A Conversation with Sallie Ford – HuffPost 10.31.14

Mike Ragogna: Sallie, your album Slap Back seems to evoke many iconic rockers such as Joan Jett, Pat Benatar and Heart. How influential were these artists to you and who are some of your other influences?

Sallie Ford: When I first started writing the songs for this record I was listening to a lot of The Monks and Skeeter Davis. Those are both very different, but I love that era of music from the 60’s. Skeeter Davis had pop songs with honest lyrics and amazing vocal layers. The Monks were raw and were ahead of their time, almost like punk before punk. I wanted to bring both those sounds to the music I was making. I also wanted to play surfy guitar licks, like The Ventures and The Surfaris.

I also knew I didn’t wanna make music that was just retro. I wanted to write from a more straightforward direction and sing that way too. There are a lot of double vocals–meaning I sang the parts twice and we layered them–and I am now addicted to that sound, cause it’s reminiscent of The Ramones and also gives the vocals some depth. As I was writing the record, I was sharing songs with my friend and producer, Chris Funk. One day I admitted that I kinda wished that I could start over and write more classic rock songs, like Heart. He said I could still incorporate those sounds and encouraged me to keep writing songs for the record and not over think it. Up until I was in the studio, I kept writing songs and once I was in the studio, Funk helped us to build a fluid “sound.”

MR: What’s your own musical history, like instruments, instruction,
first performance, all that stuff!

SF: I started playing music and singing at a young age. I took violin lessons for 7 years and a few years of piano, guitar and singing lessons. I performed a lot with my violin and I also did a lot of musical theater. I quit music when I was 16 cause I wanted to escape the classical music world and do something wild and rebellious. I watched tons of “R” rated movies, dyed my hair crazy colors & listened to punk rock. I started to get into other art forms like photography, painting & filmmaking, but I never felt like I could fully express myself the way I wanted to. I got back into music when I went to college briefly at UNCA and met a girl that inspired me to start singing again. After traveling in Europe, I moved to Portland and that’s when I started writing music and singing. My first show was in the basement of my first house in SE Portland.

MR: What’s the story behind Slap Back? How were the songs written and recordings created?

SF: I have never been able to write a concept record, but my songs are pulled from my life. All the songs are about relationships: friendships, love, breakup. There are also some songs about letting go and just being impulsive–but again, that’s good relationship advice, haha. I wrote the songs by myself first, then shared them with my producer and band. We worked out most of the songs beforehand and then we were in the studio! We recorded at our drummers studio called Destination Universe! It took about a month of recording on and off.

MR: Were there any surprises during the process, like an obvious jump in the quality of the writing or some personal revelations or maybe discoveries about the people in your subject matter?

SF: While I was writing, I recorded demos on my tascam 4-track cassette recorder. Some of the songs weren’t done, but I found that making demos early on, on the cassette recorder helped me finish the songs quicker and build a sound and style for all the songs. One of the first demos I recorded ended up on the record. It’s the first intro song that’s like a mini-song and it’s just vocals. I’m stoked that it ended up on there!

MR: Are there any songs on Slap Back that you would say most represent your creative space right now?

SF: “Dive in” is a song with a good lyric mantra for me. Some of the lyrics that hold very true to me creatively–and with everything else in my life as well–are, “I wanna scream and shout. I wanna let it out. I wanna jump right in. I wanna make it count,” “I wanna dive right in. I don’t care about mistakes. I wanna take a chance, cause that is what it takes,” “I want it to hurt, cause when it hurts, it hurts so good.” This record is a jump in a different direction. The songs still have a retro, classic feel, but have experimental/psychedelic sounds that layer on top.

MR: “Coulda Been” seems to be the story of the love that almost was. Was this a particular relationship you had? Might it also be a metaphor regarding ideals or precious things we want from life that we get so close to achieving but just miss for whatever reasons? Too heavy?

SF: The lyrics of “Coulda Been” are pretty straight forward, just about relationship games that people have in the beginning parts of a romance. I have two sisters and many girlfriends that have vented about their love lives to me for years and of course I’ve experienced the same things, but wrote the song after I felt like I was done with all the games. I guess it could be about life’s power games as well.

MR: Are your recordings and live performances two different brands of rocking or are you trying to achieve the same thing with both outlets?

SF: They are different. In the studio it’s more about building a rocking sound and it ends up being bigger as you add more sounds. Whereas live, there is more pressure to really put physical energy into it in order to rock. I like to gauge how crazy the audience is and if they get there, that gives me energy. It’s nice to play louder music though, cause it fills a bar and I end up dancing naturally.

MR: Ultimately, what are your expectations of your music?

SF: At this point I haven’t gone to school and I’ve put all my time into building what I have. I just wanna have fun, but still make a living doing it. It would be cool if this record gets us some new fans though!

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

SF: I always just focused on the music and the business stuff happened for me. I’m very lucky, but I think that the music is the most important part and if it’s good, the fans and business people will come to you. Also, don’t be afraid to be DIY for atleast a few years and own it.

MR: What’s next for Sallie Ford following the Slap Back?

SF: Going on a US and Canada tour in November and December. I’m hoping we will go back to Europe next year!!

MR: What’s the one thing you wish people knew about you that they still don’t?

SF: I did post this on my social media stuff, but I’m still proud to reveal that my great great-great-grandmother was a tattooed lady in the circus around 1900. Pretty badass.

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