West Texas Talk

West Texas Talk — Marfa Public Radio’s flagship program — made its debut when the station launched and is now a repository of hundreds of local profiles.

The show is hosted by Diana Nguyen and other contributors. The program is also produced by Diana Nguyen. 

The program features discussions about regional issues and topics with residents and experts. Whether looking at immigration on the border, delving into West Texas history, or having conversations about the Big Bend’s changing towns we hope to explore the topics that matter most to residents.

The show also celebrates the creative spirit of Far West Texas and features conversations with writers, musicians, filmmakers, and artists who both live here and pass through the region. 

Subscribe to the West Texas Talk podcast on Apple Podcasts.

West Texas Talk broadcasts on Thursday at 6 pm and rebroadcasts Friday at 9 am.

The show’s theme music was composed by Andy Stack.

Recently on West Texas Talk:

Thursday, Apr 2, 2020:
Living with Quarantine, At Home and Abroad

On this week’s West Texas Talk, we bring you a new podcast from Erica Heilman called ‘Our Show.’ The podcast is a mini-series created in response to coronavirus and comprised of recordings made by people all over the world who find themselves adjusting to a new life in isolation. Then General Manager Elise Pepple talks to Serah Mead from KZMU in Moab to see how another National Park-adjacent small town is weathering the economic fallout of the lockdown.

The second half of the show looks at the state of the quarantine closer to home. Photographer Lesley Villareal talks with Pepple about a new portrait series in which Lesley is photographing her friends and neighbors in front of their homes from a safe distance in order to capture this strange moment of time in Marfa. After that conversation, we hear from Marfa Public Radio DJ Gabriela Carballo about her experience dealing with social isolation.

Once again, the last segment of West Texas Talk this week is dedicated to our new ‘Tiny Porch’ series of concert videos. ‘Tiny Porch’ is a social isolation music series inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. We’re asking musicians in Far West Texas to record a cover song from their porch. The videos are an opportunity for listeners across Far West Texas to come together while being apart. Our second video in the series features Adam Bork singing Elton John’s ‘Where To Now St. Peter?’

You can watch Adam perform his song from between two televisions on Marfa Public Radio’s Facebook page or Instagram

If you play music and live in far West Texas, send a video of yourself playing a cover on your porch during social isolation. Please email your video to music@marfapublicradio.org. It should be a song that speaks to you at this moment, or a song that can lift spirits, or a song people know and can sing along to from their porches.

Friday, Mar 27, 2020:
Meditation, Isolation And Porch Songs During The Coronavirus Pandemic

On West Texas Talk this week, General Manager Elise Pepple talks to artist Nick Terry about how to meditate and take a deep breath during a crisis. Then, Pepple talks to Laura Thoms about living at the McDonald Observatory. Laura’s already prepared for social isolation and offers some tips for people who are new to it.

In the final segment of this week’s show, we hope to lift your spirits. We’re creating a new series of videos called ‘Tiny Porch.’ This is a social isolation music series inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. We’re asking musicians in Far West Texas to record a cover song from their porch. The videos are an opportunity for listeners across Far West Texas to come together while being apart. The first video features artist and musician Tilly Hawk singing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In the Dark.’

Continue reading

Friday, Mar 20, 2020:
West Texas And The New Coronavirus: The Latest Developments, Isolation, And How Locals Are Coping

On this special edition of West Texas Talk, we hear from reporters on the ground, healthcare professionals, a parent learning to homeschool her kids and service industry workers who have found themselves out of a job — all in the midst of unfolding preparedness plans and new policies attempting to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the Permian Basin and Big Bend region.

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Thursday, Feb 6, 2020:
Diana Nguyen Says Goodbye; Journalist and Writer Amitava Kumar

Diana Nguyen (Sally Beauvais)

Diana Nguyen

After three years as Executive Producer and Host of West Texas Talk, we’re saying goodbye to Diana Nguyen.

Nguyen transformed Marfa Public Radio’s long-form local interview show into a thoughtfully-produced weekly segment that captures the creative spirit of Far West Texas and dives into the topics that matter most to residents.

General Manager Elise Pepple and Reporter Sally Beauvais flip the script and interview Nguyen about her life before Marfa and her takeaways from doing hundreds of local interviews.

