The songbird chats with us about the challenges she has faced throughout her career, chronicled in her new memoir Born to Fly.
Cowboys & Indians: You’ve enjoyed great success in your career — but you’ve also taken some hard knocks in your life. Was it difficult for you to recall certain incidents from your past while writing your new memoir, Born to Fly?
Sara: Yeah, it was. Especially while writing about my parents’ divorce. See, I come from a family of seven kids. And so, still to this day, I wake up or have night anxiety — which I tend to do a lot anyway — and start worrying that they’re going to read something that I wrote about our parents’ divorce that they don’t like. They may feel like I’m being too harsh on our parents, or whatever. And I’m really such a people pleaser, so I don’t want to make anybody in my family mad.
But then I just have to breathe and calm down and just say, “That’s my story. It’s my truth about how the divorce made me feel.” So yeah, it was painful during the writing and it was also painful after the writing, just having the anxiety about what are people going to think, especially my loved ones. We’re a very close family, but some of us are very forgiving, some of us are not. So we’ll just have to see what happens.
C&I: What were some of the other challenges you faced while writing Born to Fly?
Sara: I’d say reliving a couple of the stories that I’ve never told before. Like getting hit by a car when I was 8. And then another one that I’m saving until the book comes out in September that’s just unbelievable. That people are going to read and just go, “Oh, my gosh!”
C&I: What about memories of your early career struggles?
Sara: I think I still have PTSD from a lot of that because there were so many times that I had to leave my kids when I didn’t want to. And there was one year that I did 38 free shows for radio just to try to promote my new single. Looking back on some of those times, I realize how bad that was, because I was really burning the candle at both ends. I was trying to be a perfect mom and a perfect artist and a perfect wife and not let anybody down, not let my managers down, not let my record label down.
And I remember having extreme fear when I would get a call from my manager at certain times, especially when we were really working every single at country radio — which we don’t do now, because they’re not going to play it anyway. And just worrying so much that my song had died or that we didn’t get enough adds, and that was unbelievably stressful. I think I’ll always have a little bit of PTSD from that. But anything worth having is worth not only working hard for, but also maybe going through hell and back for.
C&I: On the other hand: While you were looking back over your life, did you realize that maybe some things that seemed quite awful at the time may have been blessings in disguise? Maybe heavily disguised, but ...
Sara: [Laughs.] Absolutely. I mean, I think that’s what everything is in our lives. It’s supposed to be teaching us something. Even the big, big story that I’m keeping a secret, was so awful, but ended up being a huge, huge blessing in disguise. And even me getting hit by a car — I mean, I know that I learned about God through that. And I don’t think I would have had the relationship with God that I have if it wasn’t for that, because at 8 years old I realized that he saved my life.
C&I: You’ve talked about how difficult it is for you and some other established artists to get your new music played on mainstream country radio stations these days. One might think your version of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” on your latest album, Copy That, would be a natural for airplay right now — but no?
Sara: They’re not going to do it. They only play bro country and maybe, like, three females, but that’s it.
C&I: But you’re still reaching people who love your music.
Sara: Yeah. I mean, I’ve never stopped working. I usually tour over 80 days a year. My fan base is growing and growing and growing. Mainstream radio really is becoming less and less of a way how people find music and listen to music. Thankfully, there are many other outlets for me to get music to the fans.
FOR THE RECORD: Copy That, Sara Evans’ latest album, is a pleasing and surprising collection of country, pop, and rock tunes originally recorded by other artists. Evans brings her own distinctive spin to songs as diverse as “My Sharona,” “It’s Too Late,” “Whenever I Call You Friend” — and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”
Photography: Image courtesy Sara Evans, illustration courtesy Jonathan Fehr
From our August/September 2020 issue.