Not only was Sara Evans “Born to Fly,” she was born to call the shots — specifically when it comes to her music.
Days after the launch of her own record label, the country star exclusively shares with PEOPLE the title of and artwork for her highly anticipated forthcoming album, Words, set for release on July 21.
“I’ve always recorded music that I believed in and that I loved, but with Words I finally had 100 percent control over every decision,” Evans, 46, tells PEOPLE. “We went into the song search with the mindset of choosing the most amazing songs, no matter what.”
She adds of the album: “We didn’t put a filter on our thinking of ‘Will this work at country radio with what’s being played now?’ or ‘What does my label team think of this song?’ Now I am the label and it has given me complete creative freedom.”
Evans launched Born to Fly Records in April, naming it after her hit 2000 single of the same title. Being able to release this eighth studio album under a label of her very own has been “a dream come true” for the singer.
“Up until now, my entire career in music has been with someone else calling many of the shots and having an opinion on why a certain song should or shouldn’t be on the album, or what the single should or shouldn’t be,” she explains. “At this point in my life, I’ve gained the confidence and experience to start calling those shots myself and making the decisions that reflect who I am as an artist.”
When it came to picking songs on the album, Evans looked for tunes that had great lyrics and a great message. Her favorite song is the title track which she says is “a good reminder of how powerful words are.”
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One of the distinctive qualities of the new record is that it includes 14 separate female powerhouse songwriters, including Ashley Monroe, Caitlyn Smith and Hillary Scott, though when she was sorting through songs she wanted an unbiased opinion and instructed her team of song pitchers not to tell her who wrote the tracks before she listened to them.
“When we put together the final track listing and looked at the writers, it was a nice surprise to see how many were written or co-written by women,” she says. “Unfortunately right now there still aren’t as many opportunities for female artists to be heard, so many of these incredible songs are sitting on a hard drive somewhere and not seeing the light of day.”
She continues: “With the launch of Born to Fly and taking control of my career more than ever before, I want to show other women artists that you can do anything you set your mind to and to keep dreaming and working hard.”
There is another young woman Evans has in mind who she wants to empower with her record label — her daughter, Olivia, 14. Olivia contributed to background vocals on Words, and Evans hopes to record solo tracks with her.
“I absolutely loved having Olivia sing on the album,” she says. “When Olivia went in to sing her parts I just told her, ‘Do what you do when we’re singing around the house — just have fun and enjoy it.’ I tried to not be a stage mom and give her too much advice and let her find her own vibe and sound.”
Evans shares Olivia, daughter Audrey, 12, and son Avery, 17, with ex-husband Craig Schelske. When it comes to music, it’s a family affair as Olivia and Audrey both sang on Evans’ 2014 Christmas album, At Christmas, and Avery plans to pursue playing the guitar and drums professionally.
“I look forward to continuing to work with all three of my kids musically,” she shares. “It’s so awesome for me to watch them!”
Words is out July 21.