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Sallie Ford – Famed Singer and Songwriter from Portland Oregon

By PDX People

PORTLAND, Ore. – Over the last 10 years Sallie Ford has been one of the most well-known singer / song writers to come from Portland Oregon.

With an iconic rockabilly sound, Sallie Ford has been someone that PDX People and long-time music fans clamor to see live in Portland Oregon.

Living in Portland since 2006 after she dropped out of college and moved to the city with the hopes of starting a career in the music industry.

Shortly after moving to Portland, Sallie would connect with Tyler Tornfelt, Ford Tennis and Jeffrey Munger to form The Sound Outside, a band with a pure “Rockabilly” sound that received scores of positive reviews from publications like USA today and the band soon was touring the United States as the opening act for The Avett Brothers.

About Sallie Ford

Sallie Ford is the daughter of puppeteer Hobey Ford, and grew up in Asheville, North Carolina before moving to Oregon. In Portland, she worked as a waitress, and met Alaskan fisherman Tyler Tornfelt and Ford Tennis and Jeff Munger who were “scraping by”. With Ford on vocals and guitar, Tennis on drums, Munger on guitar, and Tornfelt on upright bass, they had a band in 2007. They played local clubs in the Portland area.

According to singer Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers, Ford’s songs have that “rare quality of somehow combining fun with emotional and artistic integrity” and she “fills the room with it” and reminds him of the “energy of early rock ‘n’ roll.” The group opened for The Avett Brothers and recorded a five-song EP entitled Not an Animal. Ford’s voice has been compared to Ella FitzgeraldTom WaitsBillie Holiday, with possible influences from Bessie Smith and Snoop Doggand used the words “two-step big beat gospel” to describe the effect. The group has toured the United States, including cities such as Seattle,  and have appeared in Nashville. A reviewer for the Portland Mercury suggested that listeners should dress in 1950s style with a “trilby hat”, and described the group as “energetic.

Sallie Ford

Recording with The Sound Outside

Sallie’s time with The Sound Outside was a building block for her career as a singer / song writer. In this interview she describes the process of creating an EP with the Sound Outside.

Jeff (guitar), Ford (drums), Tyler (bass) and I recorded the songs over a four-day weekend in October 2012 with Mike Coykendall at his Blue Rooms studio in Portland, OR. Mike is the best; a musician, engineer and producer who has recorded and toured with folks like M. Ward, She & Him, Blitzen Trapper and Bright Eyes. We had worked with him before on the Dirty Radio album. He’s a Portland celebrity of sorts, yet he remains very chill, humble and sweet. But enough about Mike…

We wanted the songs to sound more raw than our full albums Dirty Radio and Untamed Beast, so we recorded with a simple setup that would probably have been right at home in the mid-1960’s: just a few vintage microphones, all live, and all in the same room

I wrote all the songs while surfy, punky, very raw sounds ricocheted in my mind. All the songs on the EP capture the feeling of summer for me: they’re my “summer songs.” In 2012 I was very obsessed with Portland band Satan’s Pilgrims, a killer surf band. I also was listening to The Ventures, T Rex and a couple of other garage rock legends like The Troggs, The Sonics … you get the drift.

“The Eagle Has Landed” is our first-ever instrumental song. I knew I wanted to write an instrumental song, I think I just came up with the idea while playing around on my sweet vintage Fender Jazzmaster.

“Fuck That” is a song about just going with your gut and diving in to things–whether that be going with your gut feeling, falling into relationships, getting a tattoo or literally jumping off a rock into a lake. It’s about letting go and taking a risk even if others disapprove of your choice or try to warn you off.

“Lips N’ Hips” is about one-night stands or summer flings, and that romantic hope they instill, even though most of the time you don’t ever see the person again—or at least that’s what my friends tell me! I guess the secret irrational hope is that you’ll run away together even though you don’t truly know each other.

“Bumpin” is a song that Jeff & I wrote together while on tour, driving in the van. I just wanted to write about having a crush, but Jeff turned the song in a raunchy direction—which I of course approved of immediately! I think we all know what kind of “bumpin” Jeff wanted to write about!

“(I’d Go The) Whole Wide World” is a cover of a Wreckless Eric song we have been playing in our live sets for a while. It was Ford’s suggestion to start covering it and I liked it because I knew the song from “High Fidelity.” I love that movie, so I was game. We haven’t released a cover before so I thought it would be great to include cause the song has a summery feel to it and gets across the limitless possibilities summer can whisper in your ear.

PDX People

Awesome Stage Presence

Thanks to touring with the Sound Outside, and on her own since the band split up in 2011, Sallie Ford has developed an awesome stage presence while she “channels” the smooth voice of Etta James and the rock tunes of Tom Waits.


Lead singer of Portland-based rock band Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside. They have been deemed a rockabilly band.

Her voice has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Waits, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Snoop Dogg.

Her music was praised by Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers for bringing back the energy of the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.

Before fame

She met her bandmates–Alaskan fisherman Tyler Tornfelt, Ford Tennis, and Jeff Munger–while she was employed as a waitress.

Related to

Her father was Hobey Ford, a puppeteer, and she grew up in Asheville, North Carolina.

The meaning of the name Ford: River Crossing


Soul Sick

Sallie Ford continues to be one of the busiest singer / song writers from Portland Oregon as she recently recorded a new album “Soul Sick” and after the album’s release has been touring around the world including an upcoming trip to Italy and France.

Ford calls “Soul Sick” a confessional album, which is especially apparent on tracks dealing with issues like fear and the eventual acceptance of failure, or how hard life for a middle child can be.

The sound on “Soul Sick” is a bridge between Ford’s work with the Sound Outside and her newly redefined sound from “Slap Back.” The retro feel from her past music is present through the entire album, which does a nice job tying the piece together; but listeners also experience a more genuine and raw Ford than ever before.

“I’ve always liked retro music,” Ford said. “A lot of my childhood I listened to oldies music, and I wanted this album to sound kind of nostalgic that way.”

Nostalgia plays a big role in this album, and several songs tap into Ford’s childhood angst. The resulting product is a refectory piece on personal growth. Not only is “Soul Sick” a relatable album that can remind listeners of their own childhood and personal struggles, but it seems like a positive turning point in Ford’s career. She is able to explore new sounds while simultaneously holding on to her roots and integrity and comes off sounding more mature than ever before.

Ford compares bands to relationships, and in that way, “Soul Sick” is very much an album about a breakup, but also the celebration of a new beginning. As Ford sets out on her North American and European tour, she looks forward to playing shows with her new companions.

“Going out and playing music every night, there is something special about that, and I really love, love, love the people I’m playing with right now,” Ford said.

PDX People

Learn More About PDX People

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