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. 

In May 2019, West Texas Talk transitioned from a thirty-minute program into an hour-long show.

The first half of 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 of West Texas.

The second half of the show 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. 

We invite you to join in on the conversation by telling us who you think we should interview and the issues you would like to hear about by emailing diana@marfapublicradio.org.

Subscribe to the West Texas Talk podcast on Apple Podcasts.

West Texas Talk broadcasts 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, Sep 5, 2019:
Marfa Garden; Andy Stack of Joyero

(Trinity University Press)

Jim Martinez and Mary Lou Saxon on “Marfa Garden”

Diana Nguyen speaks to Jim Martinez and Mary Lou Saxon about the book Marfa Garden. The project is a collaboration with their friends, Jim Fissell, and Martha Hughes, that showcases the beauty and variety of native plants of the Big Bend. 

The book includes a selection of vines, grasses, trees, herbs, shrubs, cacti and succulents that can be found in the Chihuahuan Desert.



Andy Stack of Joyero (Logan Caldbeck)

Andy Stack of Joyero

Later on the show, Nguyen speaks to musician Andy Stack. The former Marfa resident is one half of the band Wye Oak and plays with EL VY and Lambchop.

Most recently, Stack embarked on a solo project under the Joyero moniker. His newest record, Release the Dogs, was written in Marfa and came out via Merge Records in late August.

Thursday, Aug 29, 2019:
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)

YACHT

Later on the show, Nguyen speaks to Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, two-thirds 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 is out on DFA Records this week.

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, Aug 22, 2019:
The Permian Basin Prepares for the Future; Luchador Cassandro el Exótico

(Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio)

Mitch Borden

Diana Nguyen speaks to Marfa Public Radio reporter Mitch Borden about how the Permian Basin is trying to change how people view the nation’s largest oil patch. Leaders say the oil industry has stabilized and now hope stakeholders will start investing in the infrastructure of its booming cities.

As more growth is expected, leaders are figuring out how to tackle some of the region’s biggest challenges — affordability, education, housing and infrastructure.



Cassandro el exótico (Rowdy Dugan / Courtesy Ballroom Marfa)

Cassandro el Exótico

Later on the show, Nguyen talks to luchador Saúl Armendáriz, better known as Cassandro el exótico.

The El Paso-based luchador has been wrestling for over thirty years, learning to fight across the border in Ciudad Juarez as a teennager. He blazed trails as one of lucha libre’s first openly gay wrestlers, collecting multiple championship titles throughout his career.

Armendariz is the subject of Marie Losier’s 2018 documentary, Cassandro, the Exotico! and was recently in Far West Texas when Ballroom Marfa presented a screening of the film.

Thursday, Aug 15, 2019:
Bill Wren, The Godfather of Dark Skies; Writer Rachel Monroe Discusses “Savage Appetites”

Bill Wren is considered the godfather of the Texas dark skies movement. (Courtesy of McDonald Observatory)

Bill Wren

Diana Nguyen speaks to Bill Wren of McDonald Observatory, whose job is to keep the skies of Far West Texas dark. They discuss Wren’s collaboration with oil and gas companies and municipalities across the region, and what residents can do to help. 



Rachel Monroe (Emma Rogers)

Rachel Monroe

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

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

There will be a book launch and reading of Savage Appetites at the Crowley Theater on Tuesday, August 20th, at 6 pm.

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

Thursday, Aug 8, 2019:
The El Paso Shooting; Writer Jamel Brinkley

Friends embrace one another during a vigil for Javier Amir Rodriguez, the youngest victim killed in the El Paso shootings. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

El Paso Shooting

On West Texas Talk, Diana Nguyen and Carlos Morales talk about the shooting in El Paso, which was just one of three that took place within the span of a week.

The two were in El Paso covering the tragedy that’s left 22 people dead and dozens more injured. The shooting suspect, a 21-year-old white male from North Texas, opened fire Saturday morning, reportedly targeting only Hispanics. He’s believed to have written a 2,300-word manifesto filled with racist and white supremacist language.

The mass shooting in El Paso is one of the deadliest in Texas history.




Jamel Brinkley (Arash Saedinia)

Jamel Brinkley

Later in the show, Rachel Monroe speaks to Jamel Brinkley, the author of the acclaimed story collection, A Lucky Man, published in 2018.

Brinkley is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University.

He will read at the Crowley Theater on Sunday, August 11 at 6 pm.

Thursday, Aug 1, 2019:
Jason Sabo On Texas Politics; Fashion Designer Carla Fernández

Jason Sabo (Courtesy of)

Jason Sabo

Diana Nguyen talks to lobbyist Jason Sabo, the founder of Frontera Strategy. His work focuses on helping nonprofits and philanthropists reach their public policy goals.

He is back in the Big Bend for West Texas Rural Philanthropy Days
— an event that connects local nonprofits with foundations and government agencies with similar interests and educates funders about the needs and services in rural West Texas.

