Sallie Ford: Healing the Sick Soul

Since the release of her latest album ‘Soul Sick’ earlier this year, Sallie Ford has been on the road touring in support of the album. The Portland-based singer/songwriter started out in the Pacific Northwest, hit Canada, then came back down to hit more of the United States before heading overseas to Paris, Copenhagen, and various other stops on the European leg of the tour.

‘Soul Sick’ (Vanguard Records) is a roots-driven femme-rock album which plays like a confessional for Ford. The singer hit a patch of depression and questioned her self-confidence, sometimes not knowing where to turn or who to turn to. So, she sunk herself deep into her music to battle these demons and if the response is any indication, she is a winner.

We sat down with Sallie Ford during a short break from touring and talked about those demons, the new album, and her sweet Fender Jaguar.

Innocent Words: Your sound on this record has been described as vintage and retro with a modern twist. How would you like your music/sound to be known as?

Sallie Ford: I am inspired by the past but also want to make something new. I guess I would describe this record as surf/garage/doo wop.

Innocent Words: Growing up, why did you consider yourself “the weird one?”

Sallie Ford: It’s more because I was the middle child. I also was homeschooled until high school and it took a long time to get used to that and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Every creative/wacky person realizes after high school that they were cooler than the “cool.” I’m proud to be weird now and was lucky to come from a creative family that supports me.

Innocent Words: In the early days of going to Portland, did you ever have any regrets or ever think about moving home? It takes some pretty big balls to move across the country at 18.

Sallie Ford: Just before I moved to Portland I backpacked around Europe by myself for two months. I felt like I could do anything after that and sometimes I think I was braver than that I am now. I pretty much built my life in Portland by using Craigslist. That’s how I found my first house, first friends and got asked to play my first house show. Portland was different back then. It was cheaper and people were still moving there but it was more obscure then it is now. I moved there at the perfect time.

Innocent Words: In a four-year span, you went from busking in the streets of Portland to releasing two full lengths, two EPs, and touring with the Avett brothers. How surreal was that and did it feel like everything you had hoped for?

Sallie Ford: I remember watching this cheesy documentary based on a book called “The Secret.” It inspired me to start pursuing music and shortly after that things seem to fall into my lap. I never felt desperate enough to push myself at people and met all my connections organically. I got to meet the Avett Brothers from my friend Jeremy, who lived in the same house as me off Hawthorne Boulevard. He was also from North Carolina and that’s how he had met them.

Innocent Words: When you broke up your band the Sound Outside, some might consider that a risky move since you guys were doing really well. Was it solely to form the all-female band or did the Sound Outside just run its course?

Sallie Ford: The Sound Outside guys were sick of touring and we discussed just taking a break. Then I was going to just have the girl band as a side project but the more I talked to the guys the clearer it was that it was the end of that band. To me, I don’t see what I’m doing now as a separate project. I have always been the main songwriter and each band I have has contributed different things but I think even if I had stayed with the Sound Outside I would have kept changing my sound and experimenting. It was easier to just go by Sallie Ford though, because it was too much of a mouthful before.

Innocent Words: On one hand, I love how beautiful this record is, but on the other hand as someone who battles depression, it is very relatable. You really bare your soul about anxiety, insecurity, and depression. Were these songs therapeutic for you? Do you know what caused all those mixed emotions? More importantly, are you ok? (God, I sound like a therapist, sorry.)

Sallie Ford: I wrote the album while I was in therapy. It’s a lot about that. I still battle with issues but I think it helped a lot to write this record. Part of me is very dramatic and that’s kind of what I wanted to show and express on this record. Sometimes I like to self-sabotage and will exaggerate when I’m in a bad mood. I guess everyone has that part of themselves that’s dark and almost like a pit of hell. That’s not all of me and I think going through therapy got rid of the darkest and worst thoughts for sure.

Innocent Words: Even though this is an emotional album dealing with dark topics, there is a sense of hope. Is that what got you through the tough times?

Sallie Ford: Still figuring it all out, haha. But I do hope that the conclusion of the record has a happy ending.

Innocent Words: On “Failure” you sing about being 15 and failing. Was this a common worry? Also, a lover of “Better Off Dead,” I appreciate the reference in the song.

Sallie Ford: I struggled a lot with depression in high school and had this fantasy that I’d go so crazy they’d have to send me to a mental hospital. Maybe it’s because I watched too many movies back then (“Girl Interrupted” was a fave). And yes, “Better Off Dead” is one of my faves too.

Innocent Words: Looking back on this record, what do you hope to accomplish? Are you hoping people will hear it and it will help them get through tough times or were you just writing this to help you heal?

Sallie Ford: A little of both I guess. Mostly writing it helped with my writer’s block because once I had a theme for the record, writing seemed so easy suddenly.

Innocent Words: I’m a guitar nerd. Tell me about that beautiful Fender you have in your promo photo?

Sallie Ford: That’s my Fender Jaguar. I got a killer deal on it and it was meant to be a guitar I could just tour with and not worry about but it’s my fave now. I also have a vintage Fender Jazzmaster and a hollow body vintage Harmony Rocket. I’m thinking about getting a Gibson Firebird.

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