OF ALL THE NAMES mercilessly slung about when attempting to describe the pitch and character of Sallie Ford's wondrously unique voice—Joanna Newsom, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, and bafflingly enough, Amy Winehouse—none of them come close to her true vocal equal: Olive Oyl. Not necessarily the cartoon beanpole muse of a certain spinach-craving sailor, but more the Shelley Duvall character from the ill-fated 1980 Popeye film and her contribution to the underappreciated Harry Nilsson-penned soundtrack. In numbers like the bubbly pop song "He Needs Me"—which remained in the pop culture spotlight long after the bloated film from which it derived faded from memory—Duvall's childlike squeal and swaying melody enter a vocal stratosphere that few can match; with the exception of Ford, of course.
The product of Asheville, North Carolina, Ford packed her bags and headed west to Portland, destination unseen. "People in Portland don't know about Asheville, but people in Asheville definitely know about Portland," she explains. Ford's cross-country relocation was not musically driven, but following the change of scenery, she found her rightful place behind the mic. "I mostly grew up playing classical violin, singing, and doing musical theater, but when I moved here, it just brought it out in me."
Via the open mic scene, Ford's unique voice found willing ears, and soon a pair of Alaskan bandmates, Ford Tennis (drums) and Tyler Tornfelt (upright bass), joined the ranks, followed by one more member, Jeffrey Munger, plucked off the street while busking at Last Thursday. Thus, the Southern gal with the inimitable set of pipes found herself sharing a stage with the Sound Outside.
The band quickly crafted the warm, rural-tinged Americana-pop sound that resonates on their Not an Animal EP, which despite its first recording jitters, was more than enough to capture the attention of fellow North Carolinians the Avett Brothers. The wildly popular Avetts extended an invite to Ford & Co. to join them on the road, a whirlwind tour of large venues that they just wrapped up. Yet instead of resting on their laurels, Ford and the Sound Outside are staying as active as possible, at one time having nearly a dozen upcoming local shows on the docket. "We really just want to play enough as possible. We're willing to put in the work."