Music Moment: Thao Nguyen
Thao Nguyen's fifth and latest album A Man Alive is a departure from the usual for her band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.
The singer usually draws inspiration for her songs from social causes, like mass incarceration and women's rights. But this time, Nguyen reaches into her own past to create a deeply personal musical exploration of her relationship with her father.
"He left when I was maybe 11 or 12, my parents split up," Nguyen says. "And so he kinda just floated away but you never knew when he would come back and you never knew when he would just leave."
After years of suppressing her feelings, Nguyen's mixed emotions started bubbling up into song following a sobering brunch with a friend. "She had a similar relationship, or non-relationship, with her dad, and she found out he was very sick," Nguyen says.
"And she was sort of grappling with whether or not to get in touch or what would she do and it woke up this slow burn panic within me. We're just trapped in this thing that, it's just like this swamp of this kind of inertia and no one will move."
The tracks on A Man Alive go back and forth in a battle between forgiveness and anger.
"This record, you know a lot of that is me releasing whatever I have to and grieving in whatever way, and having a lot of anger and then trying to sort of move forward, to forgive," Nguyen says. "But then a few songs later, I could leave him for dead."
Even in such a personal record, Nguyen stays true to her musical activism with the track Meticulous Bird.
"It's about various abuses of power, sexual assault and abuse in particular," Nguyen says. The raw, distorted song is designed to help listeners reclaim a sense of self. "I wanted whoever to be able to scream 'I take my body back,'" Nguyen says.
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