When we caught up with Sophie Allison, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist behind the band Soccer Mommy, she had just returned from performing at a massive festival in Europe called The Great Escape. That’s probably not something that Allison ever dreamed about when she started recording shimmering indie guitar pop songs in her bedroom a few years back.
“Definitely not,” she says. “I never thought I’d be here.”
But Allison has certainly arrived on the national scene after starting small, making four or five-song EPs in her room and releasing them on her Bandcamp page (in fact, one of her earliest releases is actually called “Songs From My Bedroom”).
On the five releases Allison put out between 2015 and 2017, the 20-year-old Nashville, Tenn., songwriter, who’s been playing music since she was 5, combined her beguiling voice with spidery guitar melodies to create delicate-sounding pop songs that cut a lot deeper on a second listen.
The music may have been blissful, but the lyrics typically weren’t, with Allison often chronicling her own heartache, uncertainty, and fear. Take the first song on her first EP, for example, a tune called “Jacob.” One of the first lines the listener hears her sing is, “There’s a hurting in my chest when he’s not by my side.” On the Bandcamp page for her 2017 single “Last Girl/Be Seeing You,” Allison introduces the material as “2 songs that meant a lot to me this summer when I thought I was gonna lose someone I had feelings for and I was sad and insecure.” There’s very little, if any, fiction going on in Soccer Mommy’s music.
“It’s pretty much all stuff that’s happened to me,” she says. “There are little things that might not be exactly autobiographical, but in general, these songs aren’t coming from a different point of view or from someone who doesn’t exist.”
But gorgeous melodies and heartbreak have worked well since the dawn of pop music, and Soccer Mommy’s constant stream of releases brought her a fast-growing fanbase and eventually a recording contract with the Fat Possum record label. After warming up with a half-reworked, half-new songs release called “Collection” last year, Allison’s “Clean” came out last March, a full-band recording made in an actual studio that she calls her first “real” record.
“It’s definitely the first thing I’ve ever written as an album, rather than a collection of random songs that were part of an EP,” she says. “I’d never sat down and written an album of songs that were connected and flowed. Plus, it felt like a bigger step sonically. We did it in a studio; we took time producing it; and we made the basic tracks sound like I really wanted them to.”
She’s right about the more sophisticated sound. It’s hard to imagine any of her early releases featuring anything as luminescent as the acoustic-guitar-and-keyboards song “Blossom,” which sounds like it could’ve been recorded in a cathedral. “Clean” was produced by Gabe Wax in Wax’s home studio, with Allison largely handling the guitars and bass playing herself. The sound is more immediate and detailed than anything Allison has done before, and the players she brought in on drums (Nick Brown) and lead guitar (Julian Powell) provide more muscle than her songs have had in the past.
Allison says she welcomed the collaborators after years of playing everything herself.
“It’s still the sound that I want; it’s just someone else doing it or showing me how,” she says. “Or they’ll add something in that I wouldn’t necessarily think of. It’s worked really well. I wouldn’t have worked with Gabe if our ideas hadn’t meshed so well. He knew what kind of things to put in there to get the sound I wanted.”
In fact, the only problem with the recording of “Clean” was that the band didn’t have much time to do it. A band with buzz is a band that has to take advantage of it, and Soccer Mommy (who will perform at the Heritage Park Amphitheatre in Simpsonville with Paramore and Foster The People on June 14) had to record in the midst of a packed tour schedule.
“Any free time we had off tour was recording time,” Allison says. “I think next time I want to cut out a period of time where I wouldn’t be touring and work on the album, just so there was no anxiety about finishing it on time and making sure it sounded right when I finished.”
Paramore, w/ Foster The People and Soccer Mommy
When: Thursday, June 14, 7 p.m.
Where: Heritage Park Amphitheatre, 861 SE Main St., Simpsonville
Info: 864-296-6601; http://heritageparkamphitheatre.com/