When it comes to pop music, there’s truth to the adage about power’s corruptive nature. Give enough young artists some feature coverage and a solid Twitter following, and watch their heads swell like one of Wayne Coyne's plastic bubbles.
Luckily, the same can’t be said for one Sophie Allison, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter best known as Soccer Mommy. After an insane 2018, with heaps of praise from high-profile media outlets, sold-out tours, and top spots on all the year-end lists, Allison retains an endearing, aw-shucks mentality to her sudden fame.
“It was such a crazy year,” she says during a recent phone call. “But so much fun. I got to play all these amazing shows, and watch all these really great shows. And it was great getting to know all these bands that you’re opening up for. It’s made me really excited for 2019.”
Is it any wonder The Fader dubbed her “2018’s chillest new rock star”?
But what is it about Allison that makes her so level-headed, especially at such a perilous age and within an industry where extreme overconfidence is as valuable as an in-tune guitar? Her sensitivity as a songwriter? Some generational component? An awareness of the deeply fickle nature of stardom? Regardless, she’s taking every chance to learn from this wild ride.
“All of it’s taught me to appreciate everything as it comes,” she says. “Don’t get caught up in it, because everything is special. All of this experience can bring you something new.”
That same core of honesty and earnestness rests at the very core of Allison’s debut full-length, Clean. (As well as other, earlier compilations and recordings.) It’s a gorgeous collection of alt-rock ballads packed to the rafters with unflinching musings on adulthood, love (romantic and otherwise), self-respect, patience, and accepting one’s shortcomings. Through these 10 songs, you feel as Allison strives for meaning, and it’s hard not to be swept up in the overt frankness of her musical journey.
It’s an album that only opens itself up further with subsequent listens. So it’s a good thing she’ll keep touring in support for much of the spring, including big-name festival dates at Primavera Sound and Shaky Knees and outings with the likes of Kacey Musgraves and more. All that traveling, though, doesn’t mean Allison won’t have time for the future as she finishes up her eagerly anticipated sophomore LP.
“I’ve already written most of it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the same (as Clean) — I think the writing is much better, with better lyrics and more risks. It’s so poppy and catchy, but with serious themes for my life. I love to tour, but I’m more passionate about recording.”
Arizona, in particular, will have ample chances to see Soccer Mommy this year, with three shows in total: February 12 at Club Congress in Tucson, the next day (February 13) opening for Musgraves at Valley Bar, and an April 22 headlining gig at The Rebel Lounge. Allison’s got fond memories of past dates in Phoenix and Tucson, staying with her guitarist’s grandparents and making the scenic trek between cities.
But no matter the show, or her position on a given night’s lineup, Allison looks at each gig as a brand-new opportunity to make new fans. Yet another exemplary trait that should serve her quite well in the years to come.
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“Opening versus headlining is completely different,” she says. “If it’s for fans, you can play normal and get a reaction from anything. But opening up, you have to really warm the audience up. You have to win them over with you’re playing, and really playing your best.”
Soccer Mommy. Opening for Kacey Musgraves. 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 13 at The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street 602-659-1641; thevanburenphx.com. Tickets are sold out.