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Sara Evans: Starting Over

Sara Evans opens up about the struggles—and joys—of life as a single mom, her dramatic brush with death, her faith and what it took to start “living again.”

Before her protracted divorce was finalized Sept.28, Sara Evans sat down in a conference room at her RCA record label in Nashville to talk with CW about her new Greatest Hits CD and how she and her three young children are doing. While country fans have known Sara and embraced her and her music for a decade—including No. 1 hits “No Place That Far,” “A Real Fine Place to Start,” “Suds in the Bucket” and her double-platinum Born to Fly CD—many others first became aware of her through her appearance on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, which she left in October of last year after filing for divorce. Whether you knew Sara before or learned about her during Dancing, these interview highlights will help you know her better. Due to a judge’s gag order in place at the time of the interview, none of the parties involved in the divorce could speak publicly about the specifics of the proceedings.

CW: I know you read to your daughters every night. What do they like to hear?

SE: Just anything. They love all the princess books. But I swear ….like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella … they are so long! And wordy.

CW: Do they fall asleep before they end?

SE: No! My children don’t sleep and they don’t eat. They’re just like me. I don’t sleep and I don’t eat. So, anyway, we do bed. Then I have to go to Avery’s room. And another thing I had on my list of goals was stop letting Avery watch TV to fall asleep. So now, all he can do is listen to Christian music on TV … you know the channels that’re just music. So, anyway, we’re doing good ….working toward excellent [laughs].

CW: Any budding artists or sports stars in the family?

SE: [Avery] is very much into sports, cause his dad loves sports … he loves Oregon sports. So he and Avery watch that a lot and talk about it a lot. Avery plays football and he plays baseball. The first practice is tonight actually, for fall ball. So I’m gonna go to that.

All three of ‘em are singers. All three of ‘em have natural rhythm. Their pitch is perfect. And I think Olivia can even sing harmony. And I’m starting them on piano pretty soon. They will take piano lessons. It’s not an option. But I told Avery … ”If you take piano, you can take drums, too.” So I’m getting all that in the works.

CW: What's life like on the road?

SE: On the road, it’s different. Because I have to sort of cater to myself a little more. Because I have to be sure my voice is working and that I have a lot of energy for the fans every night. So the kids go, and I have a nanny. So on the road, I sleep in a little bit, and the nanny gets up with the kids. Because I have to have 8 hours. So if I go to bed at 1 in the morning, then I’m sleeping ‘till 9 or 10 … for sure. And the kids probably get up at 8, so the nanny gets up with them. Then when I get up, I let the nanny go and take a break and chill out for a few hours. And we do whatever we can. There’s really not a real scheduled routine on the road, because we never know where we’re gonna be and what opportunities are there.

CW: Is it mostly around the bus, or will you go out to a zoo or something? You know, we’ve zooed ourselves to death … and aquariums. We’re tired of all that. So we just like to go outside. A great day for us on the road is to have really nice catering ….some places have catering where it’s outside or it’s real old-fashioned feeling, you know? So we sit around and set up our chairs around the bus. And we just sort of hang … and play ball … and do that. And we try to all nap in the afternoon. And get up and get ready for the show. And the kids watch the show from side stage … usually the monitor. Then we get back in bed and start it over. And on the road, they stay up so late.

CW: I know you're doing some shows this fall with Josh Turner. Have you worked with Josh much … offered any advice for him and Jennifer ….with [their baby] Hampton on the road with them? Are they doin’ ok?

SE: I’ve done a few shows with them. I don’t know, because I haven’t been out with them that much. But I’m sure they are. When I first had Avery and started taking him out, it was a learning process every year. Every bus that we would get for that tour—‘cause that was before I could afford to really build out a bus—we would try to make it ….”Ok, this time we have got to have this for the baby … we’ve gotta have this.” And so, I’m sure they’re doing fine and learning.

I think the main thing I would tell anybody—especially anybody who’s bringing children on the road and raising them up on the road—is just to … chill out. ‘Cause you’re not gonna be able to be that regimented. And some days they’re gonna eat really well and then some days they’re gonna eat kinda crappy. You’ve just kinda gotta go with it.

CW: Is it terrible feeling like you don't have the creativity and the desire to work on new tunes for you album, and knowing there's a deadline looming? It’s not like you’re an accountant and you know, you have to get these taxes done by April 15 … is it harder to force the creative process … and meet a deadline? Can you do that?

SE: You can a little bit, if you just determine yourself ….”I’ve got to get this done … I’ve got to write something.”

