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 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:

Friday, May 15, 2020:
State of the Station: Pandemic Style

On this week’s West Texas Talk, we’re pulling back the curtain to take you inside Marfa Public Radio… pandemic style. To start off, host Elise Pepple talks with Diana Nguyen, the former host of West Texas Talk and now the station’s pandemic news director. They discuss the difficulties of running a radio station remotely in this time of social distancing. Nguyen also describes the work that has gone into creating new content to address the pandemic and the cultural shifts that have accompanied it — everything from reporting from home to creating PSAs on the fly to coordinating community projects like the Tiny Porch concert series.

Then, Pepple and Nguyen call up reporters Mitch Borden and Carlos Morales to hear about their experiences working as journalists remotely. The conversation offers a glimpse into what life at the station would be like on a typical week — if everyone were in the office working together instead of meeting via video chat. The staff also gets to celebrate their sweep of the Regional Edward R. Murrow awards this year!

After hearing from the reporters, Pepple checks in with Jacob Rockey, operations and programming manager and the newest member of the team. Jacob moved to Marfa about two months ago, and he shares his experience of adjusting to a new job and a new town during this strange time of quarantine. In the final segment this week, Pepple calls Hannah Siegel-Gardner, the station development director, who has been working from home to keep Marfa Public Radio funded.

After this week, we’ll be taking a break from this show for a while. (Spoiler: The coronavirus pandemic makes it really hard to produce a local interview show.) So thanks for tuning in, and hopefully we’ll be back with new West Texas Talk before too long!

Friday, May 1, 2020:
A National Poetry Month Quarantine Check-in

To mark the end of National Poetry Month, this week’s episode of West Teas Talk begins with a rebroadcast of Elise Pepple’s interview with poet Eileen Myles. Myles shares how the Marfa landscape appears in their recent book ‘evolution’ with a reading from ‘Western Poem.’ Throughout the conversation, Myles speaks frankly about the vocation and work of poetry, as well as the odd jobs and minor labors that define a life in art.

The second half of the hour features another installment of the new show ‘Pandemic Pantry’ with local chef Seth Siegel-Gardner. This time, Seth calls up Shane in Alpine to coach him through a Caesar-inspired salad recipe made exclusively from the food that has been hiding in the back of the refrigerator. Then, Elise Pepple checks in with Marfa Public Radio DJ Lady C, host of ‘Late Nights with Lady C.’ The two talk about what music has been carrying her through quarantine.

The episode ends with a Tiny Porch performance by Marfa resident David Beebe. Beebe sings Elvis Costello’s ‘Running Out of Angels.’ 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.

Thursday, Apr 23, 2020:
Lou Reed, Boquillas, and Pandemic Pantry

In the first half of this week’s West Texas Talk, we take a short break from COVID 19 news to feature a new project from our friends the Kitchen Sisters. Their podcast ‘The Keepers’ tells the stories of archivists, librarians, curators, and other guardians of history large and small. On this episode, they explore the vision behind the Lou Reed archive with interviews from Laurie Anderson, Don Fleming, and archivists at the New York Library for the Performing Arts.

Then, we return to the Big Bend region for a conversation between host Elise Pepple and reporter Carlos Morales about the town of Boquillas. Once the port of entry to Boquillas was closed for public health reasons, the tourist economy there all but disappeared. Morales describes how some Boquillas vendors are adapting by moving online and as well as other measures that are being taken to support the community.

To close the episode, Pepple and Seth Siegel-Gardner try out a new segment idea called ‘Pandemic Pantry.’ As a professional chef with a lifetime of experience in the kitchen, Siegel-Garnder offers recipe ideas to local residents who are stuck in quarantine based on the random items lying around in their kitchen. In this first installment, he talks Pepple through a meal idea for her leftover pasta, coconut milk, and some canned salmon that may or may not be expired.

Thursday, Apr 16, 2020:
Pandemic Responses in the Permian Basin

This week on West Texas Talk, we dig deeper into the ways our community is confronting the many challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. We begin with the final episode Our Show, a podcast mini-series that tells the story of this unprecedented time through audio recorded and submitted by people in social isolation around the world. Then returning to the stories of our region, reporter Mitch Borden talks to Christian Wallace, the host of the Texas Monthly podcast ‘Boomtown’, about how his hometown of Andrews, Texas is experiencing COVID 19.

Next, we’ll hear a conversation between Borden and Lee Anna Good, who works for Safe Place of the Permian Basin, a shelter serving victims of domestic violence and abuse. They talk about what is being done to help people who have to shelter-in-place in unsafe environments. In our final interview, host Elise Pepple talks to Guy McCrary, president of the Permian Basin Area Foundation, about their emergency relief fund for nonprofits. McCrary shares how he’s seen nonprofits adapt to deal with the immediate needs of West Texans and what people in the region can do to help.

This episode of West Texas Talk concludes with another installment of our ‘Tiny Porch’ concert series. This week, JP Schwartz sings us out with “When I Get to Heaven” by John Prine, recorded from his porch in Ft. Davis. 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.

Thursday, Apr 9, 2020:
Small Towns & Essential Businesses

On this week’s West Texas Talk, we continue to look at how our world, our country, and our region are dealing with the outbreak of the coronavirus and the social distancing measures that have been adopted to fight it. The begins with another episode of ‘Our Show’ by Erica Heilman, a podcast comprised of recordings made during this unique time by people all over the world.

Then, Elise Pepple talks with Julia Caulfield, a news director at KOTO Radio in Telluride, Colorado, to hear how that community has been dealing with social isolation and the economic challenges it brings. Colorado has been dealing with an earlier outbreak of the virus than Texas, so Julia’s experience offers some helpful lessons for Marfa and other rural places as they prepare to face the pandemic.

After that, the show returns to the West Texas, where Pepple checks in with Sam Stavinoha, the new owner of the French Co. Grocer in Marathon. He tells us what this crisis looks like in Marathon, and what it’s like to keep an essential business running in the midst of a public health crisis. Then Marfa resident Ian Lewis joins the show to talk about Marfa Steps Up, a service worker relief fund that is collecting donations for local residents who lost their jobs when restaurants and bars were forced to close in mid-March.

To close the episode, we’re returning to our ‘Tiny Porch’ series of submissions. This week’s featured song comes from Jimmy Magliozzi in Marfa, who performs Nico’s version of “These Days” by Jackson Browne. ‘Tiny Porch’ is a video series where we ask musicians in Far West Texas to record a cover from their porch during shelter-in-place. If you play music and live in West Texas, send a video to
music@marfapublicradio.org It should be a song that’s speaking to you in this moment. A song that other people can sing along to from their porches.

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 Villarreal 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 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.

Continue reading

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.