Interview: Alyssa Bonagura Finds Career Inspiration in Musical Family, Friends
You may not have heard of Alyssa Bonagura yet, but you likely know someone associated with her. A talented songwriter -- she's penned songs for Steven Tyler, Jana Kramer and Jesse James Decker -- Bonagura is the daughter of musicians Kathy Baillie and Michael Bonagura (of country group Baillie & the Boys, who rose to prominence in the late 1980s). She's also dating Graham Whitford, the son of Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, and her counterpart in her side group the Sisterhood is Rod Stewart's daughter Ruby.
Oh, and her college diploma was handed to her by none other than Sir Paul McCartney.
At the 2016 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, Bonagura spoke with The Boot about her musical connections, her McCartney-approved education and her new album, Road Less Traveled. For the singer-songwriter, it was always going to be music school or nothing -- more specifically, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) or nothing. After she learned about the institution, Bonagura says that she decided, "All right, this is the only place I'm applying. If I get in, I'll go to college."
She got in.
Bonagura earned a degree in sound production, to aid in her ultimate goal of producing her own records. It's much easier to execute exactly what she wants that way, she admits.
"It's been really awesome to just create those things and not have to wait for someone else to do it," Bonagura says. "It's like trying to say, 'Well, I want to paint this tree, but I want this snake to come out of it, I want there to be birds ...' It's like ... 'Let me just show you.'"
Bonagura co-produced her latest album, Road Less Traveled, released on Sept. 23. Since she's deeply entrenched in the music community -- both by birth and by vocation -- the artist had a vast network to draw on while making Road Less Traveled.
"All the guys in [rock band Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown] played in it, and all my best friends ... They all just put so much love in it," Bonagura recalls. "It was, like, a spontaneous thing -- like, 'Oh, Caleb, can you you come play drums today?' and he's like, 'Yeah, man, I'm free.' We made the record in, like, a week."
Bonagura recently dropped a music video for "Rebel," one of 10 tracks on Road Less Traveled. She wrote the song "when I was going through this really tough time of kind of not knowing what to do with my music."
"Each artist goes through this, I think, where you’re like, 'Who am I? Who do I want the world to see me as?' and all this stuff," Bonagura explains. "So I wrote that song like kind of as a prayer."
In the coming months, in addition to her solo career, Bonagura will be touring the UK in November and December with the Sisterhood. Their album will be out next year, too.
"That band is like my alter ego," Bonagura admits. "I get to rock out and play electric guitar, and then my solo stuff is country-folk."
Nurturing both projects is part of her ethos as a musician.
"I mean, honestly, I think the best thing you can do as an artist is just to make a lot of music," Bonagura says, "and so I'm doing both."
She adds, "I'm really, really excited for people to hear the record because it's literally my heart and soul. All the tracks were done live, so it's just cool to hear the musicians and how they're playing -- and they're all my friends ... It's a really special project to me."
Road Less Traveled is available for download on iTunes.
Watch Alyssa Bonagura's "Rebel" Music Video
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