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21 March 2014

An Interview with Alyssa Bonagura

Talking Weeds [TW]: So tell me a little bit about your creative process? What is it like for you when you are writing?

Alyssa: I'm all over the place. So it depends. Creativity kind of comes in different spurts. It either comes with a lyric or it comes with a melody that I sing all day or it comes from being in the room with someone else who you're jamming with or throwing ideas around with, and then slowly you figure out how to want to structure it. It totally depends.


TW: Do you write at certain times of the day?

Alyssa: Living in Nashville, there is always a time. They've created it like a job. You know, writing songs is like a job. So you wake up, and maybe you start at ten-thirty sometimes and you write for a couple hours, and then you call it a day.  But I kind of like writing at one or two when I've woken up and I can chill out and have breakfast and work out and then come back to the studio, and I can spend the day kind of working on something. Sometimes you go in the studio and you have no ideas; you know, it totally depends, I think, on a creative wave or not.

TW: What's the difference between writing alone and writing with other people?

Alyssa: Writing alone is different than writing with other people because when you write with someone else, it is like you're painting a picture with someone else. You know, you may see a tree that needs to be on the right-hand side of the canvas, and the other person says, "no, it needs to be on the left," so then you collaborate and say, "all right, why don't we put it in the middle, and we can both agree on this." It's a cool thing; you know, you get to see where the other person's creative brain is and then when you're by yourself, you can put the tree in the painting where ever you want (laughs).

TW: What's your favorite part of the process as a musician--do you like writing the best, do you like going in the studio or would you rather be out on tour--what do you like the best?

Alyssa: I think my favorite part is probably hearing it all come together. When you start with an idea--maybe you went through a rough time with something and you woke up in the middle of the night and you just had to write down your thoughts, you know; then the next day you go in the studio and you write a verse and a chorus and you finish the song; and after that you go in the studio and you record it, and then you start to build the track and it's like when you hear that all come together, it's like watching a flower blooming; you know, you get to really see what it looks like after its been created and loved and nurtured. So probably that.

TW: So the finished product is important to you, not just the process?  You like to come away with something you're happy with--that means a lot?

Alyssa: Absolutely, when you write a song you, you know, you want to play it for people--because it's like a need to be liked, and it's OK if they don't like it, you know; I think that the coolest part about it is that you can walk in somewhere and you can say, "hey, this is a piece of work that I've created," and to show the finished product is a success in itself because you've spent all the time and energy to do that.

TW: So many people today would probably rather be famous, but they don't really want to be artists because being an artist is a lot of work, and it's a whole lifetime commitment, but a lot of people think they want to be famous, and so that's why they might be interested in music and a lot of the TV shows, like American Idol and The Voice and all that. Could you comment a little bit on that? The difference between being a really serious, dedicated artist as opposed to people who just want to be celebrities?

Alyssa:  Well, I think, I mean doesn't everybody want to find the easiest way to make money? You know, so it's like, "Oh, well, I'll be famous, and then I'll make all this money," but, honestly, it's like any kind of job--music is the same way you would work on a 9-5 job. You have to put in the time and the effort if you want to get your pay check at the end of the week (laughs). We have to put in more work because there's no proven way to get to the top. I had somebody once tell me, "if you want to get to the top really fast, then you should go on The Voice."  And I did. I went on The Voice the first season, and it was like being in this place where everyone was just clawing their way to the top, and almost like you take the whole art out of it. I think if you want to make money as a musician or a song writer, then you have to put the work in to get to the place where you need to be. If my song hits number one tomorrow on the radio, that's what comes with my job. Fame comes with my job. That's a part of the job. But you can't bypass one to get to the other. It's all a part of the package, I think.

TW: If you were giving advice to someone who is younger than you are and wanting to be a songwriter, musician or a performer, what would you say to them?

Alyssa: I think you're only as good as your next song. And that's why you just have to keep writing and keep creating and you just never know what is going to happen. You might play your song for somebody in a week and nothing happens, and then two years down the line, somebody else hears it and they say, "Oh man, I could totally see where we could put this or I could hear someone singing this."  You just have to keep creating and keep writing and not give up. Because it is really hard. But the best thing to do is to not give up. 

TW: So a real artist is always looking to the next project and always moving and never just staying where they are--they always want to do better? Is that what you are saying?

Alyssa: Absolutely, yeah, you have to always think ahead because what's out on the radio now or that's popular now is starting a trend, so you have to be the one to start the next trend. You can't follow; you have to be a leader when you're making music. Like fashion, you know, people in the fashion industry, they create these new things in fashion and  people see someone wearing it, and they're like, "that looks cool, I want to wear that," and they follow that trend.  If you want to make a statement or do something that will mean something to people, you have to follow your own path and your own way and lead the way yourself.

TW: J.D. Salinger once said that the reason he became a writer, the reason people become writers is because they have demons that chase them and force them? What forces you to do what you do? What motivates you the most?

Alyssa: (Long Pause) Everyone is different. You know, everyone has either demons that chase them or they have beams of light that come to them where they want to write something like that. I know, with me, it's all I know how to do because when I was in school and I started writing my own songs, it was because it was a feeling. Most people would maybe turn to alcohol or drugs or whatever, I turned to writing my songs down in a dairy, and then I would play them, and it was cathartic for me; it was an easy way for me to get that release, rather than finding a different way out. I think that's the most important thing, to do it for the right reasons.

TW: If you weren't a musician, if you weren't involved in music, what do you think you would you be doing ?

Alyssa: I don't know (laughs). I think I would have to do music of some sort. I went to school for engineering, and that's kind of the reason I did it because if I couldn't do my own music, then I would either work on other peoples' music to help it become better or I would definitely be in publishing and help people to learn how to write songs or it would be really fun to work in a record company and help find the next person that I think is really good. That's probably what I would do. That's the only thing I know how to do. I'm not very good at anything else (laughs).

For more information check out Alyssa Bonagura's website.

Her latest CD Love Hard featuring the track below "Killing Me" with Tyler Wilkinson can be purchased on Amazon and i-Tunes.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview and interesting to learn about the writing process.


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