If you’ve been starving for live music, The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, is open.
The venue has over a dozen live events coming up through early September, though seating is spaced out and patrons are required to wear masks when not at their tables.
This Sunday, the historic concert venue will play host to country superstar Sara Evans.
She joined WTOP to discuss her country roots, successful career and advice for others.
Born in rural Missouri in 1971, Evans grew up listening to all the country classics.
“I grew up listening to so many country artists,” Evans told WTOP. “Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, The Judds, Patty Loveless, really just everybody.”
How did she start performing herself and pursuing music as an actual career?
“I started singing when I was 4 years old with my two older brothers,” Evans said. “My parents started The Evans Family Band. That’s all I’ve ever done my whole life, so I just knew that Nashville was my destiny. When I graduated from high school, I saved up $1,000 and moved to Nashville with my brother.”
In 1997, she recorded her first studio album “Three Chords and the Truth” (1997), but it was her second album that landed her first No. 1 hit with “No Place That Far” (1998).
“It was amazing to have my first No. 1 hit,” Evans said. “I had made a deal with myself that I would not have a baby until I had my first No. 1 record, because I wanted my career to really be solid and going strong. So, not only was it amazing to have a No. 1 record, but then I knew that I could start planning to have my first baby, so that was awesome.”
Her next album “Born to Fly” (2000) went two-times platinum with the No. 5 hit “I Keep Looking” and No. 1 title track, which also reached No. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“‘Born to Fly’ is a song that we wrote about me growing up on the farm … like Dorothy in ‘Wizard of Oz,'” Evans said. “I was dreaming of becoming a country star, but also I was a farm girl and I had a very simple life. So, I would be standing out in the fields working, but also daydreaming about spreading my wings and doing what I knew I was born to do.”
Her fourth album “Restless” (2003) also went platinum, featuring the hit single “Perfect.”
“‘Perfect’ is a song that I wrote … just to take the pressure off of so many couples that feel like they have to maybe be like other couples and have that perfect marriage,” Evans said. “There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage or a perfect relationship, so I just wanted to kind of say something that made that point but also make it kind of funny.”
Of course, the album’s biggest hit was “Suds in the Bucket,” becoming an anthem for young girls coming of age and leaving home, even performed on “American Idol.”
“‘Suds in the Bucket’ is one of those songs that everybody can relate to,” Evans said. “You don’t have to be from the country and have a clothesline in your backyard, you can be from New Jersey and still understand the concept behind the song, which is we’re all afraid of when our little girls grow up. … Will they be protected and taken care of?'”
Her fifth album “A Real Fine Place” (2005) featured the No. 13 hit “You’ll Always Be My Baby” and the No. 1 hit with the title track love song “A Real Fine Place to Start.”
“‘A Real Fine Place to Start’ is a song that I did not write; it was written by Radney Foster and George Ducas and I just loved it,” Evans said. “I got it. As soon as I heard it, I just knew. It’s rare that you come across a love song that’s not a ballad, and this is the perfect love song, but it’s still up-tempo. So I think that’s why everybody loves it so much.”
After a “Greatest Hits” album in 2007, she showed she wasn’t done yet with the gold-selling album “Stronger” (2010), featuring her fifth No. 1 hit “Just a Little Bit Stronger.”
In addition to her own original songs, Evans has also been adept at choosing covers, from Edwin McCain’s “I Could Not Ask for More” to Bruce Hornsby’s “Every Little Kiss.”
“The key to a good cover song is [when] you can become the character in the song,” Evans said. “‘I Could Not Ask For More’ I just felt was meant for me and I recorded it right after Edwin McCain. ‘Every Little Kiss’ was a song that I loved when I was in high school.”
Still, she believes some of her best songs are the deep cuts that never hit the airwaves.
“Most artists, you have to go deep into their music, you can’t just base who they are as an artist and a writer on the singles you hear on the radio,” Evans said. “‘4:30’ is one of those examples of a song a lot of people wouldn’t hear if they didn’t listen to the entire album of ‘Born to Fly.’ A lot of times my favorite songs are not always ones we release.”