By Erin Duvall
Sara Evans loves Christmas. And so what better way to show it than share her favorite holiday tunes with the world?
Evans’ new collection At Christmas includes nine covers and one original tune, the title track, which is an upbeat song that perfectly recounts the songstress’ own life as it talks about being with friends and family for the holidays.
According to Evans, she plans to spend this Christmas with her husband (former NFL player and current radio host Jay Barker), her three children and his four kids at their home in Birmingham, Ala.
“Snow doesn’t really get to us by Christmas time,” Evans tells Radio.com. “If we’re going to get snow, it usually gets to us by late January, early February. But Christmas in Birmingham is still gorgeous. Alabama is so beautiful.”
The album, her first Christmas collection, is a good mixture of religious “reason for the season” songs as well as the winter-themed and tales of Santa tunes such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Run Run Rudolph” and “12 Days of Christmas.” On the latter, Evans enlisted her daughters Olivia (11) and Audrey (9) to join her, creating a fun family sing-along that will pleasantly surprise you: her girls can sing!
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Go Tell it On the Mountain” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” are songs that Evans has previously released over the past 15 years that made it onto At Christmas. Each was newly remixed, Evans says, in order to “make them fit in with the new songs on the album.”
During our conversation, Evans spoke with Radio.com about At Christmas as well as how she plans to spend the holidays. And we couldn’t resist asking about her recent stint on ABC’s Nashville playing—you guessed it—Sara Evans.
Radio.com: Was it tough to get into the holiday spirit while recording this?
Sara Evans: My record label asked me to do one, sort of last minute. We went in the studio in August. I did my vocals here in Birmingham [Alabama], and they recorded the tracks in Nashville without me. I was on the phone, giving guidance and direction. My producer and I talked a ton about what we wanted it to sound like, which was just Sara Evans music, but Christmas songs.
Doing my vocals, it wasn’t hard to get in the spirit at all. As soon as I hear the songs, I instantly feel a connection to them, no matter what the time of year it is. It’s so nostalgic, and what better thing to put on your radio and listen to but songs that talk about the birth of Christ?
You have a good mixture of traditional Christmas songs and fun holiday songs on this album, was that important to you to even it out?
We all know what the true meaning of Christmas is, and through that we’ve all celebrated Christmas with presents and with Rudolph and Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman. I don’t get caught up on, ‘Oh, you can’t mention Santa Claus because that’s sacrilegious.’ That’s silly. I don’t think anybody in their right mind really replaces Jesus with Santa Claus. It’s a fun thing and it’s for children. I wanted to sing a mixture of religious and non-religious Christmas songs and songs that were my favorites. For instance, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs because it’s so nostalgic. I think everybody feels a sense of sadness that comes with Christmas music because a lot of us didn’t have idyllic childhoods, so there’s always a little bit of ‘I miss my grandmother’ or ‘I miss the good old days.’
Your daughters, Olivia and Audrey, joined you on “12 Days of Christmas.” Are they itching to get back into the studio?
They love music. All of my children are really into music. I’m not sure why I had never asked them to sing with me before. The Christmas aspect of it made me realize I should totally have the girls. Not that I didn’t want my son on it, but the song that we chose was a little bit child-like. My son plays guitar and drums and he’s definitely a musician. That’s his passion. The girls were super excited. Their friends are so proud of them.
What’s Christmas like at your house?
We’re very traditional. We go to church every Christmas Eve, and after that we go to dinner at this restaurant that we love. I wanted to start some new traditions when we got married and moved here. Every Christmas Eve, we go to that same restaurant and have a really fancy dinner. Christmas morning, I do a huge breakfast, because that’s what my mother always did. Then we open presents and, basically, lay around the rest of the day.
Is it hard to buy presents for Jay?
He always enjoys getting clothes or gift cards, but we decided a few years ago that we were just going to take trips. Every year, we tell the kids, ‘We don’t want you to think that we didn’t get each other presents.’ We usually just get each other a card, then we plan a trip some time during the year that’s just the two of us.
You recently played yourself on ABC’s Nashville. What was it like being on set?
They have it really organized, so you’re there and they’re prepared to shoot your scenes, but I will say that it’s a lot of over and over and over. It is unbelievable how many times they will shoot the same exact scene. That is one thing that really shocked me. Then I realized how hard the actors truly do work. I have a lot of respect for them.
As someone who lives a life similar to the one that the show portrays, is Nashville real?
I think that they do a really good job of making it as realistic as possible. It’s TV, so they can’t show the real, real, real struggle that people go through and the time that it takes to really make it as an artist. I think they do a great job. My only thing is why does Luke Wheeler have to fly me out? I can afford my own private jet.
Speaking of TV, you’re a Downton Abbey fan. Are you waiting until the new season airs in the U.S. in January or are you watching as they air in the U.K.?
It’s my favorite show ever. I am waiting. I haven’t really had time to watch it, and I’m off in January so that’s going to be perfect. Carson, I love him, and Mrs. Hughes, I love it when it takes us to the kitchen.
What do you think of the talk about having Lady Mary and Tom Branson hook up?
I don’t want them to get together because it’s too obvious. It’s a little bit strange too. Then, what would the kids be to each other?
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