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When Sallie Ford first moved to Portland from her hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, she was in search of an art form that would allow her to express herself. The daughter of a puppeteer and a musician, Ford had tried classical violin, filmmaking, photography and even some dancing, but nothing really fit.
“They just weren’t rebellious enough for me, I guess,” says Ford. “I needed an art form that had an edge to it.”
She finally found her edge (and her voice) in rock ‘n’ roll.
Ford had just started playing music and writing songs when she left Asheville, but credits Portland with giving her the courage to start performing at house shows and open mics. “Normally I wouldn’t be the kind of performing type. But if you are just at a house party and there are lots of other people who are doing creative things, I guess I decided I was up for it. And then the reaction that I got from people definitely inspired me to keep doing it.”
She soon met bassist Tyler Tornfelt and drummer Ford Tennis, recent transplants from Alaska, and guitarist Jeff Munger, who they met busking on the streets of Portland. The new band, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, blended a fresh take on old blues and rockabilly sounds with Ford’s distinctive vocal style.
“My favorite part of singing is belting, which is just projecting your voice. You have to naturally use your chest or your face to amplify it. You feel pretty strong when you do that,” says Ford.
Ford’s vocals sound modern and vintage at the same time, hearkening back to the classic female blues singers. She carries on that tradition in the swagger and confidence of her lyrics, which don’t shy away from saying what she wants and why she wants it.
“A lot of jazz and blues music is innuendo songs. That just fascinated me that these women are singing these inappropriate things and you don’t even realize it. I think that’s what drew me to music, expressing a point of view of a woman that is not necessarily what you hear about all the time.”
The band’s new album, Untamed Beast, due out February 19th, carries on where their first release, Dirty Radio, left off. The band is rocking a bit harder this time around, adding a ‘60s garage rock sound to the mix as well as a rowdier, more energetic attitude.
“Rock ‘n’ roll to me is something that’s wild and cursing and unapologetic and untamed. So that’s really what this record is about.”