They look at what’s happening in Texas politics and discuss the impact the 2018 midterm elections had on the past legislative session, new policies affecting rural Texas, the significance of Census 2020, and more.




Carla Fernández (Graciela Iturbide)

Carla Fernández

Later in the show, Nguyen talks to Mexico City-based fashion designer Carla Fernández, who was recently in West Texas for a pop-up with Ballroom Marfa.

They discuss Fernández’s initial interest in fashion, her label’s mission to make ethical clothing, and her work with indigenous communities to preserve the cultural heritage of Mexico.

Thursday, Jul 25, 2019:
Sally Beauvais On “West Texas Wonders”; Artist Pete Schulte

Sally Beauvais

We’re celebrating the one year anniversary of “West Texas Wonders”
— a series that’s driven by listener curiosity.

Diana Nguyen and reporter Sally Beauvais talk about the project and look back at some of the favorites from the series.

You can ask a question or find answers to questions we’ve answered here.



Pete Schulte (Mark Pleasant)

Pete Schulte

Diana Nguyen talks to Chinati artist-in-residence Pete Schulte. Shulte lives in Birmingham and teaches at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He also runs The Fuel and Lumber Company — a curatorial initiative dedicated to contemporary art and community engagement — with his wife, artist Amy Pleasant.

His drawings can be seen at the John Wesley Gallery at the Chinati Foundation on Friday, July 26 from 3 to 6 pm.

You can find Schulte’s work here.

Thursday, Jul 18, 2019:
Reporter Carlos Morales On Immigration In The Big Bend; Poet Carl Adamshick

About six miles outside of Presidio, the Rio Grande is reduced to a sliver about 5 feet across. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

Carlos Morales

Diana Nguyen talks to Marfa Public Radio reporter Carlos Morales about immigration.

They discuss national policies shaping the fluctuating apprehension numbers along the border, temporary shelters, and the continued practice of family separation.



Carl Adamshick (Julie Keefe)

Carl Adamshick

Later, Ian Lewis talks to Portland-based poet Carl Adamschick, who is in Marfa as a Lannan writer-in-residence.

Adamshick is the editor at Tavern Books, a nonprofit poetry press, and has written four books of poetry. His first book, Curses and Wishes, won the Walt Whitman Award in 2010. His latest book, Birches, was published earlier this year.

Adamshick will read at the Crowley Theater on Sunday, July 21st at 6 pm.

Thursday, Jul 11, 2019:
Fire In The Big Bend; Lance Scott Walker On Houston Rap

Gary Mitschke and Joe Pasqua (Diana Nguyen / Marfa Public Radio)

Gary Mitschke and Joe Pasqua

Gary Mitschke, Marfa’s Volunteer Fire Department Chief and Joe Pasqua, the Coordinator for the Alpine Region of the Texas A&M Forest Service talk to Diana Nguyen about volunteer fire departments in the region, fire conditions in the Big Bend, and preventative measures for property owners in vulnerable areas.


(University of Texas Press, 2018)

Lance Scott Walker

Later in the show, a re-broadcast of a conversation Nguyen had with writer Lance Scott Walker.

They spoke in late 2018 when Walker came through Marfa on his book tour for Houston Rap Tapes: An Oral History of Bayou City Hip-Hop.They talk about Houston rap and its far-reaching influence.

Walker is a Galveston native who lived in Houston for over a decade, where he wrote for The Houston Chronicle and Houston Press. He’s now based in New York and is currently working on a biography about DJ Screw.

Thursday, Jul 4, 2019:
Remembering Lonn Taylor; Filmmaker Ben Masters

Lonn Taylor at Marfa Public Radio (Sarah Vasquez)

Lonn Taylor

On this episode, we’re remembering the late historian Lonn Taylor.

Tom Michael, the founder of Marfa Public Radio, talks about the magic the Rambling Boy brought to the airwaves.

Then, you’ll hear an interview Diana Nguyen had with Taylor in April 2019 about his life and most recent book, Turning the Pages of Texas.

More interviews with Lonn Taylor:
February 16, 2012 – Lonn Taylor on Texas, My Texas: Musings of a Rambling Boy
December 19, 2012 – Maiya Keck and Lonn Taylor on holiday entertaining
August 12, 2013 – Lonn Taylor on Marfa history
September 10, 2014 – Lonn Taylor on The Colbert Report
April 25, 2019 – Lonn Taylor on Marfa for the Perplexed

You can find the Rambling Boy archive here.


Ben Masters (Courtesy of)

Ben Masters

Conservation filmmaker Ben Masters talks to Diana Nguyen about The River and the Wall.

The film follows five friends on an immersive adventure through the unknown wilds of the Texas borderlands as they travel 1,200 miles from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on horses, mountain bikes, and canoes.

They set out to document the borderlands and explore the potential impacts of a wall on the natural environment.

Ballroom Marfa and Marfa Book Company will host a screening and Q&A at the Crowley Theater on Friday, July 19 at 7 pm.