If there’s anything that both embraces country music and simultaneously goes against its grain, it is the soul-bearing lyrics and wild-child voice of singer and six-time ASCAP Plus songwriting award winner Lani Ford. Born in Texas and cutting her teeth on country legends like Willie, Waylon and Dolly, Ford eventually migrated to New York City to pursue an acting career but soon found herself drawn to musical pursuits influenced by the machine-gun guitar sounds of rockers like AC/DC, Joan Jett, and Van Halen. It was in the hard rock scene of the concrete jungle that Ford first found success fronting the popular band STARK, a favorite of music critics among a sea of male-dominated hard rock bands. However, the rock scene took over Ford’s music in a way she didn’t expect, and admits that she almost lost herself in it. “My life became a canvas of broad strokes of bad luck,” Ford reflects. “But my perseverance and sense of humor is my armor against bad luck and it’s what keeps me going.” Ford ran full steam ahead with an eventful eight years of recording and touring the US and Europe with STARK, garnering some success with the most attention given to her lyrics. This prompted her to form the renegade acoustic project Tania & The Revolutionaries which she took on the road around the United States and twice to Nicaragua.
Ford is now returning to her roots and hitting the Nashville songwriter scene. She blends her country music influences with her former thrashing hard rock lifestyle which gives way to lyrics that bring warmth and light to cold and darkness. In New York City, it’s called country. In Nashville, it’s called rock. Ford calls it music that just speaks the truth. Currently writing a lot of edgy country crossover songs to demo this year, Ford describes the truth in her songs. “I write songs about the true lives of lost souls, hell-raisers, outlaws, and rabble-rousers,” she says. No stranger to the life of a lost soul, Ford admits to making a lot of mistakes while submerged in the underbelly of the New York City punk rock scene, including dating drug addicts and suffering from an alcohol-induced injury to her wrists that threatened to take away her talent of playing a variety of musical instruments such as her chosen instrument of bass guitar. But the lessons she learned from these dark and scary experiences are what people can also learn from the lyrics of her songs. “My chronic insomnia associated with living in a city like New York lent me a lot of late night and early morning hours to reflect and write a ton of songs,” Ford explains. “I like to create and listen to fun music just like anyone, but I can't ignore the suffering, torment and hardships of humanity that exist. I have to write for the ‘regular people’ like myself and in doing this, I've realized my imperfections and flaws are what help me relate to my audience. I always try to find something positive and uplifting in my stories that somehow helps people learn how to forgive themselves for the mistakes they’ve made in life and have hope for a brighter future.” Ford’s catalogue of songs spans over 150 creations of redemption and healing from mistakes and heartbreaks with a “been there, done that” kind of attitude. Initially considered depressing and even somewhat offensive, listening closely to these creations reveals life lessons for all fans of meaningful music.
The first woman in her family to graduate valedictorian and finish college, Ford had thoughts of being an astronaut or a veterinarian, but would quickly be distracted by the ever-present need from as early as age three to get lyrics and music out of her head and onto paper. She often writes on the piano, guitar, and even the violin which she began playing at age eight, around the same time she also began acting on stage. During the formative age of 12, Ford’s family moved from the city of Fort Worth out to the country where she quickly felt isolated. If it wasn’t for the personal attention from her high school English teacher Gerry Russell who got her interested in writing and theater, Ford would have spiraled into rebellion in what she considered boondock hell. “It was Ms. Russell’s encouragement that helped me to tune out my parents’ discouragement from singing and to realize that even though I was poor, I could study hard and make my dreams a reality,” she smiles gratefully. “My parents had me in gymnastics and acting classes at a very young age, but did not support my musical interests which made it scary for me to even pursue singing. Even though I did play violin, at that time I never learned more than ‘Chopsticks’ on the piano despite the fact that both my mother and my grandmother were church organists.” Now, Ford has developed the ability to teach herself how to play just about any musical instrument she can get her hands on, including her favorite, bass guitar, along with acoustic guitar, ukulele, and mandolin. “Whether true or not, I never thought I was worthy to call myself a musician or songwriter if all I couldn’t play an instrument,” Ford states. In addition to her country and hard rock influences, Ford credits her musical interests to what she was raised on as a child. She grew up watching every Judy Garland movie that existed and loved anything by Irving Berlin, especially the heart-wrenching ballads “What’ll I Do” and “How About Me,” while also listening to her mother’s Beatles and Eagles LPs. Since her mother was an organist, Ford always heard her practicing hymns and the masterpieces of Beethoven, Chopin and Bach, even as far back to when she was in her mother’s womb! The first album Ford ever bought was Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits, which was later followed by the works of other strong female rock role models such as Stevie Nicks, Heart, and Chrissie Hynde. It was these icons that she used to spin on radio stations where after college she began working as a DJ and traffic reporter, first in Texas and Cincinnati and then when she moved to New York City. The musical connections made in New York led to a love affair with the music of obscure bands such as Banana Fish Zero, Bantam, and the New Professionals. With her band STARK, Ford has shared the stage with the likes of note-worthy bands such as the Gin Blossoms and Neon Trees.
With her Roots Rock and Americana approach, Ford is currently smoothing out some of those edges she previously had to sharpen in order to stay sane in the New York City music scene to reveal the Texas girl underneath who just wants to come out and play in the light while keeping her unique voice. “I recorded my most recent demo in Nashville with Steve Goodie who is awesome, and I am receiving positive feedback on the song “Ladies Man,” Ford says excitedly. “I’m eager to get back to Nashville to record my upcoming solo acoustic album, Songs About You.” Ford’s musical goals and endeavors include writing more songs with her brand of truth, in addition to continuing to perform and produce, hopefully while inspiring others. When not performing or writing, Ford enjoys movies, reading, surfing (well, boogie boarding for now), traveling, and spending time with her friends and her dog. She gives back by devoting time to the organization Book Pals, which includes reading to children in public schools. She actively supports organizations such as MusiCares, RAINN, Wounded Warrior Project, National Geographic, and PBS, and she strongly believes in the mission of her sponsor Daisy Rock whose goal is to musically inspire young girls and young women.
Already a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and the Americana Music Association, Ford is eager to jump into the pool here in Nashville with the world’s best musicians and writers where she hopes to learn everything she can to be a better songwriter, both for herself and for other artists.