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Singer-Songwriter Mary Bragg Performs at Rockwood Music Hall

By Annie Reuter

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mary Bragg has been winning over audiences in the New York singer-songwriter community for years.

With three albums under her belt, the Georgia native said the first time she visited New York as a teen it was love at first sight.

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"When I was in New York, I felt this incredible sense of energy and thought and challenging circumstances," she said. "I knew in order for me to have fodder for songwriting I needed to not live so wonderfully. I actually moved to New York both wanting to experience the world more and to find hardship."

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Bragg admits she has experienced struggle while living in New York but embraced it in her songwriting.

"I feel like I've written a lot of really great songs that have been indicative of my life here. I love it. Every day if your slate is totally blank you can go out and find a bazillion things to write about just by walking out your front door."

Her latest release, Tattoos and Bruises is a "total New York record." Produced by Lee Alexander, the album was recorded and mixed at The Coop, the studio Alexander owns with Norah Jones. Darker than her previous albums, Bragg says she finds inspiration for her songs everywhere.

"Often times, the idea will come from someone else's life," she said. "There certainly are a number of things and a number of feelings and lyrics that are totally applicable and come directly from the lives that we lead as songwriters but there is a lot of other stuff going on."

Title track, "Tattoos and Bruises" was inspired while on the subway when Bragg noticed a girl with a tattoo on her ankle and a bruise on her calf next to the tattoo.

"I thought it was a very interesting combination of color with the black tattoo and the grayish, purple-y blue bruise.  The words sung out in my mind so I started writing about what I thought her life was like."

Bragg began writing songs in college thanks to the urging of her friend Dave Haywood. Now one third of popular country trio Lady Antebellum, Haywood engineered and produced Bragg's debut album.

"I think in theory I knew that I could be a songwriter, it's just that I had never actually sat down and done it," Bragg recalled. "He was the person that said, 'Alright, next Monday you're going to come over and you're going to have some stuff to sing for me.'"

Shortly after her first album, Certain Simple Things, was released Bragg moved to New York. A country girl, she says she enjoys being in a place where the arenas of music are so vast.

"You hear things that you wouldn't necessarily hear in another music city because people are so unabashedly fearless and they play whatever they want to play. I'm very often affected by the shows I see. I think New York has afforded me this fearless passion of truth."

At the beginning stages of a new album, Bragg said she's conscious of what she's trying to say in her songs and wants to write songs of hope for her listeners.

"That's the thing about music that I love so much; you're really able to affect people and give them the opportunity to just feel and be moved by something."

For more on Mary Bragg, visit her Web site. Catch her live Monday at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 and in 2012 at her monthly residency at The Living Room.

Annie Reuter is a freelance writer and the founder of YouSingIWrite.com.

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