Amitava Kumar (Courtesy of Vassar College)

Amitava Kumar

Later in the show, Ian Lewis talks to Lannan Writer In Residence Amitava Kumar.

Kumar has written several works of fiction and non-fiction, including
Immigrant, Montana, A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, and Lunch with a Bigot: The Writer in the World.  He is a Professor of English at Vassar College.

Lewis and Kumar discuss the state of writing and reading fiction and fake news — the subject of Kumar’s forthcoming novel.

Thursday, Jan 30, 2020:
The Healthcare Crisis in Rural TX; Poet Martha Collins

In 2018, Texas had about 54 primary care physicians per 100,000 people—one of the lowest ratios in the country. (Rolando Hernandez/Texas Observer)

Sally Beauvais & Christopher Collins

Over the last several decades, access to healthcare for rural Texans has become fewer and farther between. Dwindling patient loads and low reimbursement rates from Medicaid and Medicare have taken their toll on practices and hospitals. That’s led to closures across the state, forcing residents of far-flung places to travel further for adequate healthcare. 

Diana Nguyen talks to Christopher Collins and Sally Beauvais about why this is happening and what can be done about the problem.

Christopher Collins recently co-reported Critical Condition — a Texas Observer investigative series that highlights the stories of rural Texans without access to care.

Sally Beauvais reports on rural issues for Marfa Public Radio. She’s covered the challenges of accessing healthcare for seniors in the Big Bend. She recently reported on the problems that arise for Presidio County residents when the ambulance cant find their house in an emergency.

In this conversation, Collins provides a birds-eye view of what’s happening with rural healthcare across the state and Beauvais provides a picture of the local healthcare landscape in the Big Bend.

Because What Else Could I Do is Collins’ tenth book of poetry. (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019)

Martha Collins

Later in the show, Rachel Monroe talks to poet, translator and editor Martha Collins. She’s in Marfa as a Lannan writer-in-residence.

Collins is the recipient of three Pushcart Prizes and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Bunting Institute, among others. She is the founder of the creative writing program at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and a professor emerita at Oberlin College.

Collins recently published Because What Else Could I Do. Her tenth book is a sequence of poems addressed to her husband during the six months following his sudden death.

Monroe and Collins discuss Blue Front, White Papers and Admit One: An American Scrapbook — a trilogy of books where Collins examines aspects of her family history as a lens into racism in America.

Friday, Jan 24, 2020:
Marilu Hastings and Dr. Michael Young on Respect Big Bend; Space Reporter Brendan Byrne on Blue Origin in West TX

Marilu Hastings and Dr. Michael Young (Courtesy of)

Marilu Hastings and Dr. Michael Young

Diana Nguyen talks to Marilu Hastings and Dr. Michael Young about Respect Big Bend.
Their coalition’s mission is to empower stakeholders to conserve the unique resources of the Big Bend while developing energy responsibly.

Marilu Hastings is the vice president of sustainability programs for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation — the primary funder of the Respect Big Bend initiative.

Dr. Michael Young is a scientist with the Bureau of Economic Geology at UT Austin. He’s been working with a team to study energy projections in Far West Texas.

They discuss Hastings’ impetus for helping start the initiative and the findings from Dr. Young’s research.

New Shepard lifts off on its 12th mission on December 11, 2019. (Courtesy of Blue Origin)

Brendan Byrne

Nguyen talks to Brendan Byrne — a reporter for NPR member station WMFE in Orlando. He covers all things space and is the host of “Are We There Yet?”, a podcast about space exploration.

They discuss Blue Origin’s mysterious operations in West Texas.

Thursday, Jan 16, 2020:
Billy Tarrant on Respect Big Bend; Producer Rachel Neel of “Ask Me Another”

Billy Tarrant (Courtesy of)

Billy Tarrant

Diana Nguyen talks to Billy Tarrant, the associate director of stewardship services at Borderlands Research Institute.

The organization is a partner of a new initiative called Respect Big Bend. Their mission is to empower stakeholders to conserve the unique resources and to protect the iconic communities of the Big Bend while developing energy responsibly.

They talk about the projected expansion of renewable energy production in the tri-county area and about the coalition’s research and work.

You can find out more about the Big Bend seminar series here.

Rachel Neel (Annabel Edwards)

Rachel Neel

Later in the show, Elise Pepple talks to Rachel Neel, the senior supervising producer of Ask Me Another
— a live show from NPR and WNYC that blends brainteasers, pub trivia, comedy and music.

