Tina Adair grew up in North Alabama, about 30 miles south of Muscle Shoals. She came from a big musical family all the way back to her grandmother, on her mother’s side of the family. Her parents owned a music store and were both musicians. “I was around a lot of music,” Tina said. “I was very fortunate that way. If I was interested in an instrument, they would try to let me explore that.”
Tina started singing when she was just three, on stage for the first time, with her mom and dad’s band. “I just fell in love with singing. From that point forward, I can’t ever remember a day not singing, unless I was sick or something,” she laughed. “I just became completely obsessed with music, and singing and playing.”
At five years old, her mom and dad bought her a small, cheap guitar. “I wore that thing out,” she said. “I still have it to this day. As a matter of fact, my mom and dad built me a little shadowbox for it, and I have it hanging in my office. It’s really special to me. You can tell I wore it out.”
Career In Motion
Tina started playing mandolin when she was around 14 years old. About the same time, she and her brother joined her parent’s band, and it became the family band that would lead her to a career in music. “We played around at local festivals, and then out more regionally,” she said. “We used to travel all over the US and Canada. In 1996 we went to IBMA, when it was still in Owensboro, Kentucky. We won a competition there – the Pizza Hut Bluegrass Showdown.”
Within weeks of that honor, she had signed with Sugar Hill Records, and cut her first album in 1997, Just You Wait And See, produced by Jerry Douglas. It featured future bluegrass stars, such as Chris Thile, Bryan Sutton, and Aubre Haynie. “That was just so much fun,” she said. “I was a child at the time. Chris and I both were children. He was a year younger than I was. That album was really such an important part of my history. I established relationships that have lasted my whole career.”
Tina toured for four years on the legs of that album before taking a break to pursue a college education. “One of my goals was to always get a college degree, and I was highly encouraged by my family to do so. My brother and I were first generation college students, and my parents worked very, very hard in order to pay for both of our college educations,” she said.
Well Rounded Experience
“From an early age, I knew that I wanted to go to Belmont University in Nashville,” Tina said. “It’s the only place to which I applied. I did Community College for a couple years and then transferred, into Belmont’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business. I loved it so much I ended up staying there and working for them. I’ve been there ever since.”
“I love working with people of that age group,” she said. “I think it’s a very crucial time in someone’s life, because it’s a transitional period, from being at home into real life, having to make decisions on their own, and learning to take some responsibility for life choices. It’s rewarding to help them with that experience. I’ve been there almost 20 years now, and I love it. And it helps because I have a great relationship with the entertainment industry too, especially in Nashville. I’m in it on the educational side, but at the same time, it also has affords me to be able to tour and travel as well. So, as the Director of Advising, I can bring those experiences back to the students and be able to talk to them about career strategies, and job search strategy, and the industry as a whole.”
In 2012 Tina got together to play a solo date at the Station Inn in Nashville with musician friends Dale Ann Bradley, Gena Britt, Deanie Richardson, and Beth Lawrence. “We just wanted an excuse to get together to play, and hang out,” Tina told us. “We were like, ‘let’s just do a show at the Station and for fun.’ Somebody videoed some of our show, and it got passed around. Then Gina started getting calls asking if we’d consider playing for for this and that. We didn’t even have a name.”
They settled on the name, Sister Sadie, and began taking some of those dates, eventually deciding to head into the studio to cut a record together. “We never dreamed of the success we would have,” Tina said. They then recorded a second album which earned them numerous IBMA awards and a Grammy nomination. And for Tina, it brought about a dream opportunity to play the Grand Ole Opry stage.
“It was such a spectacular night,” she said. “It was as close to a perfect night as I’ve ever had in music. I looked in that balcony and I went straight back to when I was a little girl, like five or six years old. Every year my mom and dad, and brother and I would go to the Opry. I just remember telling my mama, ‘I’m gonna sing on that stage one day.’ It took almost 40 years, right before my 40th birthday. But it’s all in the right time, and the way it’s supposed to happen.”
When the pandemic hit, like so many other artists, Tina started working from home, and the time off the road afforded her with some downtime. “I kind of got the itch to do another solo album,” she said. So she reached out to Adam Engelhart and Glen Duncan with the EMG records about putting a project together.
Her new self titled album released this summer, and she plans to play out to support that project as well as continuing to work with a slightly re-organized Sister Sadie line-up. “We just played our first show as a band in August at Pickin’ In Parsons,” she said. “It felt so good. I knew I missed it. And I knew I missed being on stage and being out. But I didn’t really realize how much, and how much it fed my soul to be back on the stage again; just to draw that energy from the crowd. I just feed off of the energy from the audience so much. I could have played 10 more shows the same day,” she exclaimed. Gosh, it just felt good.”
By Greg Tutwiler