MSUM grad’s song featured on HBO show

By Josie Gereszek

A Fargo-based folk outfit is gaining increased recognition after being included in the recent documentary film “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert.”

Six years ago MSUM grad Amanda Nygard joined forces with fellow musicians Abby Swegarden and Minda Ringdahl to form Amanda Standalone and the Pastry Shop Girls. The project was featured in the opening credits of the documentary which aired last month on HBO.

Nygard said the band’s inclusion in the film was completely unexpected; she was contacted via the band’s Facebook page last fall by a music licensor after her song was discovered using a search engine. At first she was in disbelief, but after several months of communication and contract discussions, as well as watching the film’s premier, it’s finally sinking in.

The band’s featured song, “Bird Flew Hard,” accompanied by Haley Rydell on fiddle, proved to be a perfect fit. The film’s focus, Gilbert, has a bird tattoo on her back, and bird imagery is abundant throughout the documentary. The track is derived from the band’s 2010 album, “Millions of Blackbirds.”

Nygard wrote the song while living in an apartment across the street from Nichole’s Fine Pastry, the business where she worked with both of her fellow band members at the group’s beginning. She describes “Bird Flew Hard” as a metaphoric, personal piece about her return to Fargo following extensive travel around the country. The song’s lyrics, “I’ll never fly that low again” are relevant as many of the film’s themes are about struggling to make ends meet.

Filmed over the course of one year and executive-produced by Maria Shriver, the documentary follows one woman’s daily struggle with poverty. The film is part of Shriver’s effort to spread awareness of pressing issues American women often face. The film debuted in February at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Mont.

“We all know Katrina Gilbert – she’s our friend, our sister, our daughter, struggling to make her way in the world,” Shriver said in a press release. “Understanding what challenges she faces, and seeing how optimistic she is in the face of such challenges is the key to building women’s economic empowerment.”

Nygard can relate to Gilbert’s struggles, as she wrote “Bird Flew Hard” during what she called a tremendously tough and financially unstable time in her life.

Now the Fargo musician is doing what she can to get the best out of this opportunity. The release of Nygard’s anticipated solo album is scheduled for August, hopefully followed by a regional tour.

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