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Music enables singer-songwriter to reveal “the beast within”

March 3, 2016 at 7:57 PM EST
Growing up as an Asian-American woman, Thao Nguyen didn’t have many opportunities to express her feral side. Now, as singer-songwriter for the group Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, she can display the primal aspects of her personality onstage. Thao Nguyen offers her Brief But Spectacular take on self-expression and “the beast within.”
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, another installment of our weekly series Brief But Spectacular.

Today, unleashing your inner beast from singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen of the group Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.

Her latest album, “A Man Alive,” will be released tomorrow. And she will be touring cross-country starting this month.

THAO NGUYEN, Musician: I taught myself how to do this when I was riding the bus to school. Push it.

I did teach myself the guitar and various other string instruments. It’s a technique called fake it until you make it. I could give a seminar, really. You know, my interest in a live — in putting on a live show is connecting with people there.

I’m a pretty reserved person in my real life, in my non-working life, but then, when I get on stage, it’s an opportunity to tap into this beast? It’s the most present I will ever be in my life. We want people to know that when they come to the show, they can come with us. We can go somewhere together.

To be an Asian-American woman, there’s that kind of meekness and timidness and submission that is expected of you. I know that I embody probably the least threatening physical form you could. That’s true. That’s real. That’s — you know, I’m like — I’m tiny. I understand.

I have such love for the audience, but, also, I’m like, I will eat you. I want people to see how little I care about showing that side. When I was growing up, I didn’t really have freedom of expression. And there was no one entirely interested in what I was saying or thinking.

The point is that you’re fed and that you have shelter and do well in school. But it wasn’t until I got on stage where I realized, it just sort of — I could tap into without even wanting to. It just sort of overtook me.

Now I can tame the beast a little bit, enough so that I can only do it for work. To be that open and vulnerable and to have crazy eyes and to be sometimes snarling or just screaming, it’s important for me to share that part, you know, because, you know, I think it’s healthy for the both of us.

I’m Thao Nguyen, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on the beast within.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch other episodes of our Brief But Spectacular series on our Facebook page, Facebook.com/NewsHour.

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