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Country Star Sara Evans Shares Emotional Journey on New Album ‘Unbroke’ (EXCLUSIVE)

"Every emotion that is given to the human heart is in this record"

Sometimes the most difficult periods in an artist’s life can produce the most compelling art, and that’s definitely the case for acclaimed country hitmaker Sara Evans, who describes her new album Unbroke as a journey “from a breakdown to a breakthrough.”

“It’s an album full of songs that are very emotional, from the very high to the very low,” Evans tells Woman’s World. “I co-wrote every song except one and I’m extremely proud of it. The album just takes you on an emotional rollercoaster.”

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Known for such hits as “Born to Fly,” “A Real Fine Place to Start,” “Suds in the Bucket” and “A Little Bit Stronger,” Sara Evans has always worn her heart on her sleeve and created relatable songs that resonate with a broad fanbase.

Sara Evans
Sara EvansAndy Baxter

Though Unbroke captures a challenging time in Evans’ life from a couple of years ago, she’s quick to point out that those struggles are behind her. These days, she’s happily planning her daughter Olivia’s wedding for next year, and career-wise, she’s never been busier, as she’s hitting the road this summer supporting her new album. She also hosts a podcast, Diving in Deep with Sara Evans.

“I wanted to have some sort of long form way to speak to my fans,” Evans says of launching the podcast. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and there’s a lot that my fans don’t know about me, even though I actually am friends with a lot of my fans. Plus, I’m always wanting to try new things, and podcasts are something I love to listen to. I’m obsessed with them and I’m also very competitive, so I just thought I can do that, but I can do it better. So, we’re trying and we’re having a blast.”

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Sara Evans gets candid on Unbroke

In addition to sharing her life on her podcast, Sara Evans doesn’t shy away from sharing the past few turbulent years of her personal life on Unbroke, as she navigated a separation from her husband, former football player Jay Barker, and their subsequent recommitment to their marriage.

“With every album that I put out, I try to make the very best music and try to do something different,” she shares. “I would say this album is more about the lyrics than anything, even though it’s got amazing musicians on it as well, but it goes pretty deep.”

The singer in 2023
Sara Evans in 2023Terry Wyatt/Getty for ACM

Early in the process, she connected with producer Jeff Trott, known for his work with Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow.

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“I went to his house and just started talking about what’s going on in my life, about Jay and everything,” she says. “I was also in therapy at the time and I was starting to feel better because Jay and I were talking and I could sense real changes happening between us for the better. Before that, I was writing all these really sad songs like ‘Cleaning Out Your Closet.’”

In addition to the heartbreaking “Cleaning Out Your Closet,” the album’s lead single, “Pride,” also addresses challenging moments. Written with Sean McConnell and Madi Diaz, Evans thinks the song will resonate with anyone struggling.

“It ended up being a song about alcoholism and the effects that alcohol has on people,” she says. “We did the video in a setting that’s very male dominated,” she says of the video, which stars her daughter, Olivia.

“The song says you can swallow whiskey, you can swallow wine, but you can’t swallow your pride. As we got into the writing of the song, it became more and more about that and about the negative impacts of pride. Like the Bible says, ‘Pride goes before a fall. Do not be prideful.’ That’s why we’re saved by grace, not by works, so no man can boast and have pride about it,” she says.

“We’re supposed to be humble and we thought that’s a good message for anybody to hear, especially anybody who is struggling with any kind of addiction or any kind of secret, anything that is holding them back from living their best life,” she says. “It’s a heavy song and I hope it helps people.”

Even though the song was inspired by some challenges in her marriage, she wants to make one thing clear: “I’m not saying that anybody I know is an alcoholic. It’s just a song.”

“At the time that we wrote it, I was in a really bad place and really upset,” she admits. “What people don’t realize was that that was well over two years ago. We’re doing so great now.”

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Sara Evans and Jay Barker, 2017
Sara Evans and her husband, Jay Barker, in 2017Rick Diamond/Getty

Sara Evans breaks down the songs on Unbroke

The musically upbeat “21 Days” was inspired by a conversation with Evans’ therapist in which she advised the singer to break off contact with Barker for a period of time to help her heal. Evans had heard that it takes 21 days to break a bad habit or to make a good habit part of your life. As she was discussing that with her co-writers, they decided to incorporate the idea into a song.

“A relationship can be a habit, or you can take 21 days and start a good habit like running every day,” she says.

“They thought it was a really cool idea, so we decided to make it fun,” she says. “Then I was like, ‘I wonder if we could figure out a way to sing how long that is?’ So we got on the calculator and we added it up and started trying to fit it all in, like 500 hours, 200 minutes, da, da.” “It was so incredibly fun writing that song,” she adds. “Then Jeff put together a little demo and what he did with the song was so unexpected and so cool.”

Evans is proud of the album, but admits she’s had second thoughts about being so vulnerable. “I lay in bed and think, ‘Oh my God! What did I say in a song? Am I really going to release the song?’ But at the same time, honesty is always the best policy,” she admits.

The singer in 2023
Sara Evans in 2023Taylor Hill/WireImage/Getty

When asked how Barker felt about the songs on the album, Evans responds, “He loves this record so much. He was in the studio the whole time we were recording. I even said to him, ‘I can change some words or I can turn ‘Pride’ into a third person song,’ and he was like, ‘Don’t you dare! This is your song, your music. You wrote it, it’s your story and also, it’s just a song. Don’t change anything because of me.'”

She continues, “That was another blessing from God. I’m so grateful that we were able to work it out and stay together. Jay is the love of my life.”

Evans says she chose Unbroke for the title of the record because it reflects where they are today. “We are unbroke,” she says. “I wrote the song about how when divorce happens, it’s not just you and the person, it’s you and the in-laws and the kids and the friends. It’s hard on everybody. But we are now unbroke and I was like ‘Wow, that’s a full circle.'”

Sara Evans
Sara EvansAndy Baxter

What to expect from Unbroke

Sara Evans is hoping Unbroke will resonate with listeners and take them on an emotional journey.

“I hope that they want to listen to it over and over and it will be one of their favorite records that they’ve listened to in years,” she says of the project, which is being released June 7 on Melody Place Records in conjunction with her Born to Fly Records.

“I hope people are moved by it, because every emotion that is given to the human heart is in this record,” she says. “If you are angry, you can put on ‘Sorry Now’ or if you are a businessman who travels all the time and has to leave his family, you can listen to ‘Gypsy Ways.’ There are so many topics on there for so many different kinds of people.” It’s an emotional journey we can’t wait to go on.

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