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Nine Songs
Soccer Mommy

Sophie Allison talks the songs that made her.

05 January 2018, 10:00 | Words by Ed Nash

Sophie Allison loves songs that tell a story.

As with the songs she writes as Soccer Mommy, the pivotal songs in Allison’s life are founded upon universally relatable narratives. The singer/songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee loves songs that provide glimpses into the story and the characters, but crucially, allow the listener to make their own emotional connections with them. “I think that’s definitely what makes a song really important” she explains “if it can be universal whilst being really special and really specific to you.”

When we spoke to Allison last summer at her debut London show, she covered Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”, and said at the time “I thought it’d be beautiful if it was more dynamic volume wise, with chords and ambience and I just sing the fuck out of it.” The original version features here, in a collection of songs that range from the song-writing classicism of Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell, to the pop smarts of Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift.

With her next album, the follow up to last year’s Collection due in the coming months – ‘We’re just working on things like videos but the records fully done’ - and her second, sold-out London show next week as part of our Five Day Forecast, Allison’s year is already off to a brilliant start.

“I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen

“My Dad is a big Bruce Springsteen fan, so I probably heard this song for the very first time in the car when I was really young.

“It’s my favourite song of his, there’s just something super classic about it. People use fire as a metaphor for love in songs a lot, but ‘I’m On Fire’ feels very unique and very original compared to a lot of other songs that do that. It has a really deep sincerity and a deep innocence to it that starts from the very beginning of the song.

“It’s not very intense in terms of the words he uses, but there are really intense moments in the song that makes it feel really deep and really emotional. Towards the end of the song the bridge and the last verse really build towards these really emotional lines that are really simple. It’s just got a nice, simple sincerity to it and a really strong emotional pull.”

“A Burning Hill” by Mitski

“I got into Mitski when Bury Me at Makeout Creek came out. It was towards the end of high school when I was a senior and my sister was playing it a lot. It became one of my favourite albums ever.

“‘A Burning Hill’ is a really beautiful song chord-wise and melody wise. I don’t know if it’s my favourite Mitski song, because I’m such a big fan of hers, but with this one specifically it’s the lyrics. It’s another one that’s really simple, but every word is the right word, every single one of them are so intricately chosen. They’re really universal ideas that feel specific, but they’re also universal to a lot of people and that’s what struck me about the song when I first heard it

“It’s a really small story with not a lot of lyrics. It’s not very wordy, you don’t really know too much about what the song is about or what the story is, but it has this feeling of insecurity and being a slight peek into someone’s inner life and inner emotions after periods that have happened in their life. It’s so short and simple and it just nails that universal feeling without doing too much. The song doesn’t have any weak spots, or spots where it’s not important to what she’s saying, it feels like it’s all what needs to said and that’s it.

“It’s a really hard thing to do, to give that kind of insecurity and that much of yourself into a song, but still not give everything away, to not be too revealing and still make people wonder what it’s about.”

“A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell

“When I was in high school my Dad played Joni Mitchell’s ‘California’ for me and I was ‘this is kind of cool.’ But after a while I didn’t really listen to it, because it was something my Dad played me, I was in high school and I was into pop music a lot. At the end of high school and the beginning of college I revisited her, listened to Blue a lot and started checking out her discography.

“I think ‘A Case Of You’ is one of the best songs ever written about love falling apart, I can’t think of a song that does it better. It’s really sad, but it also doesn’t focus on sadness almost. It’s one of the greatest songs about being in love and love fading, falling into love, falling out of love, it covers all of it.

“The lyrics are so extremely specific and detailed, they’re amazing lyrics. Maybe they don’t relate specifically to everyone’s experience, but they make a really detailed story. Even if you don’t relate to them, it’s like a story/song, rather than trying to capture one feeling, it’s a whole story of someone’s experience that maybe reminds you of your own.

“The very first line is really beautiful, “Just before our love got lost you said ‘I am as constant as a northern star’”, I mean, they’re all great but that’s definitely a really great one. “Go to him, stay with him if you can, but be prepared to bleed" is a really good one too. There’s so many great lyrics in this song.

