Sara Evans has signed with Sugar Hill Records to record a new studio album, which is tentatively slated for release in 2017.

Evans was reported to have split with Sony and RCA, her label home of nearly 20 years, in February of 2016. She had been with Sony Music Nashville since her debut album, Three Chords and the Truth, in 1997, and her surprising departure was part of a mass exit that also included the Swon Brothers, the Henningsens and Josh Dorr.

MusicRow reports that a number of labels were interested in Evans, but Sugar Hill was at the top of her list. The Nashville-based label is part of Concord Music Group and Rounder Label Group, and its roster currently includes Jewel, Lee Ann Womack, Josh Kelley, Shawn Mullins and Corey Smith.

“First of all I love [Rounder Label Group VP, A&R] Tracy Gershon and I’ve known her for years,” Evans tells MusicRow. “I’ve always been a fan of Rounder and Sugar Hill, the artists they put out and produce, especially Alison Krauss. I’ve been a huge Alison Krauss fan for years. They are all about the art, the artist, the song and really making compelling, authentic music. That’s what I want to do and I want to be able to make the kind of music that I want, without the constraints of ‘Well, is this commercial enough?’ I just want to make a beautiful record.”

Evans has not chosen a producer for her upcoming album, but is considering a rising talent from outside the country format. She says the deal with Sugar Hill will allow her more creative freedom to explore a wider palette of influences than on past offerings.

“It doesn’t have to be in any specific genre and that’s what I’m excited about,” the singer states. “I can sing really country and mountain-y bluegrass, mostly because that’s what I was raised on, and how I first loved to sing. I definitely do have that. However, I can sing pop, country, blues and anything as long as it is a song that moves me. It’s kind of funny in the pitch meetings, because people might pitch a song and say, ‘Well, it’s not really country, it’s more on the pop side,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t care about all of that. All I want is a great song.’”

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