KEXP Q&A: Sallie Ford

photo by Christopher Nelson

Sallie Ford recently – and amicably – split up with her bandmates from The Sound Outside. She says of the decision, “It was a mutual decision and there are no bad feelings… It was just time for the next thing, which for me is an all girl band.” As a result, KEXP wanted to catch up with Sallie and talk about what she’s doing now, find out when the first time was she knew she could sing and see what she does in Portland to stay relaxed.

It’s been a little over a year since your last album, Untamed Beast. What’s the most fun place you visited while supporting the album?

My favorite place I’ve visited was Spain – I loved the tapas, especially the seafood ones. This squid-like fish called “cuddle fish” is my favorite. I also loved these tiny fried green peppers they have, and the architecture in Spain is beautiful, especially Barcelona! The people were all so very laid back and kind to us on tour.

Are you working on new songs, a new album, tracking for anything you’re super excited about?

I did a lot of writing starting in the fall last year, up until February this year. I just got out of the studio working on a new album with my all-lady band. We worked with producer, Chris Funk (who plays with The Decemberists & Black Prairie and has produced Red Fang). We are still in the process of mixing the record, but hope it will be done soon and released in the fall this year.

How did you go about choosing your new bandmates? What drew you to them? 

I felt like I needed to experience playing music with women. I’m glad I made that decision because there are so many good musicians in Portland that I needed to narrow down my options. I asked around to all my music friends about female musicians that rocked. Once I’d had a few options I just decided to go for it and have a rehearsal with Amanda Spring, Cristina Cano and Anita Elliot. The first rehearsal was awesome and I knew I had made the right choice. They are all kick ass musicians and awesome to hang with.

When did you first start singing? What record was playing when you first realized – Hey, I effing love to sing and sing like this!

I grew up singing and I used to love singing harmonies with my family. I guess the first time I “found my voice” was when I used to drive a lot. I was listening to a lot of Billie Holiday and Cat Power. I wanted to explore using my voice to sound feminine, powerful and emotional. I was also inspired by Tom Waits, because he has such an expressive voice that sounds like he did a lot of experimenting to find.

What’s been the most difficult part of the last year for you as a musician?

Touring a lot can be draining, but it is worth it to have the job I have. I guess the most difficult thing I dealt with was getting laryngitis while I was on tour in Europe. It was very emotional for me to not be able to sing. There were a few moments where I thought to myself “am I not gonna be able to sing again?”. Of course, that was not true, but it definitely made me appreciate being able to sing. Singing for me is therapeutic. It’s a physical feeling that is almost like taking all the feelings you have inside and releasing them.

When you write a song, do you get a bit of a vocal line, a lyric, a guitar line and then BOOM it explodes? Or does it happen some other way? 

I do it differently every time. Sometimes I have a lyric that inspires me and I will write a bunch of lyrics, or sometimes I have a melody that I write lyrics to, and then sometimes I have a guitar part that I write a melody and lyrics to. I guess melody is what I feel is my strongest weapon I have for songwriting.

Enough music – what do you like to do in Portland when you’re hanging out?

I love to drink coffee and beer. I love going to the river and eating at delicious restaurants we have here. Recently I have been gettin’ buff, gettin’ tattoos and hangin’ out with my new cat, Seven. It’s been nice to have a lot of time off to relax.

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