Filed Under:

Thao Nguyen's Musical Life Is Far From 'Common'

Play associated audio

Thao Nguyen, of the folk-rock group Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, has been on a musical journey since she started performing in her teens in Northern Virginia. Delicate yet fierce in her vocal delivery, she writes often about her social concerns — and it was a trip to a California women's prison that inspired much of her latest album, We the Common.

Ngyuen and her band are on the road for the first time in several years; she spoke with NPR's Jacki Lyden from a tour stop in Kansas City.


Interview Highlights

On her mother's support for her music

"My mom ran a laundromat when I was growing up, and I would work there after school and on the weekends and play guitar while I was making change and folding laundry. ... My mom's been incredible. She was the one to give up her minivan for our first tour, which we promptly totaled in Chicago. And the only thing she said when she found out was, 'Well, I have to fly you to your next show.' "

On the sacrifice of touring

"I spent the majority of my 20s on the road. It has, of course, really amazing merits, and then also some real solid downsides. I wasn't really around a lot, and if I was, it was for two days and I'd be gone again. ... A lot of this record is about revival, and wanting to be part of your own life, and considering how you could be better."

On the song "We the Common (For Valerie Bolden)"

"Valerie Bolden was one of the first women I met inside the prison, and Valerie is serving a life sentence without parole. She has a great sense of humor, so there's this lighthearted back-and-forth, and then it would be punctuated with these real poignant moments where she spoke of her daughters, who she hadn't seen in 12 years."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Writer James Alan McPherson, Winner Of Pulitzer, MacArthur And Guggenheim, Dies At 72

McPherson, the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, has died at 72. His work explored the intersection of white and black lives with deftness, subtlety and wry humor.
NPR

QUIZ: How Much Do You Know About Presidents And Food?

It's week two of the party conventions, and all these speeches are making us hungry. So we made a quiz to test your savvy about presidents and our favorite topic, food.
WAMU 88.5

Your Turn: Ronald Reagan's Shooter, Freddie Gray Verdicts And More

Have opinions about the Democratic National Convention, or the verdicts from the Freddie Gray cases? It's your turn to talk.

NPR

Police Use Fingertip Replicas To Unlock A Murder Victim's Phone

Michigan State University engineers tried 3-D-printed fingertips and special conductive replicas of the victim's fingerprints to crack the biometric lock on his Samsung Galaxy phone.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.