And, also, I just think it was a gift from God. Because I was just like, “Lord, I don’t even want to make this album. I can’t do it. I have nothing. So please give me some songs … give me some inspiration ….something.”

So the first day was with John [Shanks] and Hillary Lindsey and that song was a total answer to prayer … it wrote itself. I’ve had a lot of songs like that … where I’ve asked God to give me a song. Because it is all about inspiration. It all comes from in here, you know? That song just wrote itself. We had it written in two hours and we were laughing … it was the best day. And John said, “Well, let’s lay it down.” So I recorded it with him playing acoustic. And he worked on it all night long. I came in the next day and it was like a record. We kept that vocal.

Then we did it the next day with a song called “Love You With All My Heart.” And then the next day, we did it with a song called “Pray For You.” That one was really inspired … really inspired. Then we went away and John worked on all those songs, tweaking ‘em and adding more parts and mixing and all that. Then we still needed one more. So one day on the bus, my brother was like—and I really wanted to include my brother … he’s a great songwriter—so I told John Shanks, “My brother is joining us on our next writing session.” And he was cool with that. And Matt said, “Well, I was thinking about ….’some things never change’ … but that’s a good thing.’” So I went on a walk right after that with my sister I was like, “What about this?” Ain’t you glad some things never change. And she’s like, “Yeah, yeah! Do that!” So we got together with John and Hillary … me and Matt … and that’s what we came up with.

CW: What are some of the things that never change?

SE: Well, you know, the love that you have for your children. The love that you have for your parents, and they have for you. God’s love … and also the thing that never changes, I think, for all human beings is just that desire to feel loved and find love. The little things in life … like the verse in the song about … ”she waits for her kids to jump off the bus” … and how that’s such a great time of the day for her. There’s hardly anybody in the world who can’t relate to that.

CW: Compare that joy … to the kind of joy you get creating a song … recording it … seeing a crowd go crazy for it ….hearing it on the radio.

SE: Well, they are different. The joy that I get from different things my children do … like just the way they’re so funny ….like, if Audrey comes up to me she’s like, “I love you, Mommy.” ‘Cause she’s so funny … she’s two. Or when I hear them talking to each other and they’re sweet to one another. Anything like that that they do… that joy is the kind of joy that’s really eternal. You know you’re making an eternal difference, you know? That’s the kind of joy where you just feel like … this is too … precious. Thank you, God. Please never take it away from me. And that’s that.

The other kind of joy, with an audience … or a song … and career success … is great, too. But it’s different. It’s like, “Lord, I’m so thankful that you’ve given this to me and I love it and … man this is fun!” I remember standing side stage at the Kenny Chesney tour this summer and looking at that crowd and just saying to my sister, “We are in the midst of history in the making … right now! Do you realize that? We will look back on this when we’re old and we’ll remember being on the side of the stage—we were watching Brooks & Dunn—and looking at that audience and thinking, I can’t believe I was just in front of the same audience.”

So those are different things, but it all makes you grateful.

CW: When we talked at your house [three years ago], you said that you’ve always felt that you had a purpose in your life and that you needed to make the most out of your life. Do you feel like you have ….given the cards you’ve been dealt?

SE: I’m trying. I’m trying. You know, the last year and a half has just been surviving. And, now, I’m sort of back to a spot where I’m ready to move to the next phase beyond just surviving and now living again.

And, yes, making my life mean something, making my career mean something and my fame mean something. It’s gotta be about more than just making records and doing shows. And I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, but I know that there’s something.

CW: When we talked then, you said God has saved your life many times in many ways. Can you talk about that a little?

SE: I think what I know for sure is that, you know how people always talk about, “You just need to wait on the Lord, you just need to wait and God’ll reveal to you what you’re supposed to do.”

The truth of it is that God waits for us too, just the same way a parent waits for a child. I always think about, every single time I go home, my mother … I swear that my mother does not age. She looks the same to me as she did when I was a child. She’s always waiting in that house, in the kitchen. That’s how I envision her … in the kitchen, the food. And when we pull up, she’s always there waiting, with her arms stretched out. She looks the same, she is the same. She loves us the same. No matter how long it’s been since I’ve called or been home, she is waiting for me to come home and happy to see me.

That’s what I know God does too. And so I think God saves us and has mercy on us … daily. And he definitely literally saved my life when I got hit by a car. I think you really learn about who you are, and you learn a lot about who God is when you go through a crisis. And that’s the spot I’m at today.

For more on Sara Evans, check out the Oct. 22 issue of Country Weekly.