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Ryan Johnson, Published March 16 2014

Fargo band’s song to be featured during opening credits of new HBO documentary

FARGO – Amanda Nygard assumed the messages she started getting on her band’s Facebook page last November had to be a scam.

The offer seemed too good to be true – a music licenser wanted to use her song, one her band released in 2010, in a documentary that would be premiering on HBO.

“It sounds so far-fetched,” said the lead singer of Amanda Standalone and Pastry Shop Girls. “Even the next day, he was supposed to email these documents, and I didn’t get them, so I started researching all these scams and musician scams.”

After several months of emails, phone calls and contract discussions, Nygard realized the offer was real. Now, the 30-year-old Sabin, Minn., native, who has been in Fargo since 2005, is trying to capitalize on this unexpected opportunity.

Her band’s song, “Bird Flew Hard,” will be featured in the opening credits of “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert,” which premieres on HBO at 8 tonight. The documentary is executive produced by Maria Shriver, and follows a woman’s struggle with poverty.

Nygard said she wrote the song while living in an apartment just across the street from Nichole’s Fine Pastry, the Fargo business where she met the other band members, Abby Swegarden and Minda Ringdahl, while they all worked there about six years ago.

Serving as the band’s primary songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Nygard said “Bird Flew Hard” is a personal song about her younger days as a “traveling kid,” when she spent time on both coasts, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

“I got to a place where I kind of bottomed out, and I had to come home,” she said. “ ‘I’ll never fly that low again’ is the repeating line in it. It relates to the movie in a lot of ways because it’s about that struggling to get by kind of thing, and it’s also about trusting people and trying to figure that out.”

The song was included on the band’s 2010 album, “Millions of Blackbirds,” that was available on iTunes, and Nygard said a producer had discovered it by typing stream of consciousness words that applied to the documentary into the iTunes search bar.

The upcoming boost of exposure has been “surreal and weird,” she said, but the Minnesota State University Moorhead alumna who graduated with a bachelor’s in music last May said it’s “beautiful” that her song will help set the stage for this film.

“The documentary is about something that I relate to, knowing what it’s like when you don’t really have any cushion,” she said. “I think that’s what’s cool about it. The song is about hitting rock bottom, and I think that a lot of people feel like they’re always in that place where they could.”

The band hasn’t been as active in recent years, Nygard said, with Swegarden preparing to be a teacher and Ringdahl living in Grand Forks.

Nygard and Ringdahl will play a free concert 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Red Raven Espresso Parlor, 916 Main Ave., Fargo, with special guest Diane Miller, to celebrate.

But she said she wants to make the most out of this opportunity, and Nygard plans to release a new solo album this summer or fall and try to embark on a regional tour.

“It’s validating,” she said. “I think so many times, you just don’t know where you stand, especially being an artist or doing the music thing. For many people, I think you get to a point where you’re just like, ‘Is this going anywhere?’ I think that this is one of those messages like, ‘OK, it’s time to go.’ ”

On TV

What: Premiere of HBO documentary “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert”

When: 8 tonight

Channel: HBO


Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587