Interview: Sara Evans’ ‘The Barker Family Band’ EP Continues a Family Tradition
Ace country singer-songwriter Sara Evans' new project has a special twist. As it turns out, her children inherited her innate musical talent, and she's joined forces with two of them, Olivia and Avery Barker, for an EP and intimate acoustic tour as the Barker Family Band.
Out Friday (April 12), The Barker Family Band is a six-track EP featuring Olivia on vocals, Avery on guitar and Evans lending harmonies (Evans' children's biological father is Craig Schelske, but they've taken their stepfather Jay Barker's last name). The disc features covers of some of the family's favorite songs: Beyonce's "XO;" "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac; "Somewhere Over the Rainbow, originally sung by Judy Garland; and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin. Additionally, there's an original cut, "The View," and a reworking of Evans' hit single "Born to Fly." It's a one-time project made especially for fans.
It all began when Evans posted a video to her Instagram. Olivia and Avery had worked out their own version of "Dreams," and when they came downstairs to show their mom, she jumped in to sing the high parts. They didn't want to be on video, so Evans pointed her phone camera at the chandelier, threw on a black-and-white filter -- and next thing she knew, it went viral.
"I’ve always known that my kids had musical talent, but it’s not really something that I talk about that much. Plus, it's just in my whole family, so of course my kids had it too," Evans tells The Boot. "When I posted that, we started talking, like, 'I wonder if we should do a little tour at some point.' We could just do some small venues and talk about the family."
"It’s been such a neat blessing for me ..."
The concept wasn't totally out of the blue: After Avery graduated high school, Evans hired him on to play guitar in her band, so they've been collaborating musically for over a year now. The musical talent for both kids came naturally.
"[Avery] started playing drums when he was about eight or nine years old. He was so good. We were just like, you've got the natural music gift," Evans recalls. "I think when he was around 14, he decided that guitar was really his passion. That’s when he started literally practicing nonstop, day and night.
"Olivia -- kind of like me -- she started singing when she was really little, and it’s just natural for her. In some ways, she sounds a lot like me, but she also has her own sound. She’s not country; she’s a lot more pop or Americana," Evans adds. "It’s just kind of one of those things that, I’m not really sure when it happened, it’s just kind of always been."
Beyond the genetic hand-me-down, Evans has taken her kids on the road and into the studio with her throughout her career. They grew up on her tour bus in their early years; they sat in playpens inside the recording studio while Evans made records. Evans, who grew up playing in a family band herself, wanted them to be familiar with the environment.
Now that they're old enough, they get to have their names on the bill instead of just enjoying the show from sidestage. Evans predicts there will be few challenges on this tour, since they already know the drill.
"They’re more comfortable out there, really, than they are at home. It’s gonna be so normal," she says. "What’s so funny, too, is, even when they were really little, they would always come out onstage and say hi to the crowd.
"When you grow up around it, it’s just totally second nature," she continues. "It’s really second nature for them to be onstage, to be on the road. They totally understand touring life."
"It’s really second nature for them to be onstage, to be on the road. They totally understand touring life."
When they recorded, things moved seamlessly for those same reasons. Avery and Evans' brother tracked guitar and bass, respectively, then had Olivia track vocals.
"Even on the beginning of [my 2002 single] "I Keep Looking," you can hear a baby making a little baby noise, and that’s me holding Avery while we were recording that," Evans divulges. "They’re just literally so used to seeing me in that environment. They’ve seen me do that a million times. What was different was, I’ve never seen them do it."
It's no surprise to Evans that her kids went into music. While both are pursuing solo careers, and it's their time to fly, it was a special moment for everyone in the family to work on the Barker Family Band as a side project.
"It’s been such a neat blessing for me," Evans reflects, "to be able to do this with them at least one time."
The Barker Family Band's Bloodline Tour will run from May 7 through May 14. They'll stop at City Winery locations in Washington, DC; New York City; Boston, Mass.; Atlanta, Ga.; Chicago, Ill.; and Nashville, Tenn.
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