Having a Coffee with ……………. Tina Adair

This is a fun series in which we ask bluegrass music personalities, some famous, some not so famous, about some of their interests as well as about the music that they love.  

A singer and song-writer from Haleyville, Alabama, Tina Adair began singing at the age of three, and a couple of years later her mother taught her three chords on the guitar. Following that, at the age of seven, Adair learned how to play the banjo, trying to copy her father, who played that instrument. 

When 15 she started on her primary instrument, the mandolin. At that same age Adair joined her family band, Bluegrass Edition, soon to be re-named The Adairs, as they sought to gain more exposure. 

While her family provided the support for her instrumental development, she had many musical influences including Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Alison Krauss, Doyle Lawson, Reba McEntire, Tony Rice, Flatt & Scruggs, and the list goes on.

The Adairs won the 1996 Pizza Hut Bluegrass Showdown in Owensboro, Kentucky, when Tina was 17 years old and, within a few weeks, she had signed a recording contract with Sugar Hill Records. Her first and only Sugar Hill release, Just You Wait and See, came in 1997.  

Produced by Jerry Douglas and featuring such luminaries as Chris Thile, Bryan Sutton, Aubrey Haynie, Viktor Krauss, Charlie Cushman, Keith Little, and Alan O’Bryant, the project sold well and earned praise from radio DJs and critics. 

The family band worked at festivals and concerts up and down the east coast of the USA, ventured to Oklahoma, Illinois, and Nashville even making an appearance on the stage of Ryman Auditorium, before playing at venues in eastern Canada.

After several years of touring, Tina pulled back somewhat from music to study in college, though she did release one self-produced CD, All You Need, in 2000.  

Having graduated from Hayleyville High School in 1997 Adair studied at NorthWest Shoals Community College for two years before relocating to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Belmont University from where she earned a degree in music business in 2002. 

At the end of 2009 she formed the Tina Adair Band and the group released its debut CD, Born Bad (Tab Music Group), in 2013. As were the earlier albums, Born Bad was very well received with some excellent reviews. 

In December of 2012 Tina joined forces with four other prominent ladies in bluegrass music to form the all-star female group called Sister Sadie, which features Tina on vocals and mandolin along with Dale Ann Bradley (vocals, guitar), Gena Britt (vocals, banjo), Beth Lawrence (vocals, bass) and Deanie Richardson (fiddle).  

Throughout these years Tina Adair maintained a steady stream of her own songs, having started song-writing with her older brother Keith. Seven original songs were included on her last album. 

Sister Sadie’s sophomore project on Pinecastle Records, Sister Sadie – II, was among the top five 2019 Grammy award nominees in the Best Bluegrass Album category.

What would you like to drink?  

I love a great cup of dark roast jav.

Do you want anything to eat as well? 

I’m fine thanks.

What’s your favorite food? 


And what would you have to drink with that? 

Unsweet tea for me – which is odd I know because I’m originally from north Alabama (shouldn’t I be drinking my tea SWEET??)

What’s the nicest meal that you have ever had?  

My momma’s Thanksgiving dinner!! It’s always prepared with lots of love and is the best meal ever! (Chicken n Dressing, Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes, Smoked Turkey, etc)

Let’s talk bluegrass….. Where/when did you first hear bluegrass music? 

I grew up in a musical family. So, my daddy used to always say, “she was born singing Rocky Top! Ha, ha.”

Which of your own songs do you have a particular liking for? 

The most recent would be a song on the latest Grammy nominated Sister Sadie II project called Jay Hue. It’s a song that took me over two years to write as it’s a true story of my great grandfather, Jay Hue, that died when my grandmother was just five years old.

What about a song written by someone else? 

I just watched a Star Is Born for the second time so I’m really into the song Shallow right now — beautiful and simple lyrics yet deep and heart wrenching.

Which particular album do you like best and why?

The original Album Band’s first record is one of my favouite records I remember as a child, and growing up listening too. It’s still a favorite!

You play a mandolin …. … What model is it? 

It’s a Daley. Not sure it has a model number as Sim Daley built it for me to the specs of another mando I have. One neat thing about this mandolin is that it’s PURPLE which is my favorite colour. I believe Sim used purple food colouring for the stain on the mando. 

Of all the instruments that you have owned what’s your favorite instrument?

My Daley mandolin and my 1944 Martin 00-18 guitar!

What’s your favorite bluegrass memory? 

Being a Grammy nominee for Best Bluegrass Album is one of my favs. Gosh there’s so many to have just ONE favorite, but I will say that a few years ago, I got to sing a song with Ricky Skaggs and my band mate, Dale Ann Bradley at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival for a Ralph Stanley tribute show …  and that was pretty special. We debuted on the Grand Ole Opry in March and that was the ultimate dream come true for me. Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of playing the Opry Stage. Now, at 39, I’m getting to do that!! I’m living proof to NEVER EVER give up on your dreams!!! 

Work hard and never lose hope of what you want to accomplish….and you can accomplish anything!

How do you keep fit and healthy when you spend so much time on the road? 

Ummmm…yea, next question. Ha, ha! 

Are you a sports fan? Who do you follow? 

I do like college football and I’m an Auburn fan! War Eagle!

What hobbies do you have? 

I collect vintage Martin guitars!! 

What is the last movie film that you watched? 

A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody

Do you get much time to watch TV? 

Not a lot. I usually binge watch a show on Netflix. The last binge watching I did was OZARK! 

What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in bluegrass music?  

My other job that I’ve currently had for 17 years now, which is working at the wonderful Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, where I’m the Director of Advising in the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business!! It’s my home away from home!

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.