As the daughter of Michael Bonagura and Kathie Bailie of Bailie & The Boys, Alyssa Bonagura is no stranger to the life of an artist. Growing up playing and writing with her parents as musical inspirations, she quickly began writing and producing for artists such as Jessie James Decker, Jana Kramer, and Steven Tyler (“I Make My Own Sunshine”).
In 2015, Bonagura and Ruby Stewart, daughter of Rod Stewart, joined forces to become The Sisterhood Band. Soon after signing with Sony Music Nashville in 2017, the duo made their Grand Ole Opry debut and released the Summer Setlist EP.
However, after spending five years as The Sisterhood Band, the pair decided to part ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the physical distance between them, the girls saw creative differences and the opportunity to explore new territories for themselves.
“I was actually grateful that the pandemic happened because it gave Ruby and I time to chill out. We didn’t really need to make a statement because we didn’t really know what was happening,” explains Bonagura. “Five years is a long time, and I guess it was just time for it to change. Sometimes change doesn’t happen when you’re really expecting it. I think that those are the most uprooting times in our lives, and it was really hard for me.”
With a combination of being forced into lockdown, moving in with her parents in Franklin, Tenn., and her significant career change, Bonagura was able to use the thick of COVID as a time to heal, reassess, and figure out her new direction. Included in that period of rediscovery was an outpouring of new and resurrected songs.
“That time during lockdown turned into this really healing, inward time for me. It started out really bad, but then it became amazing to have that connection again with myself, my family, and my music,” Bonagura says. “I’m actually grateful for it all, looking at the other side of it now. I’m really glad I went through all of that because otherwise it wouldn’t have brought me here with all this new music.”
On Friday, July 2, Bonagura put out her first solo single, “New Wings,” which she co-wrote with Tawgs Salter over Zoom amidst quarantine. While the two had never met prior to the call, the culmination of feelings and experiences from the previous year quickly came together.
“Meeting someone for the first time over Zoom is cool because there’s no ego since you’re not in person. I think you’re able to really be yourself, which is cool,” she shares. “I started writing a bunch on Zoom and one of the writes was with Tawgs. He had brought this track to the session and we started talking about life and what both of us had been through and that transformation. The music he brought was so inspiring and I found a really special poem that made it all came together so perfectly.”
The poem that inspired the new track, entitled The Lesson of the Butterfly by Paulo Coelho, describes the importance of the growing process and of life’s challenges.
“The poem talks about how this man was walking past this branch and he saw that a butterfly was struggling to emerge out of its cocoon. After watching it struggle for a while, the guy felt bad for it and wanted to make the process easier, so he cut open the cocoon to let the butterfly fly out. He cuts open the cocoon and the butterfly falls out but isn’t able to fly because its wings are underdeveloped,” Bonagura explains. “The whole point of the story is that these struggles that we go through are really what make us stronger. We can’t cut those processes down because they’re all necessary for our growth. We don’t think about it but the process that it takes to get from a worm to a butterfly is not easy, but you have to get your wings strong so that you can fly.”
As far as future plans for her music go, Bonagura has plenty in store for the coming months. In addition to a handful of singles that will be peppered throughout the remainder of the year, she also has plans to release her first solo album in 2022. Though she’s doing it independently and without the backing of a label, Bonagura is excited for what lies ahead and using her new wings.
“I just want to play and share this music, so I’m doing things independently and creating art. I’m hoping that it’s helping people in some way get through this weird time and maybe bring them some kind of hope.” Bringing it full-circle, she shares, “That kind of goes to the sentiment of this whole song: when you get a pair of wings, you want to fly so just go for it. That’s what I’m doing, and I was scared shitless the whole time doing it. I’m so grateful that I did it, though. I’m grateful that the song is out, and now it gives me a little bit more confidence to keep putting songs out and doing it myself.”
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