Sophie Allison had turned 18 and was ready to leave her hometown in the dust. She was fresh out of high school and preparing to move to New York for college. All of her things were packed, but there was one last place she needed to go before she left town: the tattoo shop.
“It was just before going to New York, thinking I would never come back,” she explains. “Tennessee’s flag has a circle with three stars on it, so I got three black stars tattooed on my thigh. I didn’t get it all, 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 something of a harbinger, as Allison eventually returned to Nashville, the city she loves and calls home today. The fit is natural. 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 highly anticipated sequel to Soccer Mommy’s Grammy-nominated “Color Theory,” was released on June 24. , and most of the recording wrapped up in March 2021.
The pandemic has given Allison a break she otherwise wouldn’t have had — she’s been on the road non-stop since she was 19. While the break didn’t change his entire process, it did allow him to revisit some of his old ways.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was six years old and it’s always been very natural,” she says. “It hasn’t changed, but having all the free time has allowed me to take a bit more time and have fun playing with recording demos, much like I did when I started. Going back to messing around and coming up with ideas for riffs or little melodic lines meant that when I walked into the album, everything had a very obvious vision.
To realize this vision, Allison worked closely with producer Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never. The two may be an unlikely duo, but it only takes 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 tracks, creating space for Allison’s lyricism to shine through. This is particularly the case with “Unholy Affliction”, a scathing indictment of the music industry and the sacrifices artists make to maintain a career.
“Having to show a personality to the world, having to dance a bit, it’s very uncomfortable for me,” she says. “Having to give people some of that personality so they feel like they know you and can connect with you, it makes you very vulnerable. It’s become a lot more important in the music industry in the the last two decades where you have to sell yourself, sell that personality and that idea of a person, when really I’m just trying to make songs.
The opening bars of “Unholy Affliction” sound like a defiant cry from someone about to give it all up: “I don’t want no money / This fake kind of happiness / I’d sink in the river / Before to drop that has me. But there’s an inherent contradiction when you consider that the song was released alongside the “newdemo” single to promote the upcoming album. This stems from the way Allison has always written her songs and of the very reason Soccer Mommy resonates with so many – she never pulls a single punch in a song. It gives “Sometimes, Forever” a very balanced feel, a yin and yang between different types of songs , not just sonically, but emotionally.
“I like to lean into what I’m thinking or feeling and go with that full emotion,” she says. “I’m not trying to lighten it up or darken it, if I feel great I’ll go with it. There are a lot of absolutes – there are dark songs and completely romantic songs – I wanted let it feel like these things can be very consuming and very opposite, but they can also exist in the same space.
Creating an album in this way is brave at the height of super-genrefication that left many artists unable (or unwilling) to leave their comfort zone lest it drive their fans away. Allison will never return to this camp; his music has continued to evolve throughout his career.
“I try never to let the thought of what others will think of something stop me from doing something the way I want to do it,” Allison says. “If I think it’s great, there will be other people who will agree. There will probably be a lot of people who won’t like it, but that’s okay. Not every song has to do everything happy world I’m more afraid of getting bored and stuck.
“I never want to feel like there’s no room for growth or transformation,” she continues. “I think that’s the whole point of writing consistently: getting better, finding different ideas, and discovering new styles that inspire you.”
With “Sometimes, Forever”, Sophie Allison manages to avoid stagnation and delivers an album which, as the closing track “Still” fades away, takes the listener through the full range of emotions in just under 45 minutes. Allison pushes new boundaries throughout the album, but always stays true to where she came from. Kind of like an 18 year old ready to change the world, leaving home for the first time with a new tattoo reminding them of where they’ve been.