“Of all the Joni Mitchell songs, I think ‘A Case Of You’ stands out to a lot of people. Even though there are a lot of great ones, this is so amazing lyrically and so emotional; the melody and the hook are really great too. It’s her idea that I feel no one has every really done since, it’s her thing and it seems like no one else could really do it ever again without it just being a copy of her idea.”

“Don’t Tell Me” by Avril Lavigne

“I love Avril Lavigne so much and have done since I was a child. She was one of the first CDs I had and she was my first favourite, top artist that I listened to albums by. I was really young, probably nine or something and I remember I had a portable CD player. I had a couple of favourites, like ‘Fall to Pieces’, but ‘Don’t Tell Me’ was my favourite. The story of the song is very dark but it’s mostly the melody of it and the progression of the song that I really liked.

“She found a really good sound for transitioning out of the 90’s into the 2000s - from stuff like Eliot Smith and pop-punk into the early 2000s’. It was a time of angry, strong, wise women and I liked that as a nine year old, it had all the elements of emo in it and a little bit of pop-punk mixed in there too. She’s still one of my favourites of the early pop/emo artists for sure.

“I liked her sad songs, but as a child I wasn’t quite as sad about something like that. ‘Don’t Tell Me’ was kind of angsty and not just angsty about love even, but angsty about being in control and having the power of a girl. As a child I thought that was really cool, and I still do, I still love this song.”

“Shatter” by Liz Phair

“This song is so amazing, I think it’s the best song on Exile in Guyville and it’s my favourite Liz Phair song.

“It’s very different from the other songs I’ve chosen; it’s not a catchy, verse/chorus type song with this good melody and really to the point lyrics. It feels like a confession set to music, set to some really nice guitars, that has a stomper vibe to it. It sounds like it kind of poured out of her; it’s this confessional of how she feels and it seems like a very tender moment in-between a lot of songs that are about herself and have tender pieces and more reflectional parts to them.

“I discovered her when I went to college, I’d heard songs before that but ‘Shatter’ was when I really started getting into her. I saw an artist I like covering one of her songs live, I’d heard the name before and I’d also had people tell me a couple of times that I kind of sounded like her, or the song-writing style was like hers. So I checked it out Exile in Guyville and I liked it a lot and I even liked the stuff like her pop album too.

“To me, this feels like the type of song that someone like Liz Phair would write when they’re really reflecting on themselves in a low, intimate moment.”

“Forever & Always” by Taylor Swift

“I knew I had to put a Taylor Swift song on here - it would have been wrong if I hadn’t - but I had a really hard time picking one. If I was being stubborn, I wouldn’t say ‘Forever & Always’ is my favourite song of hers, but I think it’s a really perfect encapsulation of a perfect pop song about being sad over losing someone you like.

“It’s really simple chord-wise and production-wise. It sounds like a band playing a song - a little bit light on the verse, a little bit bigger on the chorus - and the melody in every part is so catchy and so good, there’s not a weak part in the song that you want to skip over.

“It’s really hard to make a really catchy verse and then also put a really catchy, big chorus into a song and have them flow really well and feel just right. There’s so many elements of this that are ‘this is just a perfectly done, classic-pop love song’. Even the idea of it, ‘Forever & Always’, that’s something that’s been done a lot, but you can do it right and you can nail it, every single part of it is really catchy and the build into the chorus is perfect.

“It’s got all the classic parts to being a teenage girl like ‘I gave stuff away and he doesn’t like me anymore or something’! It’s straight to the point and it’s ‘everyone can feel this’. It speaks to everybody, it’s not that specific, it’s a bunch of things that you’ve felt before and thought before put into a song that’s super-catchy. It’s done right and you can’t beat that.

"Reputation is disappointing to be honest. I was down with the pop stuff from 1989, it wasn’t my favourite album, but I still liked it and it’s the same with Red. The new album feels forced and really petty, in a way that’s not cool, it feels like she tried to push a whole album out of being mad about one thing. I tried to like it, but I can’t really love it, it’s not terrible, it’s just… fine.”

“I Know It’s Over” by Jeff Buckley

“This is a live version and he gets so much emotion out of the performance, it’s not all edited, it’s just so direct. It’s such an intense song, it sounds like rambling almost, jumping from point to point, like someone who’s really upset over something kind of rambling on about what they’re sad about, except in a really poetic way.

