Falling Down" Gives Fairchild A Lift
copyright Boston Herald Library Aug 8, 2003

The song causing a commotion in Amy Fairchild's life is called "Falling Down." Her career, however, is surely rising. Last month, the Bay State singer-songwriter won the coveted Maxell Song of the Year prize of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for "Falling Down," a win that included a check for $20,000, as well as studio equipment and a publishing contract. Elton John, Carlos Santana, Amy Grant, Brooks & Dunn, Joan Osborne and the Black Eyed Peas were among the judges. "Falling Down" had previously won the Lennon contest's grand prize in the pop category; the song then competed against 11 other genre winners for the Song of the Year accolade. "I had a feeling about the song when we first entered it. It's a strong, catchy pop song, good arrangement, a feel-good song with sad lyrics," said Fairchild earlier this week from her apartment in Wakefield. Winning song competitions has become nearly old hat for Fairchild. "Tuesday," a subtle, personal 9/11 ballad, won a grand prize at the 2002 Billboard Songwriting Contest in the folk/country category. That song also won her a finalist spot in the USA Songwriting Contest. And the previous year, Fairchild was one of six finalists in the ruggedly competitive Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk contest in Texas. By this point, Fairchild might well echo the immortal words of Sally Field: "You like me. You really like me!" For all the industry praise, there was one night last month that felt even more remarkable - opening a show for Pat Benatar at New Hampshire's 4,500-seat Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center. "They treated me like a rock star," she said. "It was the largest crowd I ever played. An amazing reception. They lined up for my autograph! I sold tons of CDs. I had 11-year-old girls ask for my autograph."

It's been a long time coming for Fairchild, who quit an undergraduate program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and began to write and sing songs 14 years ago. "I didn't choose to do music, it came into my life in an organic way. And now, it practically IS my life," said Fairchild, who plays Cambridge's Lizard Lounge in a solo set tomorrow night, a split bill with Tom Hambridge. She also plays one of the state's most beautiful small venues, The Crescent Dragon in Haverhill, on Aug. 22.
The album, "Mr. Heart," is Fairchild's second, and, even more than the contests, it has kicked her indie career into a higher gear. "I'd been struggling to find the right embodiment of my songs for some time, and I really hit the nail on the head with producer Adam Steinberg. The songs came to life in the way I dreamed of. We made it at The Club House, in Rhinebeck, N.Y. I know this sounds dramatic, but it was probably the best three months of my life," Fairchild said. "Mr. Heart" is a well-wrought merging of catchy pop-rock and contemplative, folk-tinged balladry. One song, "Renee," takes up the issue of battered women. Though the songs are simply constructed, they often intimate the sense of a young woman's complex life with a few, cutting phrases.

The award-winning "Falling Down" captures the confusion and powerlessness of a woman at the end of a bad relationship. Its punchy energy and resilient vocals suggest strengths that the lyrics do not. "It's about keeping it together, keeping quiet, presenting an OK face to the world when you're falling apart inside," she said. "I've never been able to do that myself." Much of the album was recorded right after Sept. 11, 2001. The events of that day are the subject of "Tuesday," a seemingly casual story that leaves catastrophic details to the listener's imagination. "I didn't want to say anything about towers or anything. It's a song that fell out of me," she said. "I wrote from a personal standpoint. It doesn't get political. You can't argue with this song, it's just a feeling."

Amy Fairchild, Lizard Lounge, 1667 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, tomorrow, 9 p.m. 21-plus. Tickets: $7-$10. Call 617-547-0759.