Shredder, Pedal-Pub Pedaler and Between Song Joke-Teller returns to Madison
by John Noyd
February 2022

Thao - Majestic Theater Madison WI September 25, 2021 - photo by Dave Robbins

Thao - Majestic Theater Madison WI September 25, 2021
photo by Dave Robbins

Thao Nguyen has been making incredible music for the past two decades leading the fiery Get Down Stay Down, collaborating with artists such as Joanna Newsom, Mirah and Justin Powers as well as members of Tune-yard and Rogue Wave. An ace guitarist, songwriter, producer and activist, Thao maintains a busy schedule with a self-generated career marked by hybrid ideas, enlightened thinking and prolific creativity so we were particularly grateful when she made time to answer a few questions before she plays Madison’s Majestic Theater March 17th.

MAXIMUM INK: You have been very active this past year, reworking your last album, “Temple,” for strings, collaborating with San Fermin, opening for Julien Baker and contributing to the Yoko Ono tribute album. Was it your intention to be this busy or did opportunities simply arise?

Thao: A combination of both - It was my hope and plan to stay busy, after the initial shock of pandemic. I wanted to rework those songs from Temple with strings so they could be presented in a more spare, and emotional light.
I also started remixing other artist’s songs (Owen, Julien Baker). The time off gave me a chance to dig into production and engineering in ways I hadn’t done before.
The project with San Fermin just arose (Ellis of San Fermin reached out) as did the tour with Julien Baker - and I’m so glad they did!

MI: How did you decide which song to play for Ocean Child, the Yoko Ono tribute?

T: I chose Yellow Girl (Stand By For Life) because Ms. Ono’s lyrics resonated with me so deeply. I was so glad for the opportunity to cover the song to pay tribute to her and to include production elements that helped convey the visceral emotions it brings up for me.

MI: How did you adjust to not touring during your lockdown time?

T: I was grateful for many aspects of the lockdown; it was time to make a lot of changes in my professional life and the stoppage allowed for that change to take place.

MI: You dissolved The Get Down Stay Down - was it just a matter of it running its course or were you anxious to remake yourself as a solo performer?

T: I’m so excited to be performing with a full band as THAO. It was just the right time to stop performing under that name. Too many letters!

MI: Did opening for Julien whet your appetite for getting back on the road?

T: That touring certainly did. My own tour from 2020 was pushed to Spring of 2022, so I was very eager to get back out and perform live as soon as I could.

MI: Do you get a voice as to your gets to be your opener?

It’s always a combination of a few factors and voices figuring out logistics and what’s possible, but I was definitely part of the conversation. We are so glad that Becca Mancari and Why Bonnie are a part of this bill! So excited for their music and energy.

MI: You have always been kind enough to include Madison in your tour plans – is there something about the city you like? They certainly like you coming around!

T: Now that you mention it, yes, I am there a fair amount, aren’t I? I always enjoy playing Madison, the venue staff and the crowds are always warm, and kind and I love going down to the lake after soundcheck. Also, the first and only time I’ve ever been on one of those bicycle bar/pedal pub things was in Madison, when I was in town with the Radio Lab In the Dark tour. Very special memories here.

MI: Having just been here this past fall what can the crowd expect this time around?

T: A bigger band, with a couple different members, an effusive headlining set and more time for jokes in between songs.

Always an exciting performer, THAO plays Madison’s Majestic Theater March 17th.

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CD: Temple Record Label: Domino
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