Andra Faye was born February 16, 1959 in Indianapolis, IN. Her parents were from the South: her father, the late Harlan Hinkle, was born in West Virginia, and her mother, Ovaline, hails from Tennessee. She has one older brother, Ellis “Ely” Hinkle, who still lives in Indy, down the road from the home where they grew up, and where her mother still resides. Andra Faye currently lives in rural central Virginia with her husband, Chris Jones, and their two cats, Biscuit & Bandit.
Andra Faye has loved singing & drawing since she can remember. The first instrument she remembers wanting to learn to play was the piano…but since she grew up in a small house, her folks got her a Magnus chord organ instead! Next she wanted to play the flute when the opportunity came along in grade school to learn an instrument & play in band or orchestra. Instead, her father said, “There’s an old fiddle in the closet, that’s what you can learn to play!” So, indeed, that’s what she learned to play. She sang in chorus & played in the school orchestra until forced to choose one or the other…and continued to play in the orchestra. She loved art class as much as music, and studied art through high school, too.
In her alternative high school, she was offered many different experiences, and orchestra was pushed to the side. But, she started playing music with friends, and learned to jam & improvise outside of her classical training, on all kinds of music. She’d always loved to dance & loved the “Motown Sound”, and Aretha Franklin and The Temptations, 50’s Rock & Roll, as well as any other music that caught her ear from her older brother’s collection-like The Beatles and Credence Clearwater Revival. Plus, there was always AM country radio playing in her parents’ home, and Patsy Cline was an early love. She discovered the Blues in high school when one friend turned her onto B.B. King, and another gave her a couple Bonnie Raitt albums…and like so many other young artists, she read all the liner notes on her album covers. She noticed people she’d never heard of had written her favorite tunes and she wanted more…folks like Sippie Wallace, Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker and Mississippi John Hurt & on & on.
She eventually discovered the Augusta Heritage Blues Week music camp in Elkins, WV in 1984, and met many folks who have inspired her personally & musically since that time including: Joan Fenton, Rich & Maureen DelGrosso, John Jackson, John Cephas & Phil Wiggins, and especially, Howard Armstrong, a major influence on her mandolin & fiddle style. Back home, she sought out local Blues hero, Yank Rachell, who became a mentor on blues mandolin, as well as a friend. She began playing on a more professional level & worked with Indy songwriter Frank Dean, weaving his original tunes with classic country & blues in Faye & The Rayes and Blue DeVille, as well as performing as a duo with her ex-husband Jack McIntosh.
Andra Faye continues to draw from her diverse musical upbringing on her musical journey today. She has been a member of the Nationally and Internationally acclaimed, all female acoustic blues trio, Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women, since 1992. Friends with Ann Rabson and Gaye Adegbalola since they met in 1987 as students at the Augusta Heritage Blues Week in Elkins, WV, she was surprised and delighted when first they asked her to sit in on the recording session of their third Alligator Records release, “Broad Casting”. So surprised, in fact, she kept suggesting another fiddle player to Gaye-thinking she wasn’t good enough! Gaye & Ann insisted they knew how well she played from all their jamming & good times together…and the rest is now Uppity history. She began touring with the group after the recording session, when their bassist decided to leave, although she did not play bass, only much smaller instruments: fiddle, mandolin & guitar. She bought one right away & enlisted a wonderful stand-up bass player from Indianapolis, Chris McMahon, to give her lessons when she wasn’t on the road. She took to the instrument easily & had the bass on stage in about six months. Faye also took a leave from her job as a Registered Nurse at this time to pursue her musical opportunity with Saffire. It was a dream come true for her, as she’d never really thought she could make it as a full-time musician, and had worked full & part-time as a nurse, while doing music on the side. She has never yet had to return to nursing, though she keeps her license current, “just in case”!
The near-constant touring has taken its toll however, and Saffire has decreased its national & international touring schedule for a variety of reasons. They still perform regularly, but now all of the members have time to pursue other avenues & interests, as well. Faye performs with her husband, Chris & their good friend, Ken Phillips, in a mostly acoustic trio known as “Andra Faye & The Mighty Good Men“. Their repertoire is still heavy on acoustic blues, but also includes their favorite country, folk and original tunes. They all share rhythm guitar & bass duties; Andra plays mandolin & fiddle, while Chris plays a mean harmonica & Piedmont finger-style guitar and Ken is a fine lead guitar player. Although Andra does most of the vocalizing, Chris shares the vocal spotlight & is a wonderfully funny guy, as well. Andra also enjoys harmonizing with her husband.
Andra is also working with Richmond, VA-based songwriter& pianist Roddy Barnes. They are co-writing and working up material to perform as a duo. Roddy is a wonderful songwriter, and has had two tunes recorded by Saffire: “Because Of You”, from “Cleaning House” and “Let The Gin Do The Talking” from “Ain’t Gonna Hush. This duo allows Andra to sing full-tilt, and also to add instrumentation to Roddy’s great piano work. They are performing standards from blues, jazz & country, as well as original material.
She teaches vocals & her various instruments to select students at her home, and is on the staff of the Augusta Heritage Blues Week, teaching Blues Mandolin & Fiddle, as well as Vocal Repertoire. Her Saffire band mates are also on staff, with Ann teaching Piano and Gaye teaching Vocal Performance. Her husband Chris is co-coordinator of Blues Week, assisting Joan Fenton. Saffire has also been on staff of the Port Townsend Blues Week, in Port Townsend, WA.
Andra now has more time now to pursue her love of art, mainly in the crafting of stained glass, though she continues to love to draw & work in water color. She is a self-taught stained glass artist, spurred on by a lifelong love of glass and its vibrancy. She makes lampshades (her first piece was a lampshade!), panels and various delightful pieces. While she mainly has crafted her pieces as gifts, and for her self, she has begun to sell her work as well. Along with her hobbies of reading and gardening, not to mention relearning how to cook, she continues to be a busy gal.