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Songwriters Open Up To Inspirer About What Inspires Them


Songwriters Open Up To Inspirer About What Inspires Them

Some of Nashville’s best songwriters open up to Inspirer about what inspires them to write and the women who have inspired them along their journey.

Alyssa Bonagura. Photography by Dallas Wilson.

Alyssa Bonagura

Quick Facts:
Graduate of Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts
Her song “I Make My Own Sunshine” was recorded by Steven Tyler for his first solo album
Worked with artists such as Michelle Branch, Jo Dee Messina, and Jana Kramer
Member of The Sisterhood Band with Ruby Stewart

What inspires you to write?
Writing songs has always been my “out.” Good or bad, whenever I have gone through something in my life, I write about it. Each song has always been my friend through it all. The songs are my journal entries, and my instruments are my pens. What inspires me to write are my life experiences. I first started writing songs when I used to get made fun of in school for being “different” and I feel blessed that I was able to channel those hurt feelings into something beautiful and hopefully inspiring to others who have gone through the same thing.

What women have inspired you along your journey?
I learned how to play guitar by listening to Joni Mitchell. I would sit for hours with headphones on trying to figure out her tunings. She inspired me to create my own guitar tunings which I use more than the standard E guitar tuning on an everyday basis. Sheryl Crow was another huge influence of mine – I started playing electric guitar because of her. But my biggest influence is my mother, Kathie Baillie. I grew up touring around America on the bus with her and my dad and their band Baillie & the boys. I watched her sing and dress up like a rock star every night. I wanted to be just like her! She always told me to believe in myself and showed me it was OK to be different. To me, she’s always been the coolest, kindest, best singer in the universe, most humble and inspiring woman in my life.


Gretchen Peters. Photography by Gina Binkley.

Gretchen Peters

Quick Facts:
Inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2014
Songs recorded by Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain, and Etta James
CMA Song Of The Year (1995) with “Independence Day”
Golden Globe nomination for original song “Here I Am”

What inspires you to write?
People are my biggest inspiration. Watching them, thinking about them, and, if I don’t know them well, imagining what their lives are/have been like. Airports are full of characters waiting to be written. Good thing, because I spend a fair amount of time in airports.

What women have inspired you along your journey?
One of my earliest inspirations, going back to childhood, was the character Jo March in Little Women. I identified with her the most, although at times I would have liked to have been one of the other sisters. Through my teens, I admired other writers, everyone from Charlotte Bronte to Isak Dinesen. In my musically formative years, Joni Mitchell looms large. Also Bonnie Raitt, especially for her musicianship.

Georgia Middleman. Photography by Russ Harrington.

Georgia Middleman

Quick Facts:
Songs recorded by Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, and Keith Urban
Solo records include “Endless Possibilities” “Unchanged” and “Things I Didn’t Know I Knew”
A member of the trio Blue Sky Riders with Gary Burr and Kenny Loggins

What Inspires you to write?
Seeing a small, everyday moment or picture that, in my mind, suddenly becomes a sneak peek into a much larger story. The beginning strand in a mental tapestry that if I pull, it starts undoing and suddenly there’s a whole world that wasn’t there before. For me, it could start with an image, a memory, a smell, an off-the-cuff comment, a feeling.

What women have inspired you along your journey?
My mother because she’s one of a kind…eccentric, intelligent, and unapologetic. Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” because she’s the coolest female ever written. J.K. Rowling because she created a whole world in her head and was able to write it down. Jill Soloway because she’s a daring creative spirit who lets her passion guide her. Carole King because she taught herself how to write string charts and because the work has always been the most important thing to her.

Any female who comes from pain and triumphs.


Jennifer Hanson. Photography by Mark Seliger.

Jennifer Hanson

Quick Facts:
#1 song “Leave the Pieces” (recorded by The Wreckers)
#1 song “Let Me Down Easy” (recorded by Billy Currington)
Songs recorded by Gwyneth Paltrow, Kelly Clarkson, Vince Gill, Pam Tillis, and Rascal Flatts

What inspires you to write?
I am most inspired to write by my personal experiences. They always say to write what you know and I find that to be so true. For me the Country genre is such a storytelling genre and that works well for my style of writing. I love having songwriting as a way to express myself and share my truth through song. I find it very therapeutic and ironically, it always seems to be the songs that are the most personal that resonate the most with people, and what an incredible gift that is to be able to share with one another.

What women have inspired you along your journey?
I’ve had many women who have inspired me along my musical journey. Those women are people like Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, all of whom have influenced me greatly with their music and songwriting and have been trailblazers in their fields. They all have the kind of longevity in their careers that one could only hope to have and I find that to be so inspiring as a musician, songwriter, and artist. On a personal level, my biggest inspiration has been my grandmother, Marvelle. She is 87 years old and still has such an incredible love and appreciation for life and she lives it to its fullest every day. She reminds me continually to make the most of the time we have and that success comes in many forms, not just monetary. Being happy and finding purpose, whatever that may be, is being successful in this life and I’m grateful for her influence and for the lessons she continues to teach me.



Annie is a photographer and artist currently residing outside of Philadelphia. She has a degree in media design from the MTSU School of Journalism and got her start doing graphic and merchandise design for the NYC theatre community. She spends most of her free time traveling to theatre, concerts, or creating art. She has an unquenchable thirst to explore all things abandoned and old. Annie also answers to the name of Yoda (a favorite nickname amongst family and friends)

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  1. Pingback: Songwriters Open Up To Inspirer About What Inspires Them – Anniemgo – Annie Govekar

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