Blessed with a strong, distinctive, and versatile instrument, vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Sallie Ford first earned a reputation for her inspired retro-styled music that incorporated elements of vintage jazz, blues, and rock, before she shifted gears with an adventurous and updated sound and a new band. Ford was born in Asheville, North Carolina on September 4, 1987. She grew up in a family of artists -- her father was a well-known puppeteer and her mother taught music -- but feeling intimidated by their well-respected backgrounds, she preferred to be "the weird one" (her phrase) in the household, and turned her back on her childhood violin lessons to take up guitar and concentrate on her singing.
In 2006, Ford dropped out of college and moved to Portland, Oregon; influenced by fellow Southerners the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Cat Power, as well as her longtime favorite Tom Waits, Ford began forging a new singing and songwriting style while supporting herself by waiting tables. When Ford met bassist Tyler Tornfelt and drummer Ford Tennis, two Alaskans who had come to Portland to form a new band, the three clicked and formed a trio that soon expanded to a quartet when guitarist Jeffrey Munger saw them busking on a Portland sidewalk. Calling their quartet Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, they released their debut EP in 2009, and the following year they were named Portland's best new band by Willamette Week. Another lucky break arrived when a member of the Avett Brothers heard the new band and championed their clever, offbeat retro sound, talking up Ford and company in interviews and taking the group on the road as the Brothers' opening act.
After signing a deal with Partisan Records, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside cut two albums (2011's Dirty Radio and 2013's Untamed Beast) and an EP (2013's Summer) before announcing in December 2013 that Ford and her band were parting ways. Ford had said more than once that one of her ambitions was to form an all-female band, and with the Sound Outside in her past, she made good on her promise. For her new combo, Ford took over on lead guitar and recruited Cristina Cano (of Albatross and Siren & the Sea) on keyboards, Anita Lee Elliot (from Viva Voce and Blue Giant) on bass, and Amanda Spring (a veteran of Point Juncture, WA) on drums. Inspired by a handful of her favorite female rockers ranging from Pat Benatar to Exene Cervenka to PJ Harvey, Ford began writing songs with a more aggressive and modern sound, and headed into the studio with Chris Funk of the Decemberists as producer. Ford's first album credited solely to her, Slap Back, was released by Vanguard Records in October 2014. She continued to work on her own for 2017's Soul Sick, which was also released on Vanguard. ~ Mark Deming