“It jumps from this idea of feeling really depressed and low and feeling like you’re dying to talking about his experiences with this other person, a marriage and a lover. It’s all these pieces and these metaphors for this feeling of knowing that a love is over. My favourite lyric is “I know it’s over, it never really began, but in my heart it was so real.” Something’s over but there was no clear ending because it was never something real. Maybe it’s this feeling of ‘this shouldn’t be so important to me, because it wasn’t ever really something, or it wasn’t a big deal to the other person’ but it’s really crushing.

“It speaks to me about being less about actual love and more about infatuation with the idea of something that just kind of ends, because you know you can never have it. I think that’s a very hard feeling to express, it’s not as easy as ‘I broke up with my boyfriend of two years’, it’s a lot harder to express a feeling of ‘I’m crushed by the fact that nothing will ever happen with this person, nothing ever really did and now I know it won’t.’

“The Smiths version is great too, obviously it’s their song, but Jeff Buckley’s is so much more tender because it’s just him and it’s all his, and also the fact that it’s live makes it feel really emotional, because it’s not at all edited or straight. I like The Smiths’ one but it’s a lot straighter, especially with the drums.

“Jeff Buckley’s voice is much more emotional in my opinion and his arrangement makes it really emotional. The dynamics of the way he performs it is a lot gentler but also intense, his version accentuates the really important parts of it. That’s always the one I always listen to, I think it shows dynamics of the song a lot better.”

“Candy Says” by The Velvet Underground

“This is another song that’s like a little story, that gives you a peek into the person’s experience. It’s a really short song and really to the point, it’s just verse/chorus but everything about it is really intimate and kind of dark.

“It’s a little peek into the emotion of feeling that insecure and hopeless, about being yourself and being alive, it gives these little lines like ‘I've come to hate my body and all that it requires in this world’. Because it comes from a different perspective than someone writing down how they feel, it’s like getting how someone is feeling from something they might say or something they might express to you, rather than you emoting everything. It gives you a lot more room to read into the words and I think it’s a really good way to use that, especially with the kind of topic and feeling they’re going for in the song.

“A lot of people at high school liked The Velvet Underground, but the first time I listened to them I was at a party and I didn’t like it that much, it was a really noisy song and I was like ‘I don’t get it’. A year later I was ‘OK, I’m going to give this a chance’ and as I started digging through I started understanding it better and ended up liking them a lot.

“I probably didn’t get it at all at first because I was listening to it at a party and I didn’t hear any of the lyrics or was paying attention to it enough, but after listening to it for myself I eventually came to love it and Lou Reed is amazing.”

“Famous Blue Raincoat” by Leonard Cohen

“I started listening to Leonard Cohen in junior year at high school. One of my friends was really into him and I asked for some songs to listen to. I listened to a lot of his albums and I came to love a lot of his other songs but ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ was definitely the song that struck me the most.

“I think part of it was that the chords were a lot darker, with a lot of his earlier stuff it was very upbeat, folky chords, but this song had stiller and sadder chords to it. It’s a story in a song that feels really intimate, you don’t completely know what happened that caused the separation of these people, but you kind of know, and you can tell it involves love and betrayal and it touches on all those things.

“And at the same, whatever this falling out was, it’s not angry. It’s reflective from his standpoint about losing someone to a friend or someone he knew, of having this struggle between the three of them. It’s also reflective on the idea of person he loves and considering what they wanted. It manages to be really sad and heart-breaking about this betrayal, but without any anger, just a lot of reflection on it from years later, a realisation that it was no one’s fault and that it wasn’t wrong of anyone. That’s not usually the way people write songs about a love triangle, it’s usually a lot more jilted.

“He has a lot of great love songs but I think this is the best one, that’s about looking back on an old love situation and reflecting and having a care for the other person. ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’ has that too, but this feels more special, because it’s not just about looking back at someone he had a relationship with once, this is about realising you weren’t right for someone and that it isn’t necessarily bad or wrong, and still having a lot of care for that person despite that. A lot of people can relate to that feeling after a relationship, but it’s not written about that often.”

Soccer Mommy headlines Best Fit's Five Day Forecast with Snail Mail and Honey Harper at a sold-out show on Friday, January 12. Tickets for remaining shows are available here.
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