Sara Evans is shining a light on her influences throughout her new covers project, Copy That, due out May 15. The 13-track album features collaborations with Old Crow Medicine Show and Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet and was co-produced by Evans and Jarrad K (Ruston Kelly, Weezer, Goo Goo Dolls). Billboard premieres the infectious first track, a cover of the Bee Gees’ 1977 hit “If I Can’t Have You,” today (March 19).
The song first appeared in the film Saturday Night Fever in a version by Yvonne Elliman before the Bee Gees released it. A track Evans would play for friends and family first when introducing her new album, the country singer says she has always loved the sentiment behind “If I Can’t Have You.”
“I just love what it says,” Evans tells Billboard of the disco song, written by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. “It’s got great lyrics. It’s so dramatic: If I can’t have you, I don’t want anybody. I’ve always loved it and something about that song just makes me think of my childhood. ‘If I Can’t Have You’ has been probably the biggest surprise for me as to how it’s maybe my favorite song on the record. After you hear it for the first time, you can’t get it out of your head. It’s so much fun.”
Highlights on the project include a standout cover of Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks’ “Whenever I Call You Friend” featuring Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet and Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with Old Crow Medicine Show. The latter Evans says was inspired by watching Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary.
“I’ve never recorded a Hank Williams song before so I chose, ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.’ That song is completely in my wheelhouse,” she says. “I am the most comfortable singing that kind of music and it’s real old time-y country. Bluegrass-y Patty Loveless kind of style.
“I started out singing bluegrass when I was a little girl. I’m so comfortable singing songs like that,” she continues. “I’m comfortable singing everything, but that just makes me so happy. We called Old Crow Medicine Show, they were the band for that song, and it just sounds like you’re literally stepping back to the 1950s.”
A huge fan of John Mayer, Evans included a cover of “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye” from Mayer’s 2009 Battle Studies album. “I had to have a John Mayer song and that one is a little obscure and that’s the only song on the album that everyone might not know if you’re not a big John Mayer or know a lot about his music,” she says.
She also gives a nod to her early days with the Wallflowers’ “6th Avenue Heartache” which features her longtime drummer Matt Chamberlain, who she discovered through the band’s 1996 Bringing Down the Horse album. As Evans explains, when she was in the studio recording her 2000 album Born to Fly, she asked her producer Paul Worley to find Chamberlain, who played on the Wallflowers’ record.
“He was like, ‘Why? We have so many great drummers in Nashville.’ And I’m like, ‘I know, but this guy is different. He’s just got something special that I so groove with.’ We brought him in and he played on my records from that album on. He helped me develop my signature sound that nobody else had and since then a lot of artists have used him, but I was the first one to bring him to Nashville. So of course, a Wallflowers song had to go on the record.”
This year, Evans will celebrate a milestone with the 20th anniversary of her seminal album Born to Fly. Additionally, she’ll be releasing a memoir of the same name. Showing no sign of slowing down, Evans says she’s more confident in her sound today than ever.
“I don’t know where the time goes. I still feel like exactly the same person,” she says. “I’m actually a much better singer than I was then. And a better musician and a better producer and a better writer. It’s been an amazing journey. I’m still in my 40s and I’m in no way going anywhere. I’m working all the time. I loved performing today really more than ever. I feel a lot more confident. I feel like I’m the best musician that I’ve ever been, so it just makes me grateful that I’ve been able to sustain this career for this long.”
Evans says she decided to name the album Copy That because she tried her best to copy the songs verbatim. The album is even more special to her because her children are assisting on guitar and vocals throughout the project.
“I love all kinds of music and I grew up in cover bands. I started on stage when I was four-years-old. My entire life I’ve been covering other people’s songs up until I got my record deal, so I love to pay respect and try to imitate them. That’s the best form of flattery, you know? It’s been] one of the best studio experiences of my life,” she says.
Listen to “If I Can’t Have You” below.
Sara Evans’ Copy That track list is below.
1. “If I Can’t Have You” – (originally recorded by the Bee Gees)
2. “Don’t Get Me Wrong” – (originally recorded by The Pretenders)
3. “Come On Eileen” – (originally recorded by Dexys Midnight Runners)
4. “Crazy Love” – (originally recorded by Poco)
5. “Whenever I Call You Friend” feat. Philip Sweet – (originally recorded by Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks)
6. “It’s Too Late” – (originally recorded by Carole King)
7. “Monday Morning” – (originally recorded by Fleetwood Mac)
8. “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye” – (originally recorded by John Mayer)
9. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” feat. Old Crow Medicine Show – (originally recorded by Hank Williams)
10. “6th Avenue Heartache” – (originally recorded by the Wallflowers)
11. “My Sharona” – (originally recorded by the Knack)
12. “She’s Got You” – (originally recorded by Patsy Cline)
13. “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” – (originally recorded by Chicago)