Thao Nguyen

“I think I’m more effective as an activist if I stay in music, to be honest. Music, the way it reaches people and transcends divisions, is a really effective and powerful forum.”

  • Name: Thao Nguyen
  • Born: March 19, 1984
  • From: Virginia, USA
  • Pronouns: She/Her
  • Contribution/Impact: In 2010, Nguyen’s song “When We Swam” is used as the title song for the Australian TV show Offspring. 
  • Occupation: Musician, Singer, Songwriter
  • Known For: Tiny Desk Home Concert (2020) and NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert (2009)
  • Awards: She unanimously been chosen as the winner of the Han Nefkens Foundation – LOOP Barcelona Video Art Award 2018 in collaboration with Fundació Joan Miró. 
  • Interesting Facts: She began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of 12 while helping out at her mother’s laundromat. Her parents are Vietnamese refugees who met when they were resettled in North Carolina. 

Thao Nguyen (born March 19, 1984), also known as Thao, is an American singer-songwriter originally from Virginia and now based in San Francisco. She is the lead musician of the band Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, and has collaborated with Joanna Newsom and Andrew Bird. Outside of the band she has collaborated on projects with several artists including Merrill Garbus, The Portland Cello Project, and Mirah. Her music is influenced by folk, country, and hip hop. 


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