Stefanie Willie-Bonglo of Haverhill had been a solo country singer for years, but was having a hard time getting the exposure she longed for.
"Everyone kept saying if I wanted to be a country artist, I had to move to Nashville," she said.
But Willie-Bonglo had no desire to pack up her bags and start a new life in the south.
"I couldn't just leave,'' she said. "I have family ties here and I didn't want to leave.''
Thanks to the advice of her husband, she decided to remain a local artist, but form a band three years ago. She looked to Craiglist to find like-minded musicians — and soon the band Whiskey Wild was born.
Whiskey Wild consists of Willie-Bonglo as lead vocalist, Rob Murphy on bass, Rob Panarelli on guitar, Jozef Nadj on fiddle and violin, Erik Dahl on drums and Erin Murphy on acoustic guitar.
"I really wanted to have a fun name, but also something that sounded country," Willie-Bonglo said. "We went through hundreds of names. I knew I wanted 'whiskey' somehow involved in it, and then someone said 'Wild Whiskey' and I thought it would be cooler to reverse it."
Willie-Bonglo said Whiskey Wild shows are known for bringing a good time to audiences.
"People keep coming back,'' she said. "We have a real loyal fan base. It's a wild, fun energy at our shows.''
The band has been performing often for the past two years at local clubs.
"Usually it takes a while for a band to gain any traction, but that wasn't true for us,'' Willie-Bonglo said. "We couldn't keep up with all the requests. It was overwhelming, but awesome.''
Whiskey Wild performs mostly covers from popular artists such as Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood.
However, the band does write and perform its own original songs and wants to do more of that.
"We had so many gigs, that we didn't have enough time to dedicate to our own creativity," Willie-Bonglo said. "It got kind of pushed back for a while, but we want to do more of that."
Willie-Bonglo has written the last few of the band's original songs. She often tries to write fun party songs, she said.
"That's the stuff that I am attracted to,'' she said. "I like songs about going out and having a good time.''
She said she uses real-life experiences as inspiration for her songwriting process.
"This one time, we had a gig and the owner at the bar was crazy,'' she said. "When we got there, he was drunk. He was throwing bar stools and punching the jukebox. It was scary at the time, but afterwards we could look back and have a laugh about it. I wrote a song about that experience.''
In 2015, the band hopes to do fewer shows to avoid overworking and develop higher-quality performances.
"We have had at least one gig a week and sometimes even twice a week,'' Willie-Bonglo said. "It can burn you out after awhile. We want to do fewer shows, but have them bigger and better than ever.
"We would also like to release a single and see how that goes," she said.
Willie-Bonglo said she grew up loving country music.
"The lyrics speak to me,'' she said. "They touch my soul more than any other type of music. I listen to KISS 108 and there isn't a lot of substance there. Sometimes I am like, 'What are they talking about?'"
She said she has seen country music evolve over the years — and for the better.
"It's more fun now,'' she said. "There used to be a reputation that it was all about your dog dying and truck breaking down. It's not like that anymore. I think that's why it has become more popular.''
The band's next show is on Halloween at the Claddagh Pub in Lawrence. For more information, log onto www.facebook.com/whiskeywildband.
Follow Sara Brown on Twitter @Sara_M_Brown_.
Meet the members of Whiskey Wild
Stefanie Willie-Bonglo, lead vocalist
Rob Murphy, bass
Rob Panarelli, guitar
Jozef Nadj, fiddle and violin
Erik Dahl, drums
Erin Murphy, acoustic guitar