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Sara Evans: Farm Girl to Country Music Star

The Accident

Sara grew up on a farm in New Franklin, Missouri where she spent her childhood riding motorcycles and horses. She helped out on the farm which helped to develop her strong work ethic. Her God given gift for music was discovered at an early age. Her mom decided to put a band together with Sara and her siblings. They traveled all over Missouri playing at fairs, festivals, and rodeos. Whenever they had free time on the farm her mom would have them practice for shows in their living room. Sara is thankful she did. Her professional music career began at age five. 

When Sara was eight, she was in a terrible accident. She rode her motorcycle to the end of their driveway and got off to get the mail. She saw no cars, but the next thing she knew she was in the hospital in excruciating pain. She had been hit by a car traveling seventy-five miles an hour. Sara was thrown onto the hood. When the driver hit the brakes, it threw her eighty feet off the road into a ditch. At first, they thought she was dead. Sara had a severe concussion, one leg in full traction, and the other leg in a full cast from her hip to her toes. For six agonizing weeks she was in a hospital bed. During this time Sara began to experience overwhelming anxiety and panic. “I felt like I was being buried alive and couldn’t move to get out,” recalls Sara. She spent the next two years in casts, having surgeries, and having physical therapy. Sara developed fears of dying or going blind (PTSD). Although she struggled, Sara knew God was with her and would never leave her. She also knew she had a calling, music.  

Finding Stardom

Sara’s parents were married for eighteen years before they divorced. After the stress from the car accident and the mounting hospital bills, they seemed to drift apart. Two years later her mom remarried. Her mom’s presence in her life stayed the same, but her relationship with her dad changed. They would still see him, but she began to feel like she had to fight for his attention. Although he didn’t purposefully try to hurt Sara, her dad ignored her and that caused lasting damage in her relationships with men. After high school Sara tried college for a brief period but it just wasn’t the right fit. She wanted to move to Nashville and make it big with her brother Matt. Unfortunately, Matt stayed briefly and then decided to move to Dallas to live with her dad. Sara was devastated. Meanwhile, she had met a guy whom she eventually married. They moved to Oregon for three years before coming back to Nashville where she began building a reputation for herself on Music Row. With a lot of hard work, her career took off. Her name was at the top of the charts in country music and she toured with artists like Geoge Strait, Alan Jackson, and Reba McEntire. 

Struggles with Anxiety

Sara was also now a mom to three children. She was desperate to keep the momentum going in her career and never said no to anything. She wanted to leave a legacy for her kids, but deep-down Sara had been keeping a secret. Although her world seemed perfect, she was miserable in her marriage. For three years she had been in marriage counseling trying to salvage the relationship. “After the pain of being a child of divorce, I’d made a commitment to never divorce,” recalls Sara. But in the end, she knew she needed out of the marriage or it would be really bad for her.                            

It became clear to her in December 2005, when she had a meltdown. She was balancing motherhood, a failing marriage, three young kids with her on the road, and an extremely demanding career. On a car ride after a show she had a panic attack (in 2014 she had a similar experience). For ten days she was afraid to leave her home. She read her Bible and watched her kids play. She was suffering from exhaustion and anxiety. Her pastor came to her house and prayed for her and read scriptures with her. Sara returned to work in 2006 and got an invitation to be on Dancing with The Stars. Her partner was Tony Dovolani. She had a lot of fun as well as worked really hard during the competition. The difficult part was being away from her kids and dealing with her deteriorating marriage. One-night things blew up and she knew she would not be able to continue being on the show. The show was understanding of her situation. It was a difficult time for her in the days ahead. She had much fear about going through a divorce, but each day it got a little easier and she became a little stronger. Today she has learned to take care of her health, look for the signs of burnout, and understand her limits. 

In 2007, a year after her divorce was final, she was introduced to retired NFL player and now radio talk show host, Jay Barker (via email). They talked for hours over a three-week period before going on their first date that October. They married on June 14, 2008. Jay has four kids and Sara has three children. “Ten years later, I feel like we’re still on our honeymoon,” shares Sara.  

Sara's Faith

Sara grew up going to church every Sunday, but religion and God were a Sunday thing for her and her family. Yet she is thankful she was raised going to church because it put the Word of God in her heart. It wasn’t until Sara was twenty-one that she understood what true salvation was all about. She was in a hotel one night and picked up the Gideon Bible. As she read it, the words were literally jumping off the page at her. That night she asked Jesus into her heart. Many people don’t have anything to do with church or God because they think they are not good enough for God. Sara says, “There’s nothing you can do that makes you good enough. Only God’s grace can save us. Not ourselves and definitely no other man.”

Another Near Death Experience 

On December 7, 2012 Sara was on a plane that nearly crashed. She flew a lot due to the nature of her job, but because she had such bad PTSD from getting hit by a car and from her exhaustion breakdown in 2005, she always carried anti-anxiety meds with her, especially when she would fly. When the plane was in the air it began to bounce all over the place. Sara was all of a sudden thrown to the floor and unable to move because of the g-force. People were panicking. Sara accepted that she was going to die and actually felt great peace knowing she would be with Jesus. The pilots had taken the plane off of manual mode at 10,000 feet and switched to autopilot. The gyroscope, which tells the plane if it is right side up or upside down, stopped working. The experienced pilots relied on their training and were able to pull up so they didn’t crash and turn the plane back over. After they safely landed Sara called her family thankful to be alive so she could still be a wife and mother. 

Parenting Advice

Being a mom has been Sara’s greatest joy in life. She made a conscious effort to develop the character of her children for the good by teaching them to say “please” and “thank you” as well as to be responsible. Sara believes children are a blessing. She offers the following parenting advice that she has used through the years to help raise her own children: 

  • Pray for your children and help them get to a place where they have a repentant heart.
  • Children learn what they see. Make sure you are the same in public as you are at home.
  • Create boundaries, draw lines in the sand, give rules. Children need discipline.
  • Teach them the importance of working hard at whatever they are doing.
  • Show your children respect.
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