With 2016 winding down to a close, we were lucky enough to squeeze in a chat with the eclectic indie-rock guitar-slinger Sallie Ford for our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One. In our interview, Ford gives us some nice details about her upcoming album Soul Sick (out February 17), her use of her younger self as a songwriting partner via old journals, her knack for creating inspired visual art (as evidenced by some of the amazing pieces you can purchase via her current PledgeMusic campaign), and much more!
NoiseTrade: You’ve described your new album Soul Sick as a “confessional” album. Did you decide that direction before you started writing the songs or did you recognize that theme after the fact?
Sallie Ford: I think I always have written confessional lyrics, but they tended to be more about sex and anger. I knew I wanted to write an album about struggling with my demons. I was lyrically inspired by how Sufjan Stevens has written some of his records with a story and going through that journey with him. Carrie & Lowell was an especially personal record from Sufjan.
NT: “Get Out” is the album’s inspired first single. What can you tell us about the writing and recording of this garage-rock singalong and its retro wah-wah guitar solo?
Ford: This was one of the first songs I wrote for this album before I really knew what I was writing about. It is about struggling with feeling insecure in the music business and having thoughts of wanting to give up on it. But my music career and my personal life are very intertwined. Thoughts can get spun in my head and the easiest way to retreat is to have a plan of escape.
As for the wah wah solo, I fell in love with the wah wah after listening to the Wicked Lady album The Axeman Cometh. The album is laced with dreamy psychedelic wah wah guitar.
NT: One of your new songs “Loneliness is Power” contains lyrics that were culled from some of your old journals. How did it feel to revisit a younger version of yourself through that songwriting process and have you done that before for any other songs?
Ford: I wanted to revisit my old journals to capture raw moments that I knew I had written down and never used but could still relate with. I really should still keep a journal, but I’ve fell out of the practice. I used to be so good about it and would make my own journals and incorporate my art as well.
I have gone back and edited down sections of my old journals for songwriting before. Writing from a stream of thought place tends to make you most honest and then you can edit after.
NT: You’ve included some really cool handmade pieces in your PledgeMusic campaign, like postcards, watercolor paintings, and embroidery hoops. Is this something you’ve always done or have you picked it up recently as an additional way to connect with fans?
Ford: I grew up playing classical music and then quit in high school to focus on visual art. I loved photography, painting & filmmaking. I liked being behind the scenes and not in the spotlight. Then, I moved to Portland and that all changed. I had dabbled in signing some jazzy inspired covers and played them for some friends at a house party right after moving to Portland. Their reaction was so positive and I thought “maybe I should really try this…” and started writing songs in that style. Over the last few years I have gotten back into doing visual art though. It’s nice to do both and especially when visual art isn’t my job and there’s no pressure there.
NT: This is your second solo album since fronting The Sound Outside. What are some of the differences you’ve experienced between working within a band and working solo?
Ford: It’s nice to collaborate with different people. This record still has a cast of different folks and each song is a different line up of a band. It’s nice to have that freedom to work with different people for each record. I have learned more and more from each different player I play with.
NT: Finally, The New Yorker described you as a “a cross between Liz Phair and Buddy Holly.” Do you feel that’s an accurate assessment of your sound and if not, which two artists would you substitute into that quote?
Ford: At first when people started saying I sounded like Buddy Holly, I thought it might be just because of the glasses. I’m not too familiar with Liz Phair but I suppose the “folky” aspect was something I had when I first started, but my music has changed a lot since then. I also am guessing it’s cause I swear a lot in my music and so does she, maybe? I’m just guessing here.
If I had to say two artists that I’m a mashup of, I’d say The Kinks and Skeeter Davis, or maybe PJ Harvey and Billie Holiday? I dunno, there’s so many.
When writer Will Hodge (@will_hodge) isn’t wondering what is the difference between asleep and awake, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack