Sallie Ford and friends roll the rockabilly into Walla Walla


WALLA WALLA — Put on your horn-rimmed glasses, press your poodle skirts, shine your penny loafers and prepare to rock with Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside on Tuesday at Canoe Ridge Vineyard’s winery.

There are many factors that contribute to how Sallie Ford found herself touring all over the world, singing in a band she formed herself, performing her own original songs and playing on her own guitar.

The journey began after a backpacking trip in Europe when she was 18 that inspired a life-changing move from Asheville, N.C., to Oregon.

In Portland, she got a job as a waitress, learned guitar, played a show at the request of some friends and then decided to organize her own band.

Ford didn’t dream of becoming a musician when she was younger, unlike many kids. Even now, she does not see it as her only calling.

“I always knew I wanted to be an artist, like my parents,” she said in a recent interview via email as she toured Europe with her band.

“I had a huge obsession with Japan as a kid as well. I thought about moving there and teaching English. I may still follow that dream one day.”

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside are inspired by the rockabilly and rock ’n’ roll movements of the ’50s.

The band’s music has power, soul and a swinging beat worthy of foot-tapping, head-bobbing and dancing.

The band combines a classic sound with a current attitude, attracting a diverse fan base of both young and old.

Ford says she doesn’t target a certain demographic with her music but writes “lyrically from a modern and honest way.”

“When I write my music, I tend to think of writing it for like-minded people,” she said.

Ford’s fiery voice has been compared to that of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, with an occasional touch of Tom Waits’ gravel.

The band has appeared on the “Late Show” with David Letterman and in May was featured with its second album, “Untamed Beast,” on National Public Radio’s “World Cafe.”

According to an NPR interview with Ford, she played her first show for a house party in Portland with a borrowed guitar.

Ford had never written songs for guitar before but had musical experience from singing and playing violin when she was a kid. Playing guitar was a stepping stone to song writing.

“All I knew was that I wanted to sing and try writing songs,” Ford said.

“Guitar seemed the easiest to do with that. Over the years, though, I’ve fallen in love with guitar. I just love all the gadgets and options you have for an electric guitar.”

Living in Portland and on the quest for band-mates, Ford met bass and keyboardist Tyler Tornfelt, drummer Ford Tennis and guitarist Jeff Munger. She credits a good portion of her guitar knowledge to Munger. She also credits him for the band’s “groovy guitar sounds.”

Ford feels fortunate to be surrounded by such amazing musicians.

But she said she does not feel like there was a specific moment when the band knew the sound they created was “it.”

“Our musical chemistry as a band has always come naturally. We rarely discuss what our ‘sound’ is and I feel like that’s why it ends up the way it is.”

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside is wrapping up an international tour including the U.K., Netherlands and Germany.

The band will play the first leg of its U.S. tour on June 23 in Bend, Ore., then come to Walla Walla for the Canoe Ridge show. Local band The Slooches will open.

Ford said she looks forward to her first visit to Walla Walla, rocking out at Canoe Ridge and drinking some good red wine from the area.

Evelyn Levine can be reached at or 509-526-8323.


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