Soccer Mommy on Leaving Social Media, the Problem with Livestreaming, and What She's Been Up to Lately

Soccer Mommy on Leaving Social Media, the Problem with Livestreaming, and What She's Been Up to Lately
Soccer Mommy by Brian Ziff

I’ve been listening to Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory nonstop all year. It’s obviously one of the best indie rock albums in a year that’s had a surprising number of good indie albums that have indeed rocked—it has a classic and current feel at the same time, and Sophie Allison’s songwriting skills are clearly getting sharper by the minute. I was delighted to hop on the phone with her last week as she told me about what’s been up in her life from her Nashville home, and I’m equally excited to hear that she’s already almost done with her next album.

How’s Nashville been lately?

There’s parts of being here all year that are so great. Lots of nature, small-town vibe. But I wouldn’t say Tennessee is doing great at the coronavirus stuff. [Laughs] That isn’t the best. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the rest of the world is doing better, even though it is, which is exactly why we’re having trouble overcoming this. It’s everywhere.

What does Nashville mean to you?

I’ve lived here since I was one and a half, so basically born and raised. I don’t remember anything else. There’s so much about this city that’s magical. When I was in high school, there were live music scenes for teenagers and house venues—places where you could be out having a really fun, special time. There was so much stuff that was unique to the city, and there’s still a lot of that, but it’s changing, too. We’re in that gentrification moment where your favorite spots are getting torn down and replaced with a Publix or some weird new restaurant.

But it’s still special. There’s so many different areas of town that even if some are lost, there’s secret places that you know if you’re a local. It’s always gonna be home. I lived in New York for two years, and there was a lot of amazing stuff there too, obviously, but a lot of stuff I missed that was so integral to what I like to do on a weekend or a random night with my friends.

What’s your favorite place in Nashville?

My favorite spot is the steeple chase where they do horse racing. It’s out of the city a little bit, so there’s not a lot of light pollution, so at night you can go there and see the stars. I’ve been going there since the end of high school. You can go out there at, like, one in the morning and watch the stars.

You just released a demos collection for an album that, really, kind of just came out. How does it feel to revisit recent work in this form?

I’ve been writing a lot of new stuff and am working on a new album that’s almost done, so it’s more about me going back to these old demos and seeing which ones I like the most. But it’s not that weird to me. I’m very easily distracted by things, so if I had to delve in and donate a lot of time to these old demos, it would be weirder, but I just listened to them, picked the ones I liked, and the label took it from there so I could focus on what I want to do. [Laughs]

But it is weird to go back to something after you’ve moved on. Even my last album, when I’m playing it on a livestream or whatever, I have to revisit them for five minutes before because I’ve lost track of them since I’ve been so busy with something else.

A lot of artists I’ve talked to about livestreaming have mixed feelings about the practice in the pandemic era.

I have mixed emotions about it, but I’m very quickly exhausted by the idea. Right now, because of the COVID situation, all of the parts of my job that I like got taken away, so it’s like, “Let’s only do the parts that you don’t love.” [Laughs] I’m very easily frustrated by making or performing something in this manner that’s not satisfactory to me. Sitting in front of my phone, playing acoustic guitar and singing—it’s fine, but most of the time you can’t hear my voice because I have a soft voice, and it doesn’t sound very good. It doesn’t look cool at all.

I wouldn’t want to completely stop doing them, because it’s important for people who still want to watch live performances to have that still, and not lose live music during this time. But it’s a little…the word that comes to mind is “womp.” [Laughs] It doesn’t have all your heart in it, usually.

"I want to thank Soccer Mommy for their great music" Bernard Sanders of Vermont 4, 2020

One of the last shows you played before the pandemic was the Bernie Sanders rally. As far as last pre-pandemic concerts go, that’s not a bad one.

That was really fun. Me and the guys do say sometimes that it’s cool that the only Color Theory show that’s ever happened was the Bernie rally. Since I’m writing another record quickly, I don’t know how much touring’s actually gonna happen. [Bernie’s] one of the only people that’s run for President that I’d actually get hyped for. To be able to do something with my music towards that cause was cool, even if it didn’t end up leading us to his Presidency. Still exciting, still cool.

What did you do the day the election was called for Biden? Did you celebrate?

