Alynda Segarra, born and raised in the Bronx, isn’t sure where she picked up her Southern twang. “It’s kind of this chameleon thing, picking up voices from all over the country. I feel like I go into different characters when I write some of these songs,” she tells Maria Hinojosa.

Alynda is Hurray for the Riff Raff — one of the most influential acts in the alternative folk scene that’s been booming in recent years. The journey of how she went from growing up in a Puerto Rican family in the Bronx to become a banjo-picking country singer is a fascinating one. It includes a stopover in the feminist punk scene of downtown New York, a stint riding trains around the U.S. with fellow teenage runaways and time spent as a street busker in New Orleans.

Today Alynda is one of the artists “queering” American roots music with an alternative approach to how race, gender and sexuality are portrayed in the genre. Her recent album is full of odes to underdogs and misfits—the people Alynda Segarra considers her community.

“There’s so much representation of American folk music as white and male, and to me that’s so interesting because Puerto Ricans are American, and Odetta is American, and blues music is American, and it comes from all these different people. I really wanted to bring that influence,” she says.

Maria Hinojosa sits down with Alynda for an in-depth interview about her story and her message.

Photo by Joshua Shoemaker

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