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Nancy Rost: Press

FAWM Challenges Artists To Write 14 Songs During The 28 Days Of February

200px-FAWMInspired by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo),FAWM Founder, Burr Settles issued the same type of charge to musicians in the form of February Album Writing Month (FAWM) - where artists are challenged to write 14 songs during the 28 days of February. The 11th Annual FAWM challenge is already underway, bringing artists of all ages, styles, and talents together again to make music for music's sake. FAWM prides itself on being a community that spurs spontaneous creativity and fosters an encouraging environment for artists to create, collaborate and communicate. 

Last week, in a written interview with, Settles shared his observation of how artists have been impacted by their participation in FAWM: "Oh, wow... for some it has been immense. I've seen FAWMers go from never having written a song before in their first year to having semi-professional music careers a few years later. Those are exceptional stories, of course, but the community is a safe place to explore musical ideas, and I think it's given a lot of people confidence in their own craft." For Phil Norman, a singer/songwriter and decade long member of Roanoke, Virginia's Newgrass Band, Blue Moonshine, it's done exactly that.

Norman, who has just kicked off his 9th consecutive FAWM challenge with the release of "I Grow Old", a love song for the middle aged, remembers when he first became a FAWMer: "I saw something about the community in 2007. I was married with kids and I thought to myself, 'I'm not writing, but I could be.' I saw FAWM as a motivator. It was the creative tool that I needed to pick up the pen again. There's an unspoken rule amongst the community where no one speaks negatively about another artist's work. It felt like a safe space to create and share my music, and so I did." 


Settles said he's seen collaboration become a growing part of the FAWM culture: "I've seen jazz singers from Seattle write amazing thrash-rock songs with guitarists from Amsterdam, among many many other cool things. But working on music across different timezones and different recording software has always been a pain, and we've got a few surprises this year that should make that process easier."

Norman has been an active participant in the growing collaborative community, co-writing with singer/songwriters from Australia and England, as well as posting an all-call for lyrics ideas from followers on Twitter (@PhilNorman) using the hashtag #CoWriteWithPhil. Other FAWMers to keep an eye on: Expendable Friend: @exp_friend is a wonderful English songstress; Nancy Rost (@Nancy_Rost) has been FAWMing since the get-go; Isaac Quatorze (@isaacq) - extraordinary songwriter, and road-trip warrior.

Settles has seen exponential growth among the FAWM community. When asked what he hopes the future of FAWM, he responded "That it continue to grow while remaining a fun and safe place for people to challenge themselves musically. There's a very real trade-off there, and a lot of online communities can grow so fast that it's hard for them to keep an eye on their core purpose. In FAWM's case, that's inspiring people to reach inside of themselves and pull out the music that they either did or didn't know they could always make. So my hope for the future? More and more of that."

- (Feb 3, 2015)

Nancy Rost opened the night with a fine showcase of original tunes that highlighted her range on the keyboard, her twist of word and phrase, and her voice -- all were as quick with lightening wit or could paint slivers of ache that lingered, strange with resilience, esp. in the case of "The Magician's Assistant" and ["Dirty Condition."] Some smooth, short, sweet moments of jazz occurred. She has collaborated with writers/performers from around the world and this adds terrific variety to her scope, her landscapes in her songs.

Tracy Jane Comer, Dave Schindele and Nancy Rost have teamed up to make the most creative concept album to come out of Madison so far this year.

Likely Stories is a collection of nine musical tales making up three rounds of sonic turn-taking by the songwriters. It's a structure that highlights the stylistic breadth of the record.

Schindele's acoustic piano is dreamy, rumbling with restlessness on "A Matter of Time." Later, he employs Comer's brooding cello on "Nicole." That track is an odd but gorgeous prayer for Nicole Kidman: "Hope there's a there for you Nicole / Without a role, it's just you and your soul cast together."

Rost's jazzy arrangements are featured in "Golden Gate," about San Francisco suicide jumpers. Comer's "Yellow Bike" is pure folk charm, looking back on a poor but happy childhood in a seaside town.

