Sara Evans Pays It Forward With New ‘Barker Family Band’ Project

On Sara Evans’ 2000 album Born to Fly, her infant son Avery can be heard making his recorded debut as he gleefully laughs over the electric-guitar intro to “I Keep Looking.” Nearly 20 years later, Avery — accompanied by his mother and 16-year-old sister Olivia — nods to that moment on the newly released six-track EP The Barker Family Band, leading off the collection with a brief, jazz-infused rendition of “Born to Fly.”

“We decided to put that on there at the beginning, as if to sort of say, ‘Now’s y’all’s time to fly and chase your dreams, chase your own careers in music, and go for it,’” says Evans, calling from home in Birmingham, Alabama.

The one-off project, which follows Evans’ independently released 2017 album Words, shines a light on the eclectic musical taste and talent of two of Evans’ children, using the singer’s married name (she wed former University of Alabama quarterback Jay Barker in 2008) in a sly wink to Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s collaboration as The Carters. Avery, who has been playing in Evans’ band in recent years, contributes skillful guitar work to the EP alongside Olivia’s silky vocals, which have a hint of her mother’s Midwestern pop-flavored twang. Avery and Olivia also wrote an original song for the project, which includes interpretations of classics by Fleetwood Mac, Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin and, yes, Beyoncé. Accompanied by the group’s limited Bloodline Tour, The Barker Family Band is a one-time-only chance to share some of her family with her longtime fans.

Where did the whole idea of recording and touring with two of your children come about?
One night, the girls were out with us. Avery rides on the band bus, of course, but I think we were all in catering or something and I just said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to do a little family tour where my fans could see what y’all are doing and how talented you are?” I called my manager and said we were kind of throwing idea this around of doing a small tour. Management was like, “We should record some songs to pitch to the promoters who want to try to sell some shows.” Once we started playing it for the promoters and playing it for everybody, people just started freaking out. The kids were freaking out just a little bit because they don’t want to be in a band with their mom and have people mistake the fact that that’s what they do.

How did you decide which songs you were going to do for the EP?
Avery and Olivia have been playing and performing these songs anytime they would play out in Nashville, Birmingham, or anywhere. “Dreams” is one of their favorite Fleetwood Mac songs, and a song that they had already been playing out, so we just decided that I would sing “Dreams” because I have the voice that is sort of the most like Stevie Nicks’ in kind of that real fast vibrato. I wanted to take over that song.

Was it a coincidence that you start the EP with a snippet of “Born to Fly,” and it ends with “Over the Rainbow,” from The Wizard of Oz, which was referenced in your original ‘Born to Fly’ video?
We kept forgetting that connection! Every time somebody reminds me of that, I’m like, “Oh yeah!” I would love to say we did that on purpose. “Over the Rainbow” was another one of those that they’ve been performing, so that was kind of Livvie’s deal. I just went in and put a ton of harmony vocals on it. I did so much harmony that we were like, “When we do this song live, I should be hanging from a rope and be like your fairy godmother.” [Laughs]

Now that you have the record and the tour, is there any thought to doing a full album or more projects with the three of you?
No, not at all. It’s just a one-time thing. It’s [five more] shows and that’s it. Olivia is in the process of starting her career and she’s already really busy. Avery, too. He won’t be playing guitar for me too much longer because he has his own stuff. But it’s been kind of funny. I keep saying that Olivia and I are the Judds and we’re all like the Partridge Family. But there will not be any sort of continuing of the Barker Family Band. We named it that to just to be funny, like the Carters, like Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

In terms of your solo career, how far along are you with the follow-up to Words?
I’m in the process of starting a new project. It’s going to be very different from anything I’ve ever done. In terms of producers, musicians, we’re being really, really picky, and carefully choosing every single aspect to it. Then we’ll set the date for when we’re going to go in and track.

What are you hearing from fans and others with regard to the opinions you’ve expressed about the current lack of female artists being played on country radio?
What’s so funny, and I just realized this, Facebook and Instagram are so different. On Facebook, people are really mean. On Instagram, people are really nice. For instance, we went to see Pink the other night, and I posted a picture with my girls before the show. The way that Olivia was standing, with these pants that she had on… the wind kind of caught the pants, and so many people on Facebook were so mean about what I was wearing, what the girls were wearing, and [it is] the same whenever I post about females on country radio. I’ll get so many Facebook comments that say stupid things, like “There just aren’t as many females as there are males” and I’m like, “You have no fucking idea what you’re talking about, because you only know what you get fed on country radio. You don’t know anything beyond that. You don’t know how many women there are that are trying to get deals, or even have deals, and are trying to get a slot on the radio.” That infuriates me.

Is there anything in particular that you think it will take to turn the situation around?
Their ratings are going to have to go down. People are just going to have to get tired of hearing the same thing. Then they’re going to start losing their ratings and they’re going to have to start expanding their playlists. Unfortunately, right now it’s working for them, and they’re so afraid to not sell commercials that they’re not going to take any chances. There’s just a few guys that are programming all the stations. So, if the fans don’t know that I have a new album out, or that I have a new single out, they don’t know. So they’re not going to request it, or hear it. You don’t even hear a song until it reaches Top 20 anyway on mainstream radio. People are just going to have to go, “OK, we’re ready for something different.”

The Barker Family Band – Bloodline Tour dates:
May 9 – Boston, MA @ City Winery
May 10 – Boston, MA @ City Winery
May 15 – Atlanta, GA @ City Winery
May 17 – Chicago, IL @ City Winery
May 18 – Nashville, TN @ City Winery

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