Indie-rock singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen’s smoky voice, twirling dance moves, swift guitar licks, heartfelt and honest lyrics, and catchy melodies promise to entertain audiences, July 18, when she performs at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre with “The Get Down Stay Down”. The group will be sharing the bill with the folk-rock Avett Brothers.
“I like Seattle a lot,” she said. “We’ve always had a great time in Seattle. [Audiences] have always been very enthusiastic and kind.”
Nguyen is the only musician in her family. Born and raised in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, she grew up in a basic American setting with her single mother and her brother. A self-taught musician, Nguyen started playing guitar at the early age of 12 and often practiced her songs while working at her mother’s laundromat. Although her Vietnamese heritage does not inform her music, she is proud to inspire other people of color by making music on her own terms and expanding the idea and importance that it is possible to achieve your dreams.
She played mainly as a solo artist in middle school and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and started collaborating with other musicians while double majoring in sociology and women’s studies at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was while she was attending the college that she first met bandmate Willis Thompson (drummer of The Get Down Stay Down).
“I’ve always been drawn to [music],” said Nguyen. “I felt a draw to it that has been unmatched.”
Motown and 60’s music were early influences for her, followed by blues, old country and bluegrass later on. She has been inspired by such performers as country blues guitarist Lightnin’ Hopkins, rock-folk-country singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, and R&B artist Smokey Robinson.
Nguyen describes her music as a blend of country, blues, and dirty pop music. The lyrics of her songs are primarily autoibiographical – some touch on childhood and others deal with romance. She writes about painful experiences, a necessary step in the process of moving through things, she noted. One of her most popular songs, “Bag of Hammers,” was inspired by Michael J. Fox when he said on the TV program, “Inside the Actors Studio,” that everyone gets hit with their own bag of hammers at some point in life, and his was Parkinson’s disease.
Nguyen currently resides in San Francisco and is working on a collaborative project to be recorded in August with Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, a singer-songwriter from the Northwest who began singing and performing at 18 when she moved to Olympia and attended Evergreen State College. Nguyen also plans to continue touring with the Get Down Stay Down, following the recording project.
Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down appear on July 18 at Seattle’s Paramount Theater, 911 Pine St. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28 – $38 advance and $33 – $43 day of show. Call 877-784-4849 or visit http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?pid=6747058. For more information about Thao Nguyen, visit www.thaomusic.com.