles lodges and dances. Things like that. There was work every weekend. We would drive an hour sometimes too on the weekends to go play."

The repertoire consisted of "every Reba McEntire song. I just used to love Baillie and the Boys. Every Patty Loveless."

Evans hit college - Central Methodist - for a grand total of 11 days despite getting a full ride scholarship to a school with a good music department. "I was just miserable, and all I wanted to do was move to Nashville. I was 18 and cocky and didn't want to take instructions of how to sing from anyone."

"I quit school. Matt and I saved money by working and performing in clubs in Columbia as much as we could. We moved to Nashville. I was looking to become a country star. I didn't have any idea how was I was going to about that. We just moved here, and we started this venture into song writing. We were meeting people."

Evans quickly met the man, Craig Schelske, who would become her husband.

Evans contacted a lawyer friend whose wife was a song plugger (they pitch songs to artists to record) for Sony/Tree. The woman was itching to get into management and after hearing a tape of Evans singing, had herself a client.

Evans started doing demo work, singing songs being pitched to artists to potentially record.

Her manager set up meetings with industry folks including Joe Galante, the head of RCA. "They said have her come in and sing for Joe Galante. He signed me that day. It was a seven-album deal. With a great advance. It was just a dream come true."

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