Sara Evans: A Country Star's Biography

Sara Evans Was "Born to Fly"

Sara Evans Performs During An Album Premiere Special On SiriusXM's Y2Kountry Channel At SiriusXM's Music City Theatre In Nashville
Getty Images for SiriusXM / Getty Images

One of country music's premier leading ladies, Sara Evans burst onto the scene in 1997 with a combination of Midwestern farm girl beauty and a stunning head-turning voice in the league of Martina McBride and Reba McEntire. Over the years she has proven to be one of country music's most consistent and popular artists. She has racked up numerous chart-topping hits, and many awards including the Academy of Country Music's 2006 Top Female Vocalist.

Origins and Early Musical Influences

Evans was born on February 5, 1971, in New Franklin, Missouri. The oldest of seven children, Evans was raised on a farm. She began singing at a very early age. When she was five, Evans was performing with her family's band. When she was eight, she was hit by a car in front of her home, and her legs were severely broken. She was wheelchair-bound and required many months of rehabilitation. During this time, she continued performing and singing with her family. At the age of 16, she landed a regular Saturday night gig at a club near Columbia, Missouri, which lasted for two years.

In 1991, Evans moved to Nashville to pursue her dream of becoming a country music artist. She eventually met her future husband, Craig Shelske, a musician from Oregon who played in a band with his two brothers. In May of 1992, Evans and Schelske moved to Oregon and they were married a year later. They returned to Nashville in 1995, and it wasn't long before Evans got her first big break when Hall of Fame songwriter, Harlan Howard, heard a demo of her singing his song, "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail." Howard was floored by her voice and let her record demos of his songs, which got her noticed by the bigwigs at RCA.

Evans Signs with RCA

Evans eventually signed her first major recording contract with RCA. In the summer of 1997, she released her debut album on the label, Three Chords, and the Truth. It didn't make a big splash with the public, but critics were generally kind and many included it on their year-end "best of" lists. Three singles were released from the album, all peaking just outside of the top 40 on Billboard's Country Songs chart. She received three video nominations from CMT and Billboard for the video she made for the album's title track.

In October of 1998, Evans released her sophomore album, No Place That Far. Where her first album was more traditional sounding, Evans opted for a more contemporary country sound, which didn't sit well with some critics, but the public loved it. The album's debut single, "Cryin' Game," failed to ignite on the charts, but the follow-up single, "No Place That Far," a duet with Vince Gill, shot through the roof and became Evans' first No. 1 country single. It also climbed to No. 37 on Billboard's Hot 100. No Place that Far went on to become her first gold album.

Evans Third Album Breaks Through Big

In October of 2000, Evans released her third studio album on RCA, Born to Fly. It became her highest-charting album at the time, peaking at No. 6 on Billboard's Country Albums chart. It went on to spawn four big hits, including "Born to Fly" (No. 1), "I Could Not Ask for More" (No. 2), "Saints and Angels" (No. 16) and "I Keep Looking" (No. 5). By 2004 the album was certified double-platinum.

The success of Born to Fly resulted in Evans taking home seven nominations at the 2001 Country Music Awards show...more than anyone else. Those nominations included nods for single, song and album of the year. She was also up against Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood and eventual winner, Lee Ann Womack, for Female Vocalist of the Year. Evans did win in the Video of the Year category for "Born to Fly." It was her first major country music award.

The Hits Keep Flying In

It took Evans nearly three years to release her fourth album, Restless, which hit the shelves in August of 2003. The album debuted at No. 3 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, making it the highest album debut of her career. The first single, "Back Seat of a Greyhound Bus," stalled at No. 16, but the next single, "Perfect," shot to No. 2 on the country charts. The third single from Restless, "Suds in the Bucket," became Evans' third No. 1 country hit and her most successful crossover hit, climbing to No. 33 on Billboard's Hot 100. It also became her first Gold single. Restless was eventually nominated for Album of the Year by the Country Music Association.

Evans released her fifth studio album, Real Fine Place, in October of 2005, and it became her first to debut at No. 1 on Billboard's Country Albums chart, selling over 130,000 copies in its first week. It also debuted at No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. Its first single, "A Real Fine Place to Start," co-written by Radney Foster and George Ducas, became her fourth No. 1 country hit on its way to going Gold. In 2006, Evans beat Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, and Lee Ann Womack for the Top Female Vocalist award from the Academy of Country Music.

Evans Personal Life on Display

Things turned ugly in Evans' life when her marriage to Shelske went south. Accusations flew back and forth between the couple as to the reason for the split. At the time, Evans was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, but the resulting turmoil forced her to drop out of the show. Evans and Shelske eventually divorced in September of 2007. They have three children together: Avery, Olivia, and Audrey Elizabeth. In 2008, Evans married former University of Alabama quarterback, Jay Barker. They live in the Birmingham, Alabama, a suburb of Mountain Brook.

Top Sara Evans Songs

  • "I Could Not Ask for More"
  • "Born to Fly"
  • "Suds in the Bucket"
  • "No Place That Far"
  • "Perfect"

Sara Evans Albums

  • Three Chords and the Truth
  • No Place That Far
  • Born to Fly
  • Restless
  • Real Fine Place
  • Stronger
  • Slow Me Down
  • At Christmas