I didn’t celebrate—it’s not that I’m not happy, I’m obviously happy, I just didn’t do anything. It was relieving, I guess. More than joyous, it was just a breath of relief. I wasn’t extremely happy about the candidate we had. But I had this weird thing in my brain, especially living in a red state, where I was like, “Was the last election this gigantic fuck-up that everyone realized we need to fix, or does that reflect the majority view?” So it was nice to have that dark thought taken away after four years of worrying about it. “Okay, no, that was a big mistake, and everyone realized it.”

What were the protests over the summer like in Nashville?

I wasn’t going out doing much because I have to be hard on the quarantining front, since my mom was ill. But all the people I know were happy about the uprising that was happening. There were a lot of people focused on how the protests were about something so dark, and it was—but it was amazing, how we’re stuck at home and not working, and people were going hard to voice their unrest about the state of the world. I feel that’s such a big component for change in America.

Every major moment in our history that’s needed protesting that’s gotten to the point where it can’t be ignored by the government and officials. It felt very hopeful for me, even though everything that was happening was so upsetting. It wasn’t just disappearing after a couple of days.

Was there a specific moment in your life that activated a progressive set of values for you?

I feel like it was gradual. When I was in high school, it was still at a time where people were anti-PC, but having an older sister and seeing people with more progressive values—I don’t know, I feel like if you just listen to those ideas, they just completely make sense. [Laughs] They’re almost inarguable. Treating people right is just better. It’s better to veer on the side of caution when treating people. Going to college, becoming more educated on politics in general, thinking about it more—it all led to more progressive explanations.

If the basis of all your thinking comes down trying to support people who need help and are being undermined, it’s pretty easy to figure out where you stand on a lot of stuff. A lot of the systems of the world are working against a lot of people, and it’s just not fair. And it’s inarguable that it’s not fair.

What were some of your earliest memories listening to music on the internet?

When I was pretty young—elementary school—I got an iTunes gift card. I got to buy two songs, and my sister got to buy two songs. I bought “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson and “Fly” by Hillary Duff. After that, it was always iTunes gift cards for Christmas. I had a friend where me and my older sister would go over her house and burn CDs of songs from Top 40 radio—Shakira, Ciara, 50 Cent—and listening to it in the car and trying to buy the songs we liked on iTunes. Then, we were able to get onto LimeWire—which was the beginning of the end for all of us. Little did I know that, later in life, I’d want money for the songs people were downloading for free.

One time, I downloaded a copy of Staind’s Break the Cycle on Napster that wasn’t actually the Staind album. I had no idea what it was. That would happen a lot.

Yeah, or someone would record something off of their speakers, and you’d hear them cough or walk around. That happened too.

What do you see as the pros and cons of being online these days?

I see it largely as a con, which is why I’m not on any social media anymore. I guess that’s a secret, because I didn’t tell anyone that I’m leaving. My managers post for me now. I’m not on anything because it was such a con for me. It got to a point where there were such little pros—and the pros that I did have, I was like, “Are these healthy, or do I just yearn for some type of validation and gossip?” I’d just go on there wanting to see something that would entertain me—some discussion, some drama, just looking for who knows what because I was bored.

When you have a lot of followers, it warps your view of reality, especially for me. Some people are just way more stable, I guess—they can handle it and it doesn’t affect their mind view—but it makes you feel like people are watching you everywhere you go and wanting to hear what you say about everything, even though you’re like, “I’m just another person like all of you.”

It creates a lot of anxiety and pressure, and it makes you feel like reality is what’s in the app instead of what’s in the world around you when you walk around in the morning and get coffee. It’s unhealthy. I miss certain things about it. I miss memes. I don’t know anything that’s going on in pop culture without my friends telling me. But it’s not worth it for me. I started to feel a little bit like a clown. When I’d tweet something funny about my life, I’d be like, “People are laughing about my hardships.” And it’s my fault, because I’m making it into a joke! But it’s a weird, warped reality.

There’s so much talk about how justifiably difficult this year has been. What have been the bright spots for you though?

The time off. I wanted it really bad before I was going to go on tour, because I was working all the time and not getting to do emotional work. I had all this time to work on myself and helping myself be healthier. I was forced into it. “You have to work at this because you have nothing to do, so go do it.” It was relieving and it’s enriched my life. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with my family too, which is nice—sometimes. [Laughs] Don’t tell them I said that.

Obviously it gets really boring, but it’s nice to have time to chill, write, and play Stardew Valley for three weeks nonstop. When you’re touring, you’re at work 24 hours a day. You don’t have time to leave work and sit with your friends and talk about Real Housewives. You don’t have that normalcy. You miss those normal people things.

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Jamie Larson