"The CD showcases Falkow’s rock-meets-soul gentle vocal delivery, a breezy ride over smart, crafted arrangements." -- Robin Renee Philadelphia City Paper 5/04
"I went there for the first time 10 years ago, so I sort of have a special place in my heart for that country. It just seems like the right time in my life to change the scenery."
"That country" is Ireland, and it’s safe to say that the most important scenery will be the man with whom she’s fallen in love. He’s in Dublin, and so Nancy Falkow -- one of the Philly music scene’s favorite daughters who moved here from Margate to go to Temple in 1988 -- has found the romance and courage to leave for greener shores. Her official goodbye, this Saturday at The Point, is also a release party for her new, self-released Clear View. The CD showcases Falkow’s rock-meets-soul gentle vocal delivery, a breezy ride over smart, crafted arrangements. Introspective and most always happy, the 11 tracks meet her vision. She calls it a better and more cohesive effort than 2001’s Smitten.
"I have no idea what I’m gonna do. I’m leaving on the heels of releasing a new record. Probably not the best time to leave the country," she says with good-natured irony. "I think that Dublin will welcome me, I hope. I’ll be starting at the bottom, so I’m prepared to do open mic nights. Hopefully find a recording studio where I can empty ashtrays." It was her willingness to take the odd jobs and to make connections that lead to many of Falkow’s successes. Playing in a "pretty much Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd" cover band called Freehand sounds like a butchy start for somebody who would go on to play Lillith Fair. That classic rock tribute preceded a rarely-mentioned band that became a relevant stepping-stone. Honey West put out a cassette-only release in the pre-digital-mandatory days of 1995. "We got interviewed in Rockpile. And Mapps Magazine. That was my big first step," Falkow reflects. Then, with no real experience and some trust from bandleader Scot Sax and bassist Mark Getten, she landed a gig at Tongue and Groove Studios as the publicist for their band, Wanderlust. She worked up to studio manager and toward the end of that three-year stint, Sax produced her first solo recording, a self-titled five-song EP.
The most familiar shining moment came in 1998. "I entered the Lilith Fair Talent Search, and [Clear Channel publicist] Jim Sutcliffe, put me on as a standby. I gotta give props to that guy. I will never forget how much I owe him." When Michele Nagy failed to show up on time, Falkow got her chance. "I won, which was such an amazing gift. I got to sing on stage with Sarah McLachlan in front of 25,000 people. Ö Then it all went downhill from there," she laughs.
Not exactly. What would seem like the career highlight wasn’t the top of the mountain for Falkow. That came last year when Daniel Lanois, one of her all-time favorites, came to Indre Studios, where she’d served as studio manager since 1998. "He’s truly an amazing talent as a producer [for U2, Emmylou Harris], but as an artist he’s mind-blowing." As he showed her how to play the unusual omnichord, Falkow revealed a unique condition. "I have harmony disease," she explains.
Her impromptu vocals lead to an immediate performance with Lanois on WXPN’s The World Café. About a month later, the two embarked on a five-day tour together.
Smitten hit in 2000, and in 2001 Falkow joined rock band The Dirty Triplets. When not performing with her own stripped down band -- close friend and Clear View producer Shane McMartin on drums and Jennifer Lynn on backup vocals -- she is part of Philly supergroup Slo-Mo. She’ll still be in the lineup every Tuesday in May at The Fire.
Falkow struggles for a critique on the scene and some parting words for the City of Philadelphia.
"To the local musicians: Don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s a small city. By over-playing it’s not gonna help you gain an audience, it’s gonna burn people out. And to the fine folks who have been so good to me, thank you for your amazing support." She counts Helen Leicht, Michaela Majoun, and Gene Shay at WXPN among her "angel network."
"To the rest of you," she continues, "get off your asses, go out and see bands play, support this Philadelphia music scene. It has a heart and a soul, and there’s a lot of amazing talent that Philadelphia has to offer in every single genre. Let’s get some rock on the board. I couldn’t do it for you."
Even with great talent and the media on her side, Falkow holds one regret: never quite cracking the code to filling seats night after night. Still, the bulk of the memories will be fond ones. "It’s been a very positive stay here in Philadelphia and I wouldn’t change anything for the world."
Nancy Falkow will perform her farewell acoustic show Sat., May 8, 8 p.m., $10, with Amber deLaurentis, Christine Havrilla and Rachel Loshak, The Point, 880 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, 610-527-0988.