September 23rd, 2016 | Jessica Baeza
Alyssa Bonagura is a natural born artist. Just listen to her once and you will be captivated! She has a voice that touches somewhere deep in your soul with all the feels. I had the pleasure of getting to know Alyssa on a more personal level this week and I have to say, she is an absolute sweetheart! Check out our interview here:
JT: Thinking back to your early childhood, what was your first experience with music like?
AB: When I was born, my parents had a top ten country single on the radio, so their tour schedule was like 200+ dates a year! I was actually 3 weeks old and on the bus with my parents. As a kid, my earliest music experience was hearing the hum of the tour bus, and I always remember falling asleep to the sound of my mom’s band from inside the bus while they were outside on the stage performing. It was magical, really! I always wanted to be just like my mom, so the first time I ever got up to sing I was 2 years old. It was at a music festival called “The Big E.” There were 20,000 people and I sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game!” HA! I was FOREVER hooked after that. My mom started bringing me up on stage in the middle of their set every night and I started singing, “It’s My Party” with the band backing me up. I’ve never wanted to do anything else but make music and perform for people. The only time I ever truly feel normal is when I’m singing.
JT: Tell us about your family. I know your parents are musicians as well. That must have been a VERY upbeat and musical household!
AB: OMG. VERY doesn’t even cover it. I’m an only child, so my mom and dad were really like my brother and sister growing up. The guys in their band were my brothers… It was a little musical bubble of love that surrounded me all the time. I started taking piano lessons when I was like 3…I was learning completely by ear…Then once they started to try and teach me how to read music, I quit because I couldn’t do it. That’s when I picked up the guitar and started tuning it to open chords. My mom & dad told me they would teach me how to play as soon as I got the strumming / rhythm down…So I went online and looked up guitar tabs to all my favorite Joni Mitchell and John Mayer songs and taught myself how to play…My parents were and always have been so supportive. I’m sure they would much rather me be a vet or a doctor because this business is SO HARD, but they know I was born to make music…They are two of the most creative, humble, fun, and supportive human beings that I’ve ever known. There is music in our house 24/7 – When I’m writing a song with my mom and I’m at their house, she’ll always come in and go “I GOT IT!” and give me her melody or lyric ideas, and they are at every show they can be at…It’s awesome to have that support from parents who have done music their entire lives. I feel really lucky because I know how special it is to have that kind of relationship with your parents… It’s super rare!
JT: OK- so what made you realize you want to pursue an actual career in music? Who inspired you the most?
AB: Honestly, from the moment I got up on stage at 2 years old, I knew I was supposed to make music. It sounds crazy! But it’s so true. I have always known in my soul that I needed to write songs and sing them for people. So much so that my teachers would get mad at me in high school because instead of doing math problems, I was writing lyrics in my notebooks! But it really got me through a tough time in school…Kids were so mean to me. So my “out” was writing songs about it. My parents really inspired me the most, but along with that, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, and whatever was on the radio growing up really inspired me. I love hit songs no matter the genre. One of my favorite albums of all time was the Brian McKnight record “Back at One”! Along with Max Martin who was writing mostly everything on the radio in the 2000’s. He is still one of my favorite songwriters of all time.
JT: What do you think your “biggest break” has been so far in your career?
AB: Gosh, I have been so lucky so far with the support I’ve gotten as an independent artist. But I think the biggest break so far was when Lowe’s used my song “I Make My Own Sunshine” as their nationwide commercial song in 2012! I just noticed you can see how many spins on Spotify your song has over a million! It’s just amazing and so humbling! I wrote it when I lived in England and was studying at the Paul McCartney Liverpool Institute for performing arts. It rains A LOT in England and I wrote that song as a “pick me up” for myself, not thinking anything of it really. When I graduated and moved back to Nashville, I was working with a manager, Denise Stiff, who told me I should really finish that song. Then I got a publishing deal writing songs and they heard the chorus of it and told me I should really finish it as well! So I was like OK. I guess I need to finish this!!! hahaha. Literally two months after it was completed and recorded, it was on that commercial. Cool to think a song that you write, record, and mix by yourself on your computer is out on everyone’s television in a matter of months… so cool!
JT: Let’s talk about some of the other artists you have performed with. I know you do a lot of work with Jessie James Decker, whom I’m a HUGE fan of. How does that feel? I can only imagine that being awesome!
AB: I met Jessie almost 7 years ago! We have been friends ever since. She is such a lovely and FUN soul, and I always love writing songs with her. I actually wrote a song for her before I met her, and that’s how we met! She is amazing! That girl sets her mind to something and follows it through every time. Love her for that… and now I’ve started a new musical project with my good friend and amazing singer/songwriterRuby Stewart called The Sisterhood Band. We just got back from Vegas where we played 8 shows with her dad, Rod Stewart. That was by far one of the most fun and amazing experiences to date. I just love creating music– all kinds. It’s important for me to just keep creating. I feel that it always opens up a new door as long as you keep things new and exciting.
JT: If you had to describe your music in 3 or 4 words, what would you call it?
AB: Real. Honest. Deep. Relatable.
JT: Stepping away from music for one second. What else do you like to do in your spare time?
AB: Make music! HAHA– and go to the gym. I also LOVE to cook!
JT: What can people expect to see at a live performance?
AB: I tell a lot of stories and I love playing things on the fly! Going with the flow with the band is the most fun. Sometimes I’ll play shows just me and the acoustic guitar, and those are still some of my favorite shows because it’s a moment in time when I can totally connect with the audience one on one.
JT: Tell me some of your favorite artists. Who did you listen to growing up?
AB: Joni Mitchell, The Beatles & John Mayer are 3 of my all-time favorites… I think Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney were always my biggest influences. I’m a huge McCartney fan. I love the McCartney record that has the song “Lovely Linda” on it so inspiring and, of course, I learned Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” inside/out and sing all those songs all the time with my mom when I’m around the house. I think the “Room for Squares” album by John Mayer is one of the best albums of our generation. I’m really good friends with the producer of that album, John Alagia. It’s so amazing to work closely with people you admire so much!
JT: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What can your fans expect from Alyssa Bonagura?
AB: Well, I am just finishing up my 3rd solo record with my friend Mark Petaccia (engineered and mixed the first Jason Isbell record “Southeastern”)– so in the next year, you’ll be expecting that from me!! I could talk for days about it I’m so excited I think it’s some of my best work yet. You’ll also hear “The Sisterhood” album in the next year! Ruby and I are finishing that up right now! But in 5 years’ time, I would love to see myself on the Grammy stage performing a new song that’s on my new album at the time I just think it’s such an amazing moment where all kinds of music get to come together for one night. I’ve always wished to play there. I also would just love to be making a living touring and playing shows for people. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do in my life. Fans can expect that I am always going to write songs that are real to me. When you listen to my music, you are hearing my diary!! I could never really keep up with a real diary, so I just document my life in my songs. I just want people to connect with my music because that’s what music from my favorite artists has always done for me.