Sallie Ford

Sallie Ford

There are artists who can command attention. They lean into their songs with an irresistible edge and total emotional connection and stay there. Sallie Ford is one of those artists. On her fourth album, Soul Sick, Ford gathered her strengths, took them into Portland’s Type Foundry studio along with producer Mike Coykendall (M Ward, She & Him) at the helm and created music that draws on all of her influences but still comes out her own. Looking at her life, there isn’t much way it could have come out differently. And this is the album which proves it.

Sallie Ford grew up in Asheville, North Carolina in a musical family. At nineteen she moved to Portland, OR to explore her creative side which led to her career in music. Like all aspiring artists, there were enough twists and turns along with several serious dead ends, but Sallie persevered by creating songs that took those life challenges and turned them upside down into inspired music. Much of it is inspired by ‘60s music, whether it’s the music of the British Invasion like the Kinks and the Troggs, or American groups Canned Heat and ? & the Mysterians. Add on other influences like girl groups the Shirelles, the Shangri- Las and the Ronettes, and the sound of Soul Sick comes into focus.

As Sallie describes, “This is a ‘confessional’ album. It’s about struggling with my issues – some that I’ve overcome and some that I still carry around.” The album opens with the line, “Woke up feeling sour on the sweetest summer day,” which just about sums up Sallie Ford’s state of mind a few years ago. A band breakup with the Sound Outside in 2013 led to new realizations about the things in her life that needed to change. As she jumped headfirst into those efforts, she signed with Vanguard Records, handpicked a new all-female backing band and released the debut album under her own name, 2014’s Slap Back. It marked a big transition in Ford’s sound, allowing her voice to take center stage amid a band sound of chugging distorted grit. It also gave her a new chance to take a stronger grip on her career and her personal life. With those deep shifts gave new questions, though, ones that weren’t always easy to answer. “I felt confused, down about life and unsure of myself,” explains Ford.

In search of definitive answers, Sallie Ford began therapy, “This is an album about insecurity, anxiety and depression, especially after the Sound Outside and I split up and had my first summer in four years where I wasn’t touring.” Ford says. “I was a middle child and a homeschooler, so I’ve always felt like an outsider. I explored what my music means to me, and how I’ve always struggled with feeling the pressure of not being good enough and wanting to quit. On these new songs, it felt good to write on one theme and from one place. All in all, Soul Sick has taught me a lot about myself and helped me to heal.”

A lot of that healing is captured in the actual music played on the album. It is laced with a lot of nostalgic feeling, and produced to enhance that essence. “I asked Mike Coykendall (M. Ward and She & Him) to produce, Ford says. “He loves old rock & roll and always records on tape, but he’s also an experimenter,
exploring new things with his music. He’s the most honest and genuine musician I’ve met. This album is as much his creation as mine. It was spontaneous in a lot of ways, but also the best-crafted thing I’ve ever done.”

One listen to Soul Sick attests to all those thoughts. Ford’s vocals continue to mature, with less nuanced delivery and more belting clarity. Her vulnerability and ‘60s fusion have evolved her sound into new territory, but also provide a bridge for new and previous listeners. “I think my biggest goal with this new album is to be relatable to what I originally started out as, as well as what I’ve become,” Ford says.

No matter how you approach Soul Sick, the only prognosis is: mission accomplished. With a new studio band including Garth Klippert (Old Light) and Kris Doty (Modern Kin) on board, the fire is there. Add on guest musicians Ben Nugent (Dolorean), Ralph Carney (Tom Waits, the B-52s), John Coykendall and Kirk Hamilton, and these 11 new songs stand as Sallie Ford’s step into a new world. “It wasn’t even my goal at first to write these songs, it was more like ‘I want to write about struggling with my demons.’ But it became something more. I felt like some of that negativity I was able to write about with a positive light after the fact.”

SOUL SICK
FEBRUARY 10, 2017

Mike Coykendall

Veteran songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Mike Coykendall has been amazingly prolific over the last three decades or so. Currently most well known for his duties as a sideman, producer, and recordist via his work with M Ward, Blitzen Trapper, She & Him, Annalisa Tornfelt, & Tin Hat Trio, to name a few, Coykendall has been making his own unique outsider records since the mid '80s.

Coykendall (pronounced "Kirk-in-doll) was raised near the dead center of the contiguous 48 states of America in rural Norwich, Kansas. In early high school he began playing drums and guitar and went on to perform in mid-western regional cover bands during the early 80's. In the mid 80's he started writing and recording his own songs on cassette 4-track and soon formed Wichita, Kansas based prarie-psych popsters Klyde Konnor. Klyde was a prolific and daring band that self-released approximately nine cassette albums between '86 and '91.

In '91, he moved to San Francisco where he and wife Jill formed The Old Joe Clarks. The Old Joes worked hard and made three nuanced, highly acclaimed Americana-esque records. 1996's Town of Ten, 1999's Metal Shed Blues, & 2003's November.

In '99 after relocating to Portland, Oregon, Coykendall was able to expand his home studio and begin working other artists. One of those artists was M Ward. Their first collaboration was Ward's 2003 masterpiece Transfiguration of Vincent. Soon after, Coykendall became a member of Ward's touring band (also with She & Him), which continues to this day. In 2007 Coykendall finally gave up his day job to focus solely on music. Attrition pays off.

In 2012 Coykendall released his third solo record titled Chasing Away the Dots via Portland’s Fluff & Gravy Records. Dots is a widely varied, moody yet playful record with a lived-in feel and is the perfect vehicle for Coykendall's unfurnished vocals. This tidy little diamond in the rough also contained guest appearances by some of Coykendall's musical friends including M Ward, Zooey Deschanel, Eric Earley, & Ben Gibbard.

Translating Dots to a live setting was an undertaking, as the record itself was filled with guest performances and layers of studio psychedelia. Coykendall met that challenge by essentially turning the record inside-out and stripping it down to it’s basic elements. He took to rocking these songs out with an oversized Kay electric guitar while stomping a tin can kick drum and swishing away on a huge set of high-hat cymbals. He began calling it the "rig", and it stuck. These spontaneous performances are often a thick mix of Coykendall's own compositions and reinterpretations of other writer's famous or not-s0-famous gems. Not working from a set list and seemingly testing each situation to see what boundaries can be pushed.

In late 2015 Coykendall will be releasing a new record called Half Past, Present Pending, partnering again with Fluff & Gravy Records. On this record, Coykendall takes the listener closer to the live "rig" performances by mixing excellent new compositions (check out "Hard Landing") with compositions from his back catalogue (check out "East of Cheney" or "Spacebaker Blues") in with fresh interpretations of other writers songs (he covers Roger Miller, Syd Barrett, etc) to great effect. What goes around comes around. He plans to be touring the states solo with the "rig" in late 2015 and on into 2016.

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