North Salem's Andrea Ekizian Sings, Sews, Strums… and Then Some
By Christine Carpenter
Hiding behind a steel column in a basement, then 21-year-old self-proclaimed “painfully shy” Andrea Ekizian auditioned to be the lead singer in Stiff Kittens, a local rock band of the early ‘80s. Her older brother, who had taught her how to play the guitar, had heard of the band’s need for a lead female vocalist and immediately thought of his sister, and urged her to try out. “I was scared and very shy and I thought, there’s no way. I don’t know what possessed me but I called,” Ekizian reflects.
It was a decision made decades ago that would forever alter the course of her life.
The irony of a fruitless attempt to shield herself from being seen during an audition to becoming the frontwoman of a rock band is not lost on Ekizian. When asked whether she still gets nervous these days, Ekizian says, smiling, “it’s an excited nervous. I like the gigs where it’s very interactive.”
Rock band frontwoman, North Salem Deputy Town Clerk, proficient seamstress, and devoted mother are just a handful of the roles that the Croton Falls resident finds herself playing. She is indeed a woman of many talents and possesses an enchanting creative depth.
Today, the band--which has evolved from Stiff Kittens to Andrea and the Substitutes--is called Andrea and the Armenian Rug Riders, a nod to Ekizian’s Armenian heritage and to her father, who once owned a rug store. The band currently performs nearly every week at local hangouts across the Hudson Valley, including Lucy’s “The Garage” in Pleasantville, Mohansic Grill in Yorktown Heights, and La Famiglia Bar & Grill in Carmel.
The relationships Ekizian has formed through music are longstanding. The band’s guitar player has maintained his position, and even the roadie from those early days is still picking up gig equipment from Ekizian’s shed and setting up so that all she has to do is plug in and sing.
Ekizian’s home is cozy, comfortable, and eclectic; a large bookshelf houses the avid reader’s favorites. “I can’t sleep without a book,” she reveals, sipping hot tea. Creativity is a gross understatement to describe this multi-talented woman; her porch houses a dress form pinned with orange fabric, a new creation in progress. Her walls are adorned with some of the watercolor artwork she has done throughout the years, achieving the branches on a tree in one of her paintings by using actual branches as her paintbrush.
A seamstress of close to fifty years, Ekizian was taught the art of sewing by her sister-in-law at the age of about ten. “I started by making doll clothes,” she says, crediting her brother’s wife for teaching her how to fashion clothing that had a store-bought look with details like topstitching. Later in life, Ekizian’s former husband got her involved in Civil-war reenacting, and she put her sewing skills to work. Intricately sewn garments were painstakingly crafted with period-appropriate materials; a thick band of black trim on a wool coat with a hand-feel of velvet is in fact cotton. Every detail is thoughtfully considered.
Marrying two of her talents, Ekizian has fashioned gig outfits for herself over the years, but recently took a break from her sewing business, appropriately titled The Singing Seamstress. While the early days of the pandemic brought in a slew of fabric mask business (Andrea shipped face coverings in an array of fabrics to individuals and healthcare workers all over the country), a full-time offer for North Salem’s Deputy Town Clerk presented itself and Ekizian gladly accepted. She continues to sing and strum her guitar with Andrea and the Armenian Rug Riders.
Inventive Ekizian is constantly sourcing creative inspiration; From a phone filled with hundreds of voice memos of original song melodies and guitar riffs, the creativity in her craft is interwoven into her daily happenings. “I’m always thinking of clothes, of what combination of things would look good together,” she says. “My boss had this bowl, the outside was turquoise but the inside was a white print with little navy blue flowers. I thought that would make a great dress.”
Forty years after that first basement audition, Ekizian is front and center at "The Garage" in Pleasantville. Now, there's no column to hide behind, but Ekizian doesn't need it. Instead, she is front and center. Her incredible vocal range covers Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, Carly Simon, Billy Joel, Johnny Cash, and the Beatles, to name a few. She owns each song; they are the songs of the greats but when the notes escape her lips they do so with a signature style and unrelenting confidence. Ekizian’s voice, guitar, and harmonica playing all flow with unmatched ease. The crowd responds; everyone is moving to the music. Andrea does not look shy. She is in command of the room, of the music. She looks alive.