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Sallie Ford looks to the past for new direction in music

Sallie Ford | SUPPLIED PHOTO

At times, life has felt like a maze for singer-songwriter Sallie Ford. Since she was in high school, Ford has struggled with bouts of depression and anxiety. It led to numerous therapy sessions in order to address her hereditary condition. Four years ago, her longtime band the Sound Outside disbanded, leading her to rediscover her musical identity and what she calls a “rush” solo debut.

SALLIE FORD
With: Molly Burch
When: 9:00 p.m. April 7
Where: Schubas, 3159 N. Southport
Tickets: $13 -$15
Info: www.lh-st.com

“I think going solo was the point where I decided to go back to therapy,” Ford recalls. “It was hard separating from the Sound Outside and finding my own identity beyond that. … It was heartbreaking when the Sound Outside ended. I kind of wanted to keep going as long as I could. Sometimes you need to take time off and take things slow.”

The unlucrative profession that is a touring musician resulted in many personal sacrifices for Ford. “Being on tour has been hard for me,” she says. “This year I feel like I’m definitely fighting to do music because it’s not easy. Not financially, especially.”

Like her blunt and honest way of writing songs, Ford is not one to give up without a fierce fight. In focusing on the not-so-pleasant aspects of her life during the writing of her latest album “Soul Sick,” Ford found healing and confidence as an artist.

“I’m finding out that I really have to fight for it,” she says. “But I think it’s worth it. I’ll keep doing even if it’s not a ton of money.”

So far the results of life on the road are promising. Ford recently toured the album in Europe with her newly assembled band. Now she’s touring the new songs in the U.S., including a Chicago stop at Schubas. “I’m really excited about my new band,” says Ford. “I think everyone feels they’re a good mix between what I was doing with the last band and with the Sound Outside. It’s a mix of vintage and modern in its own way.”

Ford has many fond Chicago memories, including playing Lincoln Hall a few times, and one gig at Ribfest a few years ago that she flew out specifically to play. This time she’ll have some extra pep in her step. Focusing on her struggles helped her unravel the maze and give her some clearer direction.

Sallie Ford | SUPPLIED PHOTO

“I did a lot therapy that had to deal with digging into your past and making memories less impactful on your present,” she says. “I think writing the album was a different type of therapy, of searching more of what it all exactly meant to me. Whereas the therapy didn’t necessarily do that. It just healed the past in a way.”

When she was having a case of writer’s block, an idea popped in her head to write a concept album.

“I just felt stuck on what to write on in general and was just tired of writing albums that were just songs about different things and not all one concept,” she says. “I wanted to write something that was honest and also have one theme to an album, which actually makes it easier to write.”

She let her thoughts pour out on the page and later edited them.

“The way I wrote was almost like a journal and stream of thought,” says Ford. “Writing everything all at once, I was thinking and editing after the fact. I’ve never done it like that; it’s never been edited that much. You can catch the most raw emotions if you’re [selective.] But to keep what you feel is the most true after you explored it all out.”

Ford says producer Mike Coykendall helped her realize the vintage yet modern feel she wanted that was true to her ’60s-inspired rock roots. (Her influences include artists like The Beatles and Aretha Franklin and ’60s garage and surf rock.)

“The [new album’s] sound to me is nostalgic in a lot of ways because a lot of the healing process for me was deep-rooted, and that to me is the soundtrack of my childhood in a way,” she says. “I don’t want to just replicate a vintage thing, and that’s where working with [Mike] helped. I feel we had the same vision in mind, which was to be inspired by the past but to create something new. That’s a reason I love my record is that I hear the inspiration he [provided] on the album. I feel very proud of what we created together.”

Joshua Miller is a local freelance writer.