If there is one thing you can say about Sara Evans, it's she is authentic — a country girl singing country music and writing country songs.
The farm girl from rural Missouri — the eldest girl of seven children — has risen from humble beginning to country music star, with more than 20 singles on the U.S. country charts, including five that reached No. 1.
Now 46, Evans has released eight studio albums, beginning with "Three Chords and the Truth" in 1997 and ending with "Words" earlier this year, which debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's Top country album chart.
Evans lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, former University of Alabama quarterback Jay Barker, and their combined seven children. Sara brings her "At Christmas" tour to Chinook Winds Casino & Resort in Lincoln City for a pair of shows 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, Dec. 1-2. Tickets are $38-$53 and available at www.chinookwindscasino.com.
The Tribune caught up with Evans for an interview:
Tribune: What was it like as a celebrity taking part in the recent Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City?
Evans: Oh my gosh, it was so much fun, I cannot even describe it. Being on that float, going down the main streets, looking down the side streets. … The crowds were unbelievable. It was so awesome. But it was very, very, very, very cold. I underestimated how cold it was going to be. I don't have frostbite, but I do think I caught a cold.
Tribune: How often have you done concerts in Oregon over the years?
Evans: A good bit. Probably every other year, we go there and make the rounds.
Tribune: You spent a good deal of time in the state during the 1990s after marrying your first husband, who grew up in Oregon.
Evans: We renovated a farm house near Stayton. It was a place to stay when we would go out to visit his family. I love Portland, and going out to Oregon to do concerts is great. It's really beautiful, and I have incredible fans out there.
Tribune: What was your childhood like in Missouri?
Evans: Our farm is 15 to 20 minutes outside of New Franklin (population 1,000). We're in the middle of nowhere. My parents still have the farm. I love it. I'm a true farm kid. I grew up working in the fields, hauling hay, driving tractor. We were also tobacco farmers. I worked my ass off growing up, as did my siblings. Being a farmer teaches you amazing work ethic. I loved growing up in that environment.
Tribune: At age 20, you moved to Nashville to pursue your country music career. What was that like?
Evans: Coming out of New Franklin, I thought I had moved to the biggest metropolis ever. It was terrifying at first. It was my first time living in a big city. But I moved there with my brother, Matt. That was great and comforting. I had him to protect me. Then you get used to it. It was a small town 20 years ago compared to what it is now. It's such a great city. I consider Nashville to be my home. We're getting ready to buy another place there. I want to eventually start going back and forth and producing stuff, and helping my girls get careers start.
Tribune: Jay has four children and you have three, and they're all still living with you. That's a load.
Evans: When we got engaged, I made the decision to move to Birmingham so we could raise our kids together. Our kids have gone all through school here. It's been an amazing area to raise children. We're this blended Brady Bunch. It's so fun. Having grown up with seven kids in my family, I'm completely trained. I'm used to cooking for a huge family and always having people around. I had to share a bed with two sisters — not just a room, a bed. But, it was awesome for me, and our family today is awesome. We have the best time.
Tribune: Speaking of family, you and several of your siblings appeared on "Celebrity Family Feud" last year — and won. How much fun was that?
Evans: It was so amazing. We chose our oldest brother, Jay, to do the speed round at the end. They put you in a back room and give you head phones and make you listen to really loud music so you can't hear what's going on, but I still kept hearing the crowd roaring. I went back out and (emcee) Steve Harvey was like, "How do you think your brother did?" I said, "I'm sure he did great." He got 190 points. All I had to get was 10 for us to win.
Tribune: How hard is it to balance your personal and professional life?
Evans: I was determined to wait to start a family and have my first child after I'd gotten my career going. I promised myself not to get pregnant until I had a No. 1 record. Then I started my family. All three of the kids have traveled with me. They learned to walk, talk and potty train with me on tour. They love being on the road. Our band and crew members are like uncles to my kids. They're like family for real. My brother, Matt, is my bass player, his wife does hair, makeup and wardrobe, and my sister, Lesley, sings harmony. We've always made it a family affair, and all the people I've surrounded myself with understand that family comes first.
I'm a freak about leaving the kids. If I have to be gone for more than three days, I take them with me. My son (Avery) is a senior in high school and was starting linebacker on his football team this fall. I didn't miss a game. My people freaked out when I told them I wasn't going to work a Friday night for three months. That was a huge financial sacrifice, but how awful would it have been to miss a game?
Tribune: Your husband finished fifth in balloting for the 1994 Heisman Trophy, given to the top college football player in the U.S.
Evans: He's a truly amazing natural athlete. Please don't make it sound like I'm bragging, but I'm actually a really good athlete, too. I played basketball and softball in high school. I threw a softball with Jay on our first date. I wanted to impress him. At first, he was barely lobbing the ball to me, treating me like a girly girl. In the end, I did impress with how well I could play catch. I think that's what hooked him.
Tribune: You sing, you write songs, and now you're getting into production?
Evans: I've co-produced all my albums. I love being in the studio. Besides the live performance, being in the studio and the production side of it is my favorite part of the business. I would love to produce other artists eventually.
Tribune: What kind of show is in store for the audience at Chinook Winds?
Evans: It will be half my hits and half Christmas music. I'm so proud of our 2014 Christmas album. We're going to be doing most of that album. And then about six songs from the new album. It's an awesome show. It's really long. It's in depth. And you get to hear me sing a lot of different stuff from what we usually do.
Tribune: You really love to perform, don't you?
Evans: Oh my gosh, I can't describe it. Every time I come off stage, I literally pray for 30 minutes, thanking God. … "Thank you very much for what I get to do with my life." I just love entertaining, being able to have that connection with the audience. It means something to them. It means just as much to me.