EVIE SANDS IS BACK WITH ‘GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY’
Welcome return by influential blue-eyed soul legend. The DIY pop pioneer is still doing things for herself. Her first full album in two decades is a revelation!—UNCUT
MOJO: “Sands is solely in charge, she’s written, produced and arranged everything and the sense of liberation is palpable. Her songs mix pop, soul and country rock and are sage and direct on matters of the heart. With her voice still tough and soulful and guitar playing incredibly raw, Get Out of Your Own Way combines emotional maturity with musical richness. ★★★★”
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Evie Sands sought inspiration as she got in gear for a long-awaited new album after a two-decade wait. “I was in a meditation, a thing I only do once in a while,” she says. “And these words came to me:‘Forgive yourself. Get out of your own way. All will follow.’” Putting that into practice, she got home and within hours had the song that would become the title track — and philosophy — of hernew release, Get Out of Your Own Way, due out April 23, 2021 on R-Spot Records.
“I was just compelled,” she says. “The song kind of wrote itself.” Not every song on the album came about with that kind of rush. But the sense of it, the electricity and openness and optimism of it, is infused throughout this bristling set of songs — tales of overcoming hurdles, rebounding from heartbreak, finding light in darkness. It’s there in the healthy squint of “The Truth Is inDisguise,” the shining-through of “My Darkest Days,” the wrenchingly hopeful “Lovin’ You Enough,” the playful cultural critique of “Scandal du Jour,” and the expansively inspirational “If You Give Up.”
More than a collection of songs, this is an album with an arc, with interconnected stories to tell, the way classic albums used to be made. And it covers a lot of ground in sound and style, borne out by Sands’ deft arranging, bold playing and production. “Don’t Hold Back” is a brisk companion to the title song. “Beautiful Lie” looks at the sunny side of a relationship ending, with the epiphany of its central line, “We’ll both survive to love another day.” “Another Night” is a guitar-driven wild ride over to “the other side of the line.” “Leap of Faith,” melding some of Sands’ ’60s and ’70s pop and soul passions, asks, “Is this original sin, or just the state that I’m in?” “After Tonight” poignantly steps into the void of heartbreak. And a live favorite making its recorded debut, “Don’t Look Back, Don’t Look Down,” ties it all together, an active reminder to keep moving forward, the very theme that runs through the album and brought it to be in the first place.
While elements of pop, rock, soul, country and Americana float in and out of the songs and performances in varying forms, Sands brings such a distinctive blend — reflecting her own voracious tastes and open-eared feelings about music — that it’s impossible to peg any genre labels anywhere on these songs, or on her, and wrong to try. “I’ve never chased trends or let that define me,” she says. “It’s the never-ending quest to be true to myself as an artist and to what’s inspiring for me. It’s like when I was two and listening to the radio and just turning the dial — R&B and soul and blues without walls. That thrilled me! It’s who I am.”
Getting the album made and released called on something Sands has learned, and earned, in the course of her career: patience and fortitude. Two decades ago she was caught in the time when the label support system of old had collapsed, but the ability to make records to her standards in a fully independent setting was not yet established. Once time and circumstances were right to get back to making her own records, Evie stepped into the DIY world, issuing her six-song EP, 2017’s radiant Shine for Me on her own R-Spot Records. Thrilled by the results and seeing a way forward, Evie set her sights on a full album. “This was the first time I did something through a crowdfunding campaign, that kind of inclusive DIY,” she says. And she found a gratifying amount of support from fans.
Sands, producing, handling lead vocals, electric guitar and keyboards, benefits from a tight, intuitive band that’s been working with her for years now: Teresa Cowles on bass, Jason Berk on guitar, Eric Vesper on drums, and Steve Refling, who engineered the sessions masterfully. Everything was tracked live as a band. The spontaneity and sense of invention in the studio led to some unexpected delights, culminating in the sonic wonder of “If You Give Up”. “The band and I heard the same thing. We wanted to have this cloud of vocals,” she says, “vocals as textures. The inside joke was to call it 9CC or 11CC.I brought in dear friends Isobel Campbell and Willie Aron and collectively had six voices to blend and we got that magic cloud thing. It’s so great to have music play in my head and have it come out as I envision.”