Neel now lives in Brooklyn and has worked on several WNYC podcasts including 2 Dope Queens, Sooo Many White Guys and A Piece of Work. She got her start at Marfa Public Radio.

Pepple and Neel talk about Ask Me Another and about her former life in Marfa.

You can now hear Ask Me Another on Saturdays at noon on Marfa Public Radio.

Thursday, Jan 9, 2020:
REBROADCAST: What’s It Like To Date in West Texas?; Border Journalists Alfredo Corchado and Angela Kocherga

Image Courtesy: Denis Bocquet (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Gabriela Carballo & Rachel Monroe

Elise Pepple talks to Rachel Monroe and Gabriela Carballo about a topic on a lot of residents’ minds… the difficulty of dating in rural America. They go over the complications, the highs, and the lows of finding love in West Texas.

Gabriela Carballo hosts the Marfa Public Radio show “Borders, Beats, and Babes” and is the founder of the Instagram account fishermen.o.tinder (a curated collection of Tinder profile photos of men posing with dead fish). Carballo says she cries a lot, is a hopeless romantic with a skepticism problem, and is so lonely she’s developing relationships with her plants.

Rachel Monroe is a Marfa Public Radio contributor and writer who has written about tindering in rural America. Monroe’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Texas Monthly, among others.

Alfredo Corchado (David Spuro), Angela Kocherga (Patty Aleman)

Alfredo Corchado and Angela Kocherga

Later on the show, Carlos Morales talks to journalists Alfredo Corchado and Angela Kocherga. They’ve both spent their life’s work covering the U.S.-Mexico border.

Alfredo Corchado is the border correspondent for the Dallas Morning News and is the author of Midnight in Mexico and Homelands.

Angela Kocherga is a journalist who’s worked in radio, tv, and print. She’s currently covering the border for the Albuquerque Journal.

They discuss their work as journalists, immigration policy, and the roots of the mass migration from Central America.

Thursday, Jan 2, 2020:
REBROADCAST: Rainer Judd; YACHT on Chain Tripping

Rainer Judd (Charlie Rubin © Judd Foundation)

Rainer Judd

Diana Nguyen speaks to Rainer Judd, the daughter of the late artist Donald Judd and the president of the Judd Foundation. The organization maintains and preserves Judd’s permanently installed spaces and archives in New York and Marfa.

They discuss the reasons her father moved to the Big Bend and Rainer’s Marfa roots.

Rob Kieswetter, Claire L. Evans, and Jona
Bechtolt of YACHT (Jaclyn Campanaro)


Later on the show, Nguyen speaks to Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, members of the LA-based band YACHT.

Over the years, they’ve made it a tradition to record their albums in Marfa. Most recently, they came out to Far West Texas in 2018 to work on their seventh album, Chain Tripping, which came out on DFA Records in 2019.

The band talks about how they used artificial intelligence as a creative tool in the writing process for their latest record, their long history as collaborators, and why they keep coming back to Marfa.

Thursday, Dec 26, 2019:
REBROADCAST: Marfa’s BBQ Darlings; Rachel Monroe On “Savage Appetites”

Adam Bork, Katy Rose Elsasser, Mark Scott, and Kaki Aufdengarten of Convenience West (Sarah Vasquez / Courtesy of Big Bend Sentinel)

Katy Rose Elsasser and Mark Scott of Convenience West

Far West Texas is often described as desolate. And for a long time, in terms of barbecue, it was.

But the recent arrival of a couple of restaurants like Convenience West has changed that. The restaurant made the cut for Texas Monthly’s Top 25 New Barbeque Joints in Texas, and earlier this year, they were featured on BBQuest (a show that highlights secret menu items at some of the best barbecue joints in Texas.)

On this episode, Diana Nguyen speaks with Mark Scott and Katy Rose Elsasser — friends and business partners who run the Marfa bbq joint — about the states’ favorite pastime… smoked meats.

Rachel Monroe

Later in the show, Nguyen talks to writer and Marfa Public Radio contributor Rachel Monroe.

They discuss her bookSavage Appetites, which investigates our cultural fascination with crime and looks at true stories of four women driven by obsession.

Monroe’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Texas Monthly, among others.