John Evans is a prolific songwriter, with over 400 original songs that span all genres and across all spectrums. His production with Corb Lund (Cabin Fever) went to #1 in Canada knocking Justin Bieber out of that position. Evans’ music career has earned many accolades and awards including eight straight years of Houston Press Awards, starting with six-time Best Male Vocalist, four-time Best Songwriter, two-time Musician of The Year and Best Roots Rock Band. His songs have been featured in films and TV including “Country Strong” and “Friday Night Lights.” His latest endeavor is his new album Polyester, and is featured in “Butterfly Girl,” a recent SXSW documentary film about his young daughter, Abigail Evans, who tragically passed away from a rare skin disease in 2013. Polyester tells the story of the journey he has led ever since the day he decided the life of a songwriter was the only path for him.
AMFM: I love your new single release “Polyester,” it’s so much fun. JOHN: Basically a long time ago I adopted the polyster shirts and pants and sportsuits that they had back in the ‘70s. So it’s about rockin’ polyester. Going out in the pearl snap shirts, the Graham Parsons type suits, nudie suits cool stuff. Polyster for all seasons.
AMFM: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE ARTISTS YOU’VE COLLABORATED WITH OVER THE YEARS. HAYES CARLL IS CALLING YOU HIS FAVORITE ARTIST, SO WHO IS YOURS?
JOHN: It’s a close group of people. Hayes is my closest friend in the writing world. We’ve been good friends for fifteen years. I don’t how long it goes way back. Even from his early days.
AMFM: SO YOU’VE SEEN HIM TAKE OFF
JOHN: From the ground floor. I remember watching him for the first time at the Mucky Duck and he just floored me. The time spent between the songs were just as intriguing as the songs he was singing. His whole demeanor was amazing. We bacame fast friends and started writing together. He’s the best.
AMFM: AND THERE’S MORE TO COME… BUT WHO’S ON THIS NEW RECORD YOU’RE ABOUT TO RELEASE?
JOHN: Will Sexton, Emily Bell, Scott Davis (who plays bass with the Band of Heathens), Ricky Ray Jackson, he played steel on my record but he plays bass and in a band called The Happenin’s. A big group of Austin musicians played on this record. Falcon Valdez on the drums.
It was really cool. When I go into the recording process I’m usually using either members of my own band, or I’m recording most of the record. But with this record, I had a collection of songs that weren’t in with the band, so I saw an opportunity. I had been using all these players for other people’s records and they turned out so great, that I thought “man, I want to use these guys on my record.”
We went in to my living room and cut it. Brought a studio in from Houston. My buddy Steve Christianson has a space at Sugar Hill Recording Studios, down near U of H… he packed his studio up and brought it to my house.
AMFM: WOW, SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAD A GREAT SPACE FOR RECORDING
JOHN: It was. We had a little bungalow house in mid-central Austin. Wood floors, low ceilings, we were a little worried about that but we ended up nailing it.
Steve and I have actually taken this studio and recorded other artists in studios other than Sugar Hill. We recorded Emily Bell’s first album in technicolor at a Lake House in Central Texas. We recorded Ashley Monical out in Wimberly. We’re used to doing this, so we thought we could do this in my living room.
AMFM: AS AN ESTABLISHED AUSTIN ARTIST, WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY TO THE YOUNG MUSICIANS COMING TO AUSTIN ALL STARRY-EYED – BECAUSE THE STREETS ARE PAVED WITH GOLD?
JOHN: Whether you are moving to New York, Austin, or L.A. I think the streets are paved with opportunity to work your ass off. The people that work really hard and are persistent and consistent are THE ONES THAT BECOME successful. It’s a situation that There are opportunities if you’re willing to work from the ground floor up and prove yourself as a real musician. There are people that are giving it a shot and they last a couple of years, but you really have to dive in and decide this is what you’re going to do and your are going to do it until it’s something that you can do full time.
Early on in my career, in the 90’s, I went to Nashville initially because I wanted to be a writer. I would go to Nashville and do writing seminars, and I would talk to publishing companies. They told me that if you want to be a writer, you have to be present to win. They wanted me to move to Nashville and be in the writing circles. But I couldn’t do that full time, at the time I had a family to support and I wasn’t at the stage of the game where I was making the money that I needed to make. But that always resonated with me. You’ve got people that do this for a living and do it every day. If you want to compete in that arena, you’ve got to have the same dedication they have,and same work ethic.
I KNOW THAT YOUR DAUGHTER ABIGAIL WAS THE SUBJECT OF THE MOVIE “BUTTERFLY GIRL,” AND THAT SHE PASSED AWAY. HOW DID YOUR DAUGHTER INFLUENCE ANY OF THE NEW RECORD?
“I wrote all the songs for this from time I first moved to Austin. So all the songs were written with Abigail around, in the house. She was here when we recorded the record, and she was part of the recording process and sound selection. She helped shape the landscape of what we did in the studio. I am now at the point where I can listen to these songs, and that experience, and it doesn’t break me down. It takes a while. We value life so much in our society, that we don’t ever prepare ourselves for the fact that death is a part of life. As tragic as all of it is, you have to look at what a wonderful great life she had, and she lived.”
AMFM: AND WHAT A GIFT SHE WAS TO YOU.
JOHN: What a gift she was to me and so many other people. She really has left a mark on the world and it’s awesome. Now I see the E.B. Foundations have a bunch of rock n’ rollers, they are helping raise money and it’s really cool. I feel like she had a big hand in all of that.