The Coachella Valley is full of singers and bands that perform covers—but few stand out like Andrea Drea.
She grew up singing in glee clubs and attended the Reimer School of Music in Palm Springs. As a child, she sang at the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs Stadium during the Fourth of July, and various churches.
“I used to watch a lot of Disney movies, and I used to sing along to them. My mom is the one who really got me into glee music,” Drea said during a recent interview. “My influences are a mixture: Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Ella Fitzgerald; a lot of funk from the Gap Band (and) George Clinton; and I even have a classical side. It goes on and on. My mother was very musical, and it runs in my family.”
Drea said that Joplin is probably her biggest influence of all.
“I feel a lot of heart in her music and a lot of passion,” she said. “People didn’t understand her and what she wrote. I love her music, and I take a lot from her.”
After some time away from music during high school—she played sports instead—she formed her first band when she was 18.
“It was kind of a really eclectic sound,” she said. “We were all into a new sound and rock ’n’ roll, with a little funk and a little bit of the oldies. We just made an elaborate sound, and it didn’t work. I had other places where I played, but it was always their band and not my band.”
She formed Drea and the Jewels about two years ago. The band had regular gigs at Wang’s in the Desert and the HooDoo Patio Restaurant and Bar at the Hyatt Palm Springs. They also played a private gig for Microsoft employees that included Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
“It was in Indian Wells at a place called the Vintage (Club). It was for the Microsoft employees and clientele,” Drea said. “They had a tennis club, and they played tennis the whole time—we were their entertainment. As soon as I got there, I saw him walking out, and I said hello, and didn’t even get a picture. He did hear us, which was good. It was fun for a private setting.”
Drea and the Jewels came to an end after just one year together.
“With every band, there’s drama. There are people who think they deserve more than you, and it just ends up causing drama,” she said, without going into specifics. “I said, ‘You know? That’s enough. It’s time to get out, go solo and see what happens.’”
The next stop was working with Ronnie King, a producer who was worked with acts such as Tupac Shakur, Mariah Carey, Rancid and Snoop Dogg. She recorded her single with him.
“He’s a great producer. He’s worked with a lot of big names,” she said. “I tried it out with him, and of course, you get strapped: Money gets low, and I only did what I could at the time.
“My single is called ‘Can’t Live Without You.’ I wrote that, and Robbie King collaborated with me on it.” (It can be heard in the media section below.)
Her recordings show off a voice that sounds like a cross between Adele and Janis Joplin. She performs covers in her own style—and her sound is even more exceptional on her original material. As alluded to above, I once heard her sing an Adele song, followed by a Black Keys song.
“It’s just natural to me,” she explained. “I always pick a song I can feel; if I can’t feel the song, it’s going to be difficult for me. If I feel the song, that’s all it takes. When I feel soul in music, I really get into it and let it go.”
When asked about going solo and writing her own material, she talked about where she currently sees herself within her career.
“Everybody starts from covers—even Adele,” Drea said. “Everybody starts with covers, and it kind of branches you out into music and a lot of different sounds. … The writing aspect of it, I enjoy a lot. I got to dig deep to where I didn’t think I could go, and with my writing, it took me to other places.”
Drea is balancing being a business-owner, wife and mother with being a musician and performer. She said it’s not always easy.
“You start from scratch. You have to be smart about it; you can’t just go with anybody, or they’ll take advantage, especially in this industry,” she said about music. “It’s really hard to find someone who’s going to lead you in the right direction or show you the right ways. … Just about everything is hard, but it doesn’t stop, and you can’t let it stop you. This is my passion and my dream, so I go after it.”