Living Southern — like a good recipe — is an art, an honor and something worth sharing. And who better to share this with folks — from the Carolinas to the Mississippi River and beyond — than a magazine so aptly named: Southern Living.
Born 50 years ago, Southern Living came to be during a time of movement in the South; millions of people were moving from farms and rural areas into the cities and the suburbs. The magazine was launched out of the leading farmers’ magazine in the country, Progressive Farmer, in an effort to stay relevant to the changing culture. “It was a pretty bold gamble for them,” says current Southern Living Editor-in-Chief Sid Evans. “And it turned out to be a really great bet. Within 10 years, it was one of the most successful magazines in the country.”
Today, the recipe for success looks eerily similar to that of the 1966 launch. The South is constantly evolving and Southern Living is keeping up with the region’s expansion in food, music and fashion. In this fast-paced and high-volume environment, Sid and the Southern Living staff are maintaining the respectful legacy of the magazine while staying relevant.
Sid values the pillars of the Southern Living brand: food, home, garden, travel and style. He has an appreciation for elemental cooking, such as that found at Birmingham’s Ovenbird, his drink of choice is an Old Fashioned, Charleston is his preferred destination, he has an ear for music with Southern roots, and he recognizes the incontestable talent of Laura Vinroot Poole, Lindsey Carter, Billy Reid and Ann and Sid Mashburn. Sid is the likeness of a Southerner eager to spark a dialogue of the region’s culture. Moreover, every writer who contributes to the pages of the magazine is a representation of all who are living Southern. It is these relatable voices that keep Southern Living at the forefront as lifestyle experts, and it is these voices that granted it the title of “the Bible for Southern living” in my household.
To mark the milestone of Southern Living’s 50 years in circulation, Sid Evans talked with StyleBlueprint — reflecting on the past, reveling in the present and accepting the challenge of the future. “It has been a remarkable journey for this magazine and this brand. In a lot of ways, it tracks the history of the South,” he shares.
We’re excited to share our conversation with Sid with you today.
What was the mission of the publication in 1966, and is it the same mission today?
I think the reason the brand has been so successful and remains so strong is that the original mission is basically intact. The mission was to help Southerners enjoy and appreciate Southern life to the fullest. Southern Living was designed to be a guide to getting the most out of life in the South; there is something timeless about that idea. People always need to know how to cook, how to garden and how to make their homes beautiful — and Southerners do that in a way that is very unique. In many ways, the magazine is as useful to people in 2016 as it was in 1966.
How does Southern Living look different today than it did in 1966?
The South is constantly evolving. For example, there has been an explosion of interest in Southern food and Southern restaurants. Over the last 10 years or so, that has skyrocketed — meaning there is a lot to keep up with. We have to be aggressive about the way we cover it in the magazine but also online and on social media. Sometimes, it feels like there is a new restaurant opening every day. People want to know about them and they want to know what we think. In some ways, we are like a daily newspaper now — in terms of the pace and the velocity at which we have to cover the South.
What avenues have you taken to maintain the legacy of the brand while staying relevant during the rapid movement of Southern culture?
We focus a lot more on what’s happening in the cities. When you look at what is going on in the South in cities such as Nashville, Charleston, Atlanta, Austin, Louisville and Birmingham, there is so much happening on the cultural front with food, music and design. It shows what a dynamic place the South has become. The stronger focus on the cities is a bit of a shift for Southern Living. We are still about life in the suburbs and we are still very much about decorating ideas, recipes and ways to make your home more beautiful. But because of what’s happening in cities all over the South and how exciting that is, we have devoted more time and resources for that.
Is there one Southern Living article that stands out for you as a favorite?
Oh boy, there are so many! I cannot think of a particular one but look at Rick Bragg, for example. Rick has been contributing to the magazine for about five years and everything he writes is just so spot on. He has a great voice and a great way of capturing the essence of Southern culture — the humor of it and the drama of it. He really stands out to me as someone who has contributed to the legacy of the brand.
Southern Living is hosting celebrations in cities such as Nashville, Birmingham and Charleston. What do these cities signify for the brand?
For one thing, I think that people just want to celebrate with us. The brand means a lot to people; it is something that they have a connection with — almost like a family member. So, it is like a family member is turning 50. They want to celebrate with us and we have seen that in the way people have come out and, frankly, we have seen that in the ticket sales. That is very exciting and rewarding for us.
We wanted to do events that would cut across all of the pillars of the brand — events for food, home, garden and style — so it would feel like we were celebrating all aspects of life in the South. Nashville is the red-hot center of Southern culture, these days. All of the events, together, offer a little snapshot of what is happening all over the South. When it comes to Nashville, it is a great place to do that.
Many thanks to Sid Evans for talking with us today. Be a part of the Southern Living #NashvilleNow 50th Anniversary Celebration, taking place Labor Day weekend in Nashville, by entering to win a prize package that includes admission for two to the following celebration events:
- Hot Chicken & Craft Beer Tasting
- Fifth Avenue of the Arts First Saturday Art Crawl and Wine Tasting VIP Experience
- BBQ Dinner at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
- Chef & Editor Drop-In Brunch at Pinewood Social
- Baubles & Bubbles
- Local Coffee House Tour
- Honky Tonk Crawl
To enter, download the StyleBlueprint App and register with your email address. If you’ve already downloaded the SB App and registered your email, you automatically have been entered to win. You can also purchase tickets to a dinner at Cheekwood, hot chicken and craft beer tasting, art crawl, barbecue dinner, brunch with Southern Living editors and more.
Keep up with the very best of life in the South. Follow StyleBlueprint on Instagram — @StyleBlueprint.
And, would you like an entire year of Southern Living magazine for ONLY $12? We thought so. Click here for details!