I first met Thao Nguyen in 2008, in the earliest days of the Tiny Desk Concert series. I was a big fan of her witty, catchy songs. After she finished playing the Tiny Desk, Thao said something that has endeared me to her forever. Walking toward the elevators on her way out of NPR, she said, "That was intimate and awkward ... a lot like my last boyfriend!"
Here's a new video for "We The Common (For Valerie Bolden)," with footage of Thao and her band, the Get Down Stay Down, on the road with friends and strangers both well-known (including Ira Glass and John Hodgman) and unknown. Not knowing its context, I thought it completely captured Thao Nguyen's joyous spirit and humor.
But "We The Common (For Valerie Bolden)" has a deeper story, one Thao and director Lauren Tabak shared in a joint statement they wrote about the inspiration behind the song and the video.
"This song was inspired by a poignant, candid and unshakable conversation with Valerie Bolden, a woman serving life without parole in the California state prison system. It's hard to imagine that meeting would be anything but somber — but it resonated with a humanity and humor that greatly outshone its surroundings. It's in this spirit that "We The Common (For Valerie Bolden)" was written.
"At its core, this song is about people collecting their energy and taking care of one another, and all the joy and celebration inherent in such an act. Visually, we wanted to capture this joy and lighter moments of our every day human interactions while touring and sharing this new record."
And so if you have never seen Thao Nguyen or heard her music, this is the perfect introduction. Once you see it and have the song running around your head the rest of the day, it's likely you'll be singing it at one of her shows. Pure joy.