Photo by Ebru Yildiz.
There are many reasons a student might take a year out of their course, but it’s not often that move is due to signing a record deal. Sophie Allison, who records and performs under the moniker Soccer Mommy, is a rare instance. She recently finished her second year of studying music business at NYU, but is sitting out her junior year to “do music stuff”. “I should be going back, unless something crazy happens,” she says nonchalantly over the phone from her hometown of Nashville.
‘Something crazy’ isn’t as unlikely as she makes it sound. Her songs, from her very early Bandcamp releases to recent single ‘Allison’, are deftly relatable tales of tumbling in and out of love, insecurity and longing. They’re emotional, but not melodramatic; little crutches to cling to that are sometimes fragile, sometimes defiant, but always ready to share their stories and make you feel less alone.
Collection, her debut release for new label home Fat Possum, is the perfect introduction to her intimate writing. On it, she’s chosen not to disregard the songs that got her here in the first place, but re-record some of them and give them the exposure they deserve. Her simple aim on the record (released on August 4, in the midst of her first UK dates) was “to make something a little bit better to listen to.” Even with a label’s resources available to her, she stuck to her bedroom recording roots and made the album in her bass player’s home studio. Sophie doesn’t see herself changing that process too much in the future, either. “I definitely like the DIY feeling,” she says. “I think I probably want to step it up a little bit, but just to someone’s nicer home studio.”
As well as older tracks like ‘Death By Chocolate’, a darkly clever song about being so into someone it makes you “wanna die”, Collection also features some new songs. ‘Out Worn’ details a relationship tearing apart (“I wanna feel like I’m being admired/You only make me feel out worn”), while the aforementioned ‘Allison’ takes on its creator’s decision to keep dating the boy she was seeing back home while she was away in New York.
It’s gorgeously bereft; just Sophie and her guitar eking out long, melancholy sighs. It’s an example of how differently she writes when she’s on the east coast compared to down south. “I think in more lo-fi sounds when I’m in New York and then, when I’m back in Nashville, I write stuff that’s poppier and more upbeat,” the musician reasons. “It’s more folky and a bit southern roots-y.”
“I think my songwriting’s gotten a little more removed from the mainstream, while still being kind of pop.”
As someone who’s been making music for years – despite only being 19 – she’s keen to develop her songwriting even further. She’ll do so through experimenting with new ideas. “I’m still making pop music, but I’m definitely starting to veer into alternate tunings, more droning stuff and more ambient guitar lead parts,” she explains. “I think my songwriting’s gotten a little more removed from the mainstream, while still being kind of pop.”
A guitarist since she was six years old, she’s taken classical lessons, played in a swing band and learned jazz guitar. All that knowledge, she says, makes trying new things that little bit easier. “I can try to work with something a bit weirder and it helps me to be able to experiment.”
Soccer Mommy’s musical trials have already started, too. “We actually already started recording a little bit,” she says of her plans for another album. “We’ve got a couple of tracks down, but I want a bit more time.” If the results are as winningly touching as her past output, we’d be prepared to wait a long time for them.