Editors’ Notes “I started onstage when I was four years old in cover bands with my brothers, so I've been waiting my entire career for the right time to do a covers record,” Sara Evans tells Apple Music. More than two decades into her recording career, recognizing that both her interest in brightly lit country-pop singles and her chance at radio success have faded, she’s gotten back to her roots her way. Over the course of 13 tracks, Evans reinterprets vintage crowd-pleasers, many of them plucked from a plushly orchestrated era of ’70s and ’80s pop rock like Fleetwood Mac and the Pretenders, with a couple of more recent pop tunes and country classics thrown in. “I just wanted to flex my muscles and show people what I can do,” she says. “There's so many sides to me and so much to my personality other than just people thinking I'm just a straight country singer.” She made the new album a family affair by featuring the vocal and instrumental talents of her own progeny, and enlisted a co-producer, Jarrad Kritzstein, from outside her circle because she was taken with how he blended subtle eccentricities, moody warmth, and finesse on Ruston Kelly’s 2018 breakthrough Dying Star. Here Evans talks through all of the covers and why she chose them.

If I Can’t Have You
“I was getting my hair done, and my hairdresser had on an amazing oldies station in Nashville. That song came on, and I was just like, ‘Oh, that would be a great one.’ So I put it on my list on my phone. I have no history with that song whatsoever, and I didn't even realize how great it would turn out. It ended up being almost everyone's favorite, and everyone thought it should be the first song on the record.”

Don’t Get Me Wrong
“When you start to record a track, everybody goes in their booth. I'm in the singing booth. The musicians are all in their appropriate places. So [drummer] Eric Slick just started playing it like that, half-time instead of double-time, and then I started singing. There's lots of just noodling and jamming and kind of being silly before you're like, ‘Okay, let's just do it. Let's start it like that and then we'll go into the train beat second verse.’ We wanted to find that perfect blend of changing some things but really paying honor to the songs and what those original musicians did.”

Come On Eileen
“That was just a song that I've always loved. I had no idea what the song meant, what he was saying. That song is actually quite dirty if you listen to the lyrics. So I kind of am trying to chew up some of those words. It was kind of a challenge, because I wanted to sing it in a high enough key that would make it soar and make it sound really interesting. The range on the melody for that song is really difficult. We didn't bring our violinist in until much later, when we were doing overdubs. Once he came in and put on the [signature licks], then we were like, ‘Oh my god. The stars have aligned.’”

Crazy Love
“We were just trying to think of great songs: What are some of the best songs that have ever been recorded, but that are also obscure? I think it's probably been a minute since anybody thought about ‘Crazy Love,’ and it's so beautiful. I could cry every time I listen to it. Jarrad K and John Davidson from The Brummies did the harmony parts on it. We had my son Avery and four other musicians all get on their acoustic guitars and get in a big circle with one mic in the middle and play, and it was just stunning.”

Whenever I Call You “Friend” (feat. Phillip Sweet)
“Phillip Sweet’s voice was just absolutely perfect for that. Jarrad and my daughters and I, before Phillip came in, we put all those oohs and aahs on. So there's all those vocals on the beginning. We worked for hours and hours just adding everything that we heard on the original. I'm like, ‘Oh my god. They must've had an entire choir come in to put all these vocals on.’ When we came in the next day and Jarrad was like, ‘Check it out, I put a solo on “Whenever I Call You ’Friend,’”’ we just died laughing, because that solo sounds like a shag carpet. It's so weird and vibey. That's why I chose Jarrad, because of things like that, how his brain works. Other people would've just put on your standard guitar solo right there.”

It’s Too Late
“I did ‘It's Too Late’ really for my daughter Olivia and my son Avery. A couple years ago, they both just went headlong into Carole King and just fell in love with her and that record [Tapestry]. I remember, obviously, hearing those songs as a kid, but it wasn't really something that I ever owned. I was kind of late to the game. That's Olivia singing all that harmony with me.”

Monday Morning
“For a Fleetwood Mac song, it's almost bluegrass. It really is, especially the key that I put it in. To me, the way that I sing that song is very like Patty Loveless. It could be a Bill Monroe song. Because it's that real high, pushing-the-volume way of singing.”

All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye
“John Mayer has always been a part of my life since Room for Squares. My kids were little and they have specific memories of listening to Room for Squares, and every album after that. When my son became a guitar player, he started by learning from John Mayer. So he has been such an important part of our lives as a family. My kids were like, ‘You have to choose an obscure John Mayer song. Since everybody loves John Mayer, you've got to do something that authentically will sound like you and that if John Mayer hears it, he'll think it's cool.’"

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (feat. Old Crow Medicine Show)
“I really wanted to honor Hank Williams, and I've never covered ‘I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.’ But we also knew something has to be done on this song, otherwise we shouldn't put it on the record, because it could just end up being boring. My biggest fear in life is to be perceived as cheesy or boring or vanilla. We were brainstorming, what could we do to make it different? And I think it was my manager who said, ‘What about Old Crow Medicine Show?’ They came in and it was just like stepping back in time. It was my idea to have them start the song with singing the hook line, kind of sounding like a barbershop quartet.”

6th Avenue Heartache
“I bought that [Wallflowers] record [Bringing Down the Horse], and after the first time through, I'm like, ‘God, who is that drummer? He's so amazing and so smooth. He just has a different feel than anybody I've ever heard before.’ So I looked it up, found out it was Matt Chamberlain. I was the first person to ever bring him to Nashville. I was the first country record he ever played on, and he gave me my signature sound, really, from Born to Fly on. I love ‘6th Avenue Heartache’ just for the song that it is. It was just something I had to do, do a song from that Wallflowers record and kind of honor Matt and how he helped shaped my sound so much.”

My Sharona
“I was on my way to the studio and turned on the radio and that was on. I'm like, ‘This song makes me feel so cool when I listen to it. Like, I feel like a cool person.’ It's just one of those songs that you forget about. I haven't listened to that in years.”

She’s Got You
“Billy Justineau played piano on the record. He played that solo, but almost as a joke. I think he figured that he would go back in and do a bunch of overdubs and add a bunch of sounds, different keyboards and pianos. So he almost kind of was joking around, like, ‘I'm going to get this kind of feel like we're in a nightclub and drunk people are dancing and smoking on the dance floor.’ I thought that's the perfect twist. Then I asked Avery to put the guitar solo on after it. It oozes sass and funk and jazz.”

Hard to Say I’m Sorry
“‘Hard to Say I'm Sorry’ is our encore in our live shows, and the fans have been begging me to record that song. In the shows, we don't even put the fast end part on, which we're going to now, because it's just so freaking cool. We were in the studio listening to that, and I'm always being so crazy and stupid-acting, and I just started singing [a bit of Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘September’]. Jarrad is just so chill about everything, and to him, there's no bad idea. So I was like, ‘It's a covers record, so I can put a cover song in a cover song.’ We went in there and added that just to throw people off.”

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