August 31st, 2022
Soccer Mommy on her newest album, her first tattoo and her music evolution.
Sophie Allison had turned 18 and was ready to leave her hometown in the dust. She was just out of high school and preparing to move to New York City for college. All of her stuff was packed, but there was one last place she needed to go before she left town—the tattoo shop.
“It was right before I was going to go to New York, thinking I was never coming back,” she explains. “The Tennessee flag has a circle with three stars in it, so I got three black stars tattooed on my thigh. I didn’t get the whole design, just the stars. Whenever I’m not in Tennessee people don’t know what it is, they think it’s just stars. It’s a little secret, not too obvious.”
That first tattoo was a harbinger of sorts, as Allison ended up returning to Nashville, the city she loves and calls home today. The fit is a natural one. Even without the tri-star tattoo, Nashville was already in the blood of this gifted singer-songwriter who releases music under the moniker Soccer Mommy.
“Sometimes, Forever,” the eagerly anticipated follow-up to Soccer Mommy’s Grammy-nominated “color theory,” came out on June 24. The album has been a long time coming—Allison initiated the writing process all the way back in fall 2019, and the bulk of the recording wrapped by March 2021.
The pandemic gave Allison a respite she wouldn’t have had otherwise—she’s been on the road nonstop since she was 19. While the pause didn’t alter her entire process, it did allow her to revisit some of her old ways.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was six years old and it’s always been very natural,” she says. “That didn’t change, but having all the time off let me take a little more time and have fun playing around with recording demos, kind of like I used to when I started all of this. Getting back to messing around and getting ideas for riffs or little melodic lines made it so that when I was going into the album everything had a very obvious vision.”
To see out this vision, Allison worked closely with producer Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never. The two may be an unlikely duo, but it takes no more than a few tracks on “Sometimes, Forever” to see how beautifully they complement each other.
Lopatin’s influence is best seen through the moody synth sounds that set the tone on many of the tracks, creating a space that allows Allison’s lyricism to shine. This is most notably apparent on “Unholy Affliction,” a scathing indictment of the music industry and the sacrifices artists make in order to sustain a career.
“Having to put a personality out there to the world, having to dance a little bit, is very uncomfortable for me,” she says. “Having to give people a portion of this personality so they feel like they know you and can connect with you, it leaves you very vulnerable. It’s become way more prominent in the music industry in the last couple of decades where you have to sell yourself, sell that personality and this idea of a person, when in reality I’m just trying to make some songs.”
The opening bars of “Unholy Affliction” sound like a defiant cry from someone on the brink of giving it all up: “I don’t want the money / That fake kind of happy / I’d sink in the river / Before I let it have me.” But there is an inherent contradiction involved when considering that the song was released with the “newdemo” single to promote the upcoming album. This stems from the way Allison has always written her songs and the very reason why Soccer Mommy resonates with so many people—she never pulls a single punch in a song. This leads to “Sometimes, Forever” having a very balanced feel, a yin and yang between different types of songs, not just sonically, but emotionally.
“I like to lean into whatever I’m thinking or feeling and just go with that full emotion,” she says. “I don’t try to lighten it or darken it, if I’m feeling super one way I’m going to go with it. There are a lot of absolutes—there are songs that are dark and songs that are completely romantic—I wanted it to feel that these things can be very all-consuming and very opposite, but they can also exist in the same space.”
Creating an album in this manner is courageous during this heyday of super-genrefication that has left many artists unable (or unwilling) to leave their comfort zone lest it drive away their fans. Allison will never fit into this camp; her music has been steadily evolving for the entirety of her career.
“I try not to ever let the thought of what other people will think about something stop me from doing something how I want to do it,” Allison says. “If I think it’s great, there’s going to be other people who agree. There’s probably going to be plenty of people who won’t like it, but that’s fine. Not every song has to make everybody happy. I worry more about being bored and stuck.
“I never want to feel like there’s no room for evolution or transformation,” she continues. “I think that’s the whole point of writing consistently—to get better, to find different ideas and to discover new styles that inspire you.”
With “Sometimes, Forever” Sophie Allison successfully avoids stagnation and delivers an album that, by time the closing track “Still” fades out, takes the listener through the whole gamut of emotions in just under 45 minutes. Allison pushes new boundaries throughout the album, but always stays true to where she came from. Not unlike an 18-year-old ready to change the world, leaving home for the first time with a fresh tattoo reminding them of where they’ve been.
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