A Life Infused With Music

Alyssa Bonagura Is Soaring to the Top of the Charts

Article by Sue Baldani

Photography by Sarah Mackenzie Photography/Hair: The Only Agency's Carly Bethel using Oribe, The Ouai, and GHD Hair Tools/Makeup: Paige Higgins

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

Growing up on a tour bus and watching her mom and dad perform with their chart-topping country band, Baillie & the Boys, Franklin native Alyssa Bonagura always knew she would follow in their footsteps. “I just remember wanting to sing,” she says. “I ran out on stage with my mom when I was like two years old and she said, ‘Okay, you want to sing something?’ And so I sang in front of 20,000 people.”

At the age of three, Alyssa performed on the Ralph Emery television show, "Nashville Now," and her rendition of Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party” thrilled millions of national viewers. By the time she was seven, Alyssa started creating her own music.

“My parents would leave instruments around and so I started on the piano when I was three and just dove into how to listen and play by ear.” Around age 10, she learned to play the guitar, and shortly thereafter, recorded a duet with Kenny Rogers for a Christmas CD.

As Alyssa got older, she regularly sang with Baillie & the Boys, and then when she was 16, was asked to open for Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives. During this time, she also became a go-to session singer for artists like Vince Gill and Matt Maher. 
When it was time for college, she enrolled in the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which was founded by Sir Paul McCartney, from whom she would later receive her college diploma.

“I started recording my own music in the UK and released my first album in 2010 called The English Diaries,” says Alyssa. After Liverpool rock star Pete Wylie asked her to join his band, they not only opened for The Who and Ringo Starr, but also played for the Queen at her Royal Variety Performance show.

After graduation, she came back to the States. “I became really inspired by popular music, and I released an album called Love Hard in 2012. After that, I made the record Road Less Traveled in 2016 and that was really me coming into my own again and remembering who I was.”

Her music, she says, is a cross between country, pop music, and British bands. “My favorite band, besides the Beatles, is Coldplay, and I feel like people hear that a lot in my music and the melodies.”

One of Alyssa’s best friends is country pop singer and songwriter Jessie James Decker. “She and I have been friends for about 16 years. Besides being a great friend, she's also been such a champion of my music. We've written many of her singles together like Lights Down Low and Roots and Wings, so she’s been a really big part of my career.”

In 2017, Steven Tyler attended one of her shows and saw her perform I Make My Own Sunshine, which she wrote in Liverpool as a pick-me-up since it was raining all the time. (The song was featured in a Lowe’s commercial, earning over 50,000 downloads in its first three months and over 1 million plays on Spotify.)

Tyler was making a country album at the time and after the show he asked her to send him that song. “I sent it to him and he cut it,” says Alyssa. “I've been very blessed to work with some incredible artists.”

Last June, she started releasing music again as a solo artist. “My first solo single in five years, New Wings, a song about rebirth and transformation after losing everything over the pandemic, soared up the charts and was Top 40 on the country radio media base chart. It was also featured on major playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.”

Alyssa will be back in the UK playing shows this summer, but she’s also busy producing a new album at her childhood home studio, Tree Top Recording, in Franklin. Due to be released in the next few months, she says being home and being able to record her own music again has really brought her back to who she is. “Franklin is really a beautiful place to be and to live, to make music and to create.” AlyssaBonagura.com

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