The sound is a pure expression of the song’s lyrics, a counterpoint and complement to the title song, the two together forming the album’s heart. Evie says, “‘If You Give Up’ is really trying to put light out there into the world. It’s reaching out to someone who’s in need of encouragement to not give up.” It’s a particularly resonant sentiment, a belief that marks the path that has brought her to this place — a through-line of her life and music.
Her early career, famously, was marked by several coulda-beens — she made the original recordings of “Take Me For a Little While,” “I Can’t Let Go” and “Angel of the Morning,” releases tripped up due to various music business failures and treacheries. But Sands built a following among top figures in the music world, including Johnny Cash, who invited her to perform on his TV show in 1969, saying that she has “silver bells in her voice … electricity in her fingers.” Her subsequent single,“Any Way That You Want Me,” broke through, residing 17 weeks on the charts and racking up over half a million sales.
Evie’s journey, and guidance from such mentors as producer-songwriters Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni, and veteran Ben Weisman (Elvis Presley’s go-to tunesmith), gave her the determination and the tools to take charge of her own art and destiny. She stepped up as a songwriter with the very first self-penned song she recorded, “It’s This I Am,” on her watershed album Any Way That You Want Me. It’s a testimony to her innate acumen and taste for enduring emotional and musical connection.
Noless than Barbra Streisand became the first to cover one of her songs, with “Love in theAfternoon” (co-written with Weisman and Richard Germinaro) tabbed as the opening song of her hit album ButterFly. That song would anchor Sands’ beloved 1975 album Estate of Mind, which fully showcased her songwriting and arranging talents. “I Love Makin’ Love toYou,” “One Thing on My Mind,” “You Can Do It” and “Take It orLeave It” became core to her growing catalog, each covered, sampled, remixed and continually being rediscovered.
Evie’s songs have been interpreted by a spectrum of admirers. Among them: Gladys Knight did “Love Gives You thePower,” Dusty Springfield (who had called Sands her favorite singer) chose “You Can Do It.” Beth Orton and Beck bothrecorded versions of “It’s This I Am.” And Jazmine Sullivan and Missy Elliott reimagined “Take It orLeave It” for Sullivan’s “Excuse Me.”
Soon after establishing herself an in-demand writer, Sands asserted herself in a role that had been largely off-limits to women, that as producer for her 1979 album Suspended Animation— even if her label insisted that she work with a male co-producer. She built on this with confidence, not just producing herself, but others too (Holly Near’s Speed of Light) and found herself in demand in many roles — as instrumentalist, in performance, and lending that signature voice.
Evie’s 1999 release Women in Prison, which included a duet with Lucinda Williams, was a return to musical roots that had inspired her. That album’s Americana bent included “While I Look at You,” which continues to be a digital phenomenon.The record signaled a new vitality and Sands’ returned to performing live, including a U.K./Europe tour. A particularly memorable date at New Orleans’ Ponderosa Stomp during a hurricane warning, included a momentous duet with fellow left-handed guitarist Barbara Lynn, and an impromptu set that blew the minds of fans and introduced her to new ones. The energy of that translated into the studio.
Get Out of Your Own Way’s 12 originals represent a welcome outburst of creativity from Evie that’s fresh and familiar, vintage and vital. It signals a full-tilt return from this seemingly elusive, singer-songwriter/guitar-slinger. Concurrent with this album’s release comes a new association with Warner Chappell Music to represent hersongsfor a full range of exposure. Presently not being able to tour in support, Sands has new music always in the works and plans are being imagined for future recordings and collaborations.Evie Sands and band can’t wait to be socially present again, to get back on stage once possible, and perform it all live — like life depends on it.
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