Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside Interview: The Sound That Made Jack White Take Notice

Finding the cute-as-a-button Sallie Ford waiting for me on a couch, legs swinging like a child whose feet don’t quite touch the floor, automatically puts a smile on your face. It’s late in the day on the final night of Sasquatch Music Festival and, having just played a show on the Yeti Stage, Sallie Ford doesn’t appear the least bit tired, smiling away and watching the buzz of the media room slowly die out.

The North Carolina native quickly apologizes for taking up my time while John C. Reilly plays the stage just outside, making it quite clear that she’d very much like to catch this show herself so without delay, I take my cue and decide a few questions in here and then possibly finish the interview by watching a show on the interview with the uniquely talented Sallie Ford.

So a girl from North Carolina, a one-time Portland busker, and a couple of guys down from Alaska and you all found each other in Portland. Did the Portland music scene draw you in or was it happenstance that you guys formed up there?

I don’t know… I recently found out that there’s a great music history in the Pacific Northwest as far as The Ventures and The Sonics and that’s really inspiring. So that’s where I feel I’ll move towards eventually: that type of music, I guess. More rock n’ roll.

You can hear fun influences of swing and swing-style music all throughout your album. Even back in the 30’s and the beginning of the swing era, swing was known as being risque and having risque lyrics and with the honest and straight-shooting lyrics you put out there, are you worried about radio-play?

If you listen to our “single”, I Swear, I’m willing to use [laughs] “cuss” words in my music and I think we’re to the point where, ya, certain radio stations won’t play it but… actually some radio stations can still play that stuff. Canadian stations are a bit more ‘lax and Europe and that. I don’t want to get SUPER controversial or anything, like getting nude on stage or anything [laughs]. Sometimes being controversial is fun though, so why not?

With things going so well for you right now; Letterman, your album Dirty Radio really gaining momentum, playing bigger festivals, as a group do you find you’re becoming more of a loving family or is there a need for time apart every once in a while?

Ya, sometimes break time is nice [laughs]. When we tour in Europe we’re lucky that there are some people helping us out financially so we’re able to get our own hotel rooms, which is nice. We also enjoy time off but we don’t really get that much these days…

Have you gotten any time off recently to chill out in Portland or see your family back in North Carolina?

Not really, no. It’s always hard with the move to the west coast. I never really get back to see my family as often as I should but my dad [puppeteer Hoby Ford] also travels a lot so I got to see him in Denver a few weeks ago. As a band, we’re in Portland sometimes but right now it’s different with Europe and the tour there. That’s been keeping us busy and we’ve been recording recently as well as getting a tour ready for the fall in the U.S.

Recording a new album or just piecing one together slowly?

We recorded a new album. I think late September is when we’re aiming to have it come out, so that’s exciting.

Speaking of your European tour, you guys are all over the map in Europe. Was that your first time over there so trying to spread the name as far and wide as you could?

No, I mean, we were there all of February and part of March but also in late November of last year we were there touring. We keep going back there, we can’t stop. We just took a trip in late March just to play on t.v. there. A day trip to Paris, you know! [laughs] And I think this year we’ll probably fly two or three more times, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Back to your family briefly; I read that your mother is a musician and music teacher. Do you ever pass your songs over her way and ask, “So… any good?”

[Laughs] Oh, man! I don’t know. Usually, that’s my band and I feel like they’re the best for me to do that with. I think I was really lucky to have my mom as a music teacher as a kid though. She’s so busy these days that just getting on the phone to catch up, we hardly have time for that. My parents always hear my early recordings and they’re just so supportive and all they do is just encourage me! As far as bringing the beginnings of songs to them and stuff, it’s actually why I think the band works so well because I might be uncertain about songs but I’ll bring them to the band and we’ll all shape things in a way that makes me think, “Okay, this is really good, actually.” As well as the fact that we just worked with producers for the first time and that was, well, they were definitely honest and little bit hard to hear at times. They’d walk in and go, “This song… I don’t think we should pursue this.” or, “We should change this little part, here.” which is good, it’s necessary.

Do you feel that having this new structure around you now that you’re signed to a label has changed the way you write, possibly even the sound a bit as opposed to just creating, recording it, and putting it out for people to hear?

Well, I actually haven’t done a lot of writing since then, so… I just bought a baritone guitar and I’m planning to do some writing on that and I think having a new instrument can be really inspiring. I just bought that fender [that she performed with earlier] about four or five months ago so I’ll probably use that to write with if I get some time off. I go through spurts, and producers have nothing to do with that. I’ll not write anything for a while but then I’ll write five songs all of a sudden, so I’m not too worried about it [laughs]. For now, I don’t want to write a bunch of stuff that I’m gonna have to wait to play.

Being from Vancouver myself, I have to ask, any plans for Canadian stops on a tour soon?

Of course, ya. Actually, we were just there… last night! [laughs] In Vancouver! We played at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre opening for Jack White! It was awesome! It was kind of a last minute thing that it happened…

Opening for Jack White… wow… Did you get to meet him?

It was insane. It was so cool [shakes her head in disbelief]. So cool! I did meet him. I didn’t know how it was gonna all go down but I think it all went down perfectly! We got a brief interaction, we were setting up our gear, he walked over, shook our hands, and just seems like a nice guy. He has got quite the production! Watching his show was just amazing too. He is… just… the best! He has to be one of the most original acts out there. Such a hard-working person too. Seeing him work was just amazing.

Would you consider that an influence of yours then? Are there others that you’d like to meet to let them know how they’ve inspired you?

It was pretty sweet to meet Jack White, obviously, but yeah. I’d love to meet The Black Keys, Tom Waits… I mean all of those are really talented people that I feel still have a good head on their shoulders and they’re still genuine people, from what I’ve heard. I think just meeting artists that, well, they do things that I guess could be considered “selling out” but they still work hard to do other things that aren’t necessary for them anymore. Like Jack White playing tiny, small theatres or The Black Keys putting on a show in a big arena that still feels intimate and they work hard to make it that way. Tom Waits is the same way… more so. That guy hasn’t done any commercials, any licensing, nothing. He also had it made cause he started so long ago. I think that path would be impossible for us to do. I really don’t mind, “selling out” as some people call it. There’s definitely a limit, but we have to make money. It’s a career, a job, you know?

Is it about time we head out to see us some John C. Reilly?

Absolutely! I think I have another interview but I can sneak out. And, as for Vancouver, hopefully we’ll be touring there in the fall. I know we’re going to be doing CD release shows in Portland and Seattle for sure but we’d love to make it up to Vancouver, too.

With the swinging, rocking, funky sound that Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside bring, it’s no wonder Jack White took notice. If she finds her way to Vancouver again I suspect they’ll only be bigger and better by that point and likely to find themselves an excited audience no matter where they tour. You can find their debut album “Dirty Radio” on iTunes or in select music stores in Vancouver so find your way to their sound and know that you’ll be up dancing around your house in no time!

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