Sophie Allison, better known as Soccer Mommy in the music world, has always been fascinated with mixing beauty and ugliness in her songwriting.
On Aug. 22, Allison sat down with Los Angeles Times pop music critic Mikael Wood at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles for an extensive conversation about how this method plays into her latest studio album, “Sometimes, Forever,” before playing a stripped-back guitar set of songs from the record.
“Mixing things like love and all of these romantic feelings with harsher ideas, I think that’s come out in both my lyrics and the way that the production has gone,” Allison said during the conversation. “When I was 17 recording stuff in my bedroom, I don’t think it was going that way, but as I started doing albums, I got to play with that more.”
Allison added, “The songwriting process usually comes once I’ve basically had all of these thoughts ruminating in my head for a long time and kind of gone through them over and over again. And then, eventually, there becomes this clarity that you can sit down and write out an idea, and everything just starts flowing.”
A key catalyst for taking Allison’s songs from the idea stage to fully-fledged production was Daniel Lopatin, better known as Oneohtrix Point Never, who produced the new record with her. Lopatin has more recently been a favorite collaborator of pop megastar the Weeknd, whose recent alignments with synth-heavy pop throughout “Dawn FM” and “After Hours” have meshed well with OPN’s experimental electronic background. Though, blending his style with the indie rock soundscapes of Soccer Mommy didn’t turn out to be much of a sonic leap. Speaking on the song “Shotgun,” Allison remarked a clear fondness for how OPN’s synths fit seamlessly into her style of music: “I think the right kind of synth can add a lot of warmth, and the [synth chords toward the end of ‘Shotgun’] bring in this poppy warmth on top of this song that has darker guitar parts — it builds into this lift that has an airiness to it that I really love.”
The pair recorded most of the album at the Sound Emporium recording studio in Nashville, where Allison grew up and currently resides, and applied finishing touches remotely. While most of the record’s conception happened in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2020, Allison shared her preference for the creative energy of in-person studio sessions, with the album’s earliest foundations laid down with a full band.
Regarding her Grammy aspirations, Allison cited Kacey Musgraves winning Album of the Year in 2019 for “Golden Hour” as inspiration for different kinds of music being recognized for the Recording Academy’s most esteemed honors. But she said just the idea of submitting her own music for consideration felt like a big step for her career.
“Even submitting for a Grammy the first time was like, woah, I’m probably not even going to be nominated. It seems like a reach,” Allison said. “But the fact that there’s even this thought to do that is a step.”
After the conversation and a brief audience Q&A, Allison briefly left the stage and returned — glittery magenta electric guitar in hand — as Soccer Mommy, gearing up to perform a solo guitar set of selections from “Sometimes, Forever,” along with a surprise addition from her 2020 record “Color Theory.”
She started the set with “Bones,” the soothing “Sometimes, Forever” opener, before jumping into “Circle the Drain” from the previous studio album, honoring a request from the audience. Allison then played “Unholy Affliction,” spotlighting some of the new record’s more dark, brooding guitar moments, and followed it up with a propulsive take on “Shotgun,” the album’s lead single. She capped the set with album closer “Still,” highlighting the intricate, personal songwriting that has garnered her much critical acclaim in her early career.
The singer-songwriter’s third studio record was released on June 24 via Loma Vista and Concord. The album topped the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart for the week of July 9 following its first full tracking week.
Allison will take the record on a fall tour throughout Europe and North America, starting at the end of August in Nottingham, U.K., and ending mid-December in Dallas, Texas.