Combining elements of jazz, R&B, and rock & roll -- all during the early stages of their development -- and fusing it with a contemporary energy and swagger, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside are a Portland, Oregon-based quartet who've earned an impressive following in their hometown and made some influential fans, including the Avett Brothers, who've championed the combo and taken them on the road with them.
Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Sallie Ford was raised in Asheville, North Carolina and came from a creative family; her father Hobey Ford is a celebrated puppet artist and her mother is a music teacher. While Sallie learned to play guitar and violin as a child, and enjoyed singing as a teenager, she found herself intimidated by the artistic path followed by her parents and siblings (both of whom were involved in the performing arts), and has described herself as "the weird one" in the family. That changed when Ford moved to Portland in 2006 after dropping out of college; influenced by Cat Power, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Tom Waits, Ford developed greater confidence in her vocal abilities and began appearing at open-mike nights at local clubs. In 2008, she crossed paths with bassist Tyler Tornfelt and drummer Ford Tennis, two friends from Alaska who had been making music together for years and had recently relocated to Portland. Ford discovered she was simpatico with Tornfelt and Tennis, and they began performing together as a trio; when guitarist Jeffrey Munger heard them while playing for change on the street, he liked what he heard and soon volunteered his services, and Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside's lineup was complete.
Later in 2008, the combo self-released an EP, Not an Animal, and word of mouth and positive press helped to make them a top attraction in the Pacific Northwest. When a friend of the band told Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers to give Ford & the Sound Outside a listen, he did and liked what he heard, inviting them to open for the Avetts for a string of West Coast dates, further spreading the word about the act. In 2010, Partisan Records struck a deal with the band, and Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside's first full-length album, Dirty Radio, was released in May 2011. A second full-length, Untamed Beast, produced by Adam Landry and Justin Collins of Deer Tick, followed early in 2013, and the group toured heavily in support, including spots at Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot, and the Newport Folk Festival, as well as a jaunt through Europe. Ford and her group closed out 2013 with the release of another EP, ironically titled Summer. ~ Mark Deming