The album's execution ultimately fulfills the ambitious concept, making Stories a local release to be reckoned with.
Rich Albertoni - Isthmus (Aug 21, 2009)
The Likely Stories trio makes intriguing chamber folk music. Surprisingly, there is a lot of variety contained within this relatively limited genre categorization.

Although Dave Schindele sings lead on "A Matter of Time", this is mostly a female-led outfit. Chimes, however, make Schindele's rare vocal track a memorable one.

Sonic moods range from dramatic, with "American Gothic", to gently contemplative, as on "Yellow Bike" with its acoustic piano and guitar. "My Own History" even incorporates blues elements. Obviously, chamber pop and blues are at opposite sides of the musical spectrum. Therefore, Likely Stories are brave enough to throw in a few relatively unlikely aural elements, which makes them a story well worth the telling.

A songwriter's songwriter.

You've created a four-minute Flannery O'Connor novel.

Sometimes when I listen to a song I am unsettled. Then I wonder why I am unsettled. Then I realize the song has touched me but not in an obvious way. It has made its way through mingled emotions. Not the sad-angry-happy ones, but much more subtle feelings, with undertones. This song unsettled me in an exquisite way. Thank you.
Joanne Gabriel, France (Mar 21, 2010)
"If you missed the February Album Writing Month showcase at the High Noon Saloon Sunday night, you missed a truly unique Madisonian music moment. Keyboardist Nancy Rost enlisted punk rocker Tim Budziszewski (of B.O.R.D. and Introversion) to help her out on a song she wrote about Marco Pogo. Anyone who has been to multiple shows in Madison has most likely witnessed Marco Pogo in action, bouncing at the front of the stage, not caring if everyone else is choosing to do the standing still. There is more passion for the music in his bounces then in both hips of any scenester.

The song was written incorporating three challenges of FAWM – must have a key change, must only use 30 words and must be about a superhero. Marco was the superhero of choice. As Rost and Tim blasted away at the song, one thing was missing – Marco Pogo. Then something magical happened – Art Paul Schlosser took it upon himself to fill the role. Imagine our State Street icon, famous for songs like “I Love My Mother,” “Pink Pants” and “Another Star Trek Sequel Blues,” pogoing to a song about Marco Pogo. It was a moment that could never be planned in advance. All the planets aligned just right.
Jesse Russell - Dane 101 (May 24, 2006)
Wow, this is like a Tom Jerry cartoon on acid sung by Nina Simone.
Challenging musicians to write 14 songs in 28 days, the Madison edition of this year's February Album Writing Month yielded a pleasant nine-track compilation (and presumably much more worth hearing). Participants, including FAWM founder Burr Settles, will reconvene here to play their own and each other's songs informally on guitar and piano. Plenty of the songs, especially Settles' "Answers Come" and Nancy Rost's "Golden Gate," create enough elegant drama to stand alone, but the real draw here is the chance to look at the processes of songwriting and collaboration.
Calendar - The Onion A.V. Club (May 31, 2007)
Fantastic, and absolutely bonkers!
The rich, raspy resonance like that of Janis Joplin accompanies the wit of Nancy Rost as patrons sip wine at the ZuZu Cafe Saturday evening.

"Shamu, I do feel like a fish out of water. Shamu, I feel for you, but what can we do," sings Rost as she performs her song sympathizing with the unnatural pressures on captive killer whales, getting the idea from airplanes painted like them.

"Communication should happen in murmurs, not all this high-pitched chatter. There are too many words, and not enough that matters. But you were in the biz so long, you know the damn show must go on."

The song was written as Rost participated in February Album Writing Month, FAWM, in which musicians write 14 songs in 28 days. Described as the love child of Tom Lehrer and Tom Waits (says, Rost has been thriving in the Madison music scene since getting connected with songwriters at near east side open mics.

Below, Rost preforms her song, "Exile on State Street" at her ZuZu gig Saturday.

Among other crisp experiments in imagination, the piano, and perception are "I fell into a giant brain" and "Beethoven's Howlingly Melodious New Bass Guitar 'n' Strangle Disco (III)." The former was partially inspired by her cat pressing the jazz key on her synthesizer, the latter is an example of new musical genre "strangle disco."

While Rost plays, the audience snickers with her as she laughs her way through (un)reality. But given the sick nature of reality, Rost provides the best medicine.

Rost's refreshing brand of irony and satire can stretch to the serious as well. Her song "Welcome to Boscobel" touches on the promises and plans gone wrong at the Supermax Correctional Facility built there.

"...the possible rattle of chains and the rumble of hundreds of hearts that pound, you can hear if you keep your ear to the ground," she sings in the song, which was included in an anthology of the Madison Songwriter's Guild.

Also on tap was Chicago-based songwriter Kitty Mortland, whose throaty serenade carries the influence of Liz Phair and Janis Joplin. Doing an inspired cover of "Bobby McGee," Mortland held the audience captive.

"Honey, you know that I love you... But you know that I can't be a single mom that's still in high school," sings Mortland in her song "Astoria Park," about the pressures of high school girls from boys, parents, peers and the insanity around her. The angst inherent in the song seems much like the punk-infused vocals of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Both ladies give terrific performances that give the audience a look at the world, then subsequently help them laugh at it.
This justifies the existence of eardrums.
Like a living room concert!
Smart lyric, smart melody, smart chords, smart arrangement. This is a special jazzy little number with a good sense of balance and a focus like a lazy susan, turning, always turning what's toward you and what's coming. The singer --and I mean this in the most complimentary way-- has an ordinary voice made keen. Her pipes are not your envy, but her skill and dexterity --that way she wields a note-- demands your respect. Like Billie in that .... A beautiful, stirring poem of despair amidst the everyday routines of a city rife with handily-borrowed imagery. S-M-A-R-T. Five letters, five stars.
Nancy Rost and Becca have collaborated on a song that made the hair on my arms stand up. When you need that extra little push over the cliff, this one goes to eleven. I cannot give it higher praise.
Phil Norman - (Feb 26, 2007)
Rost, for example, will sometimes improvise songs by playing Mad Libs with the audience, asking for a noun, verb, adjectives and a premise. After collecting responses, she'll sing a melody about a "magnanimous plum tree," for instance, while hammering out blues riffs on her keyboard. The laughter in the crowd is contagious, as everyone's thoughts are mixed in a tart, though refreshing, concoction of high witticisms and ardent applause.
The piano-playing has a retro pop/blues feel which is ripe for revival! It's downright healthful to hear expertly-fingered acoustic piano in this age of electronic key enhancements which don't add much to the overall tune.
The love child of Tom Lehrer and Tom Waits.
Sounds like a distaff version of Randy Newman. The song has a conversational quality to it that is very appealing .... The piano is lovely: There's a ragtimey swing to the playing that isn't heard much in pop compositions anymore, but is enormously evocative.
Great performance and witty funny lyrics. Different, original, very entertaining!
I have listened to many fine efforts made in this year's FAWM, but the best music I've encountered in FAWM is by Nancy Rost. Her playful songs are cute, but my votes go to Golden Gate and especially (echoing Phil Norman), to Where Love Has Led. Nancy seems to know instinctively when to adhere to meter and when to bring it up short. She has a comprehension of vocabulary and a range of references that are extremely wide, subtle and deep. This is masterful wordsmithing made with genuine heart. I wish I could write like her.
Dave Schindele - (Mar 13, 2007)


"The Butler" - Broadjam Top Ten for Wisconsin.
The Abridged New Glarus Telephone Book Polka

Track of the Day in Comedy, 12Sep2007
Best Female Vocals in Comedy, week of 10Sep2007
Best Keyboards in Comedy, week of 10Sep2007
Best Lyrics in Comedy, week of 10Sep2007
Best Beat in Comedy, week of 10Sep2007
Best Mood in Comedy, week of 10Sep2007
Best Female Vocals in Comedy, week of 1Oct2007
Best Keyboards in Comedy, week of 1Oct2007
Golden Gate - finalist, Jazz Song
The Path - finalist, Pop/Rock Song
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