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Musician Alynda Segarra looks back at her path of running away

May 12, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
For Alynda Segarra, lead singer of the band Hurray for the Riff Raff, it's the weirdos and poets, rebellious women and activists, who've helped her get through life. Segarra reflects on her unconventional path to music, and their new album, "The Navigator."
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: another in our occasional series My Music, giving artists a chance to talk about their work.

Tonight, singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra of the band Hurray for the Riff Raff. She performed recently at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club.

Segarra was just 17 years old when she left her home in the Bronx in what she said was a search for American music. Now 30, she’s returned to her roots in New York with a new album exploring her Puerto Rican heritage.

ALYNDA SEGARRA, Hurray for the Riff Raff: The people who have gotten me through my life are the weirdoes and the poets, the rebellious women and the activists. They were considered the riffraff by people in power, and they’re the ones that make history.

I am Alynda Segarra , the lead singer of Hurray for the Riff Raff.

My path was really unconventional. I knew I was doing bad in school. And I dropped out, and I ended up running away. And it was really hard on my family.

And I traveled by hitchhiking with friends and riding freight trains, because Woody Guthrie rode freight trains, and playing music on the street in New Orleans, because I needed to do something to make money.

The new album, “The Navigator,” is about a young girl growing up in a very big city. And she is based off of me, but she’s a little bit more of a superhero than I am. It’s me realizing what I lost when I ran away from home, realizing what shame did to me, and really trying to get in touch with what it means to be a Puerto Rican woman, what that means musically.

My path of running away, I look back on it now, and I’m like, I could have been killed. And a lot of the journey was me realizing that there were odds stacked against me, and deciding to be OK with not being rich, saying, OK, I will make music. I will play in coffee shops. I will play in houses. I will play in these tiny places that only 10 people will come.

I’m going to do it because I believe in art and I believe in what I’m doing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Great music.

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