Ali Thibodeau, 31

Singer and songwriter

There was little doubt Ali Thibodeau was going to end up an artist growing up with a dancer and choreographer as a mother and an artist and illustrator as a father. It was just a matter of what discipline she was going to choose to express herself.

She enjoyed early success in theater, including a best supporting
actress award from the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle in 2009 while still
a teenager. But she ended up frustrated. “I was in New York auditioning for musicals and was so tired of being rejected so much,” Thibodeau remembers.

She took to busking on subway platforms, slowly building a repertoire of self-penned, folk-tinged paeans to hope, love and heartbreak. She spent a decade learning the ropes and building an audience, ultimately returning to Richmond and assuming the musical mantle Deau Eyes. Two albums later, she’s winning accolades that portend great things on the horizon: NPR named her one of 2023’s artists to watch and she recently beat out an impressive list of local acts to take the 2023 Newlin Music Prize for her latest album, “Legacies.”

Even with more than 40 gigs lined up over the coming months, she’s finding time to explore new collaborative opportunities with local jazz
legend Charles Owens through a monthly residency with his trio at Dürty Nelly’s Pub in Charlottesville. Her pursuit of an eclectic, ever-evolving sound has made it hard for album labels to pigeonhole her but has endeared her to fans.

“I’ve had music industry people say to me, ‘What you really want to do is find a genre that’s gonna fit into the pinhole of an algorithm,’” Thibodeau says.
“I’m like, why would I do that? For me, art is about discovery. Some people really love one genre so much they want to stick to it. I admire that but I get way too restless with that kind of thing.”


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