Editors’ Notes “More often than not, my songs draw from things that remind me of home and things that remind me of peace,” Sophie Allison tells Apple Music. The Nashville guitarist and songwriter’s color theory is steeped in feelings of alienation, depression, loneliness, and anxiety, all presented with a confidence belying her 22 years. The album is organized into three sections, with the first, blue, symbolizing depression and sadness. The second, yellow, hones in on physical and mental sickness, centering around Allison’s mother’s battle with a terminal illness. Lastly, the gray section represents darkness, emptiness, and a fear of death. It’s a perfect middle ground between her earlier work and a studio-oriented sound, retaining a lo-fi ethos while sanding down the pointy edges. Here she breaks down the stories behind each song on color theory.
bloodstream “‘bloodstream’ was one of the first ones I wrote. It took a while to finish it because I had to craft it a little bit more rather than just let all this stuff out. I felt I needed to piece together a lot of themes and ideas that I wanted in there, because it’s a song about being in a dark and empty place. I wanted to try to remember a time when it wasn’t that way. I also wanted it to have this contrast of beauty, and use images of flowers and summer. I wanted this natural beauty to be in there mixed with violence―these images of blood, wounds, and visceral stuff.”
circle the drain “When I started ‘bloodstream,’ I also started ‘circle the drain.’ I was writing both of them on the same tour, and ‘circle the drain’ came together a lot faster, even though it is still a song that's pieced together. I just wanted to grab that wallowing feeling. In the song it feels like I'm drowning a little bit. I wanted it to be a track that felt really bright and hopeful on the outside, even though the lyrics themselves are about someone literally falling apart, and wallowing in the sadness.”
royal screw up “I wrote this one in about 15 minutes. The lyrics here are me just ragging and telling on myself for all these things that I do. It sucks, but if I'm being honest, this is the level that it's at. It's about coming to terms with and being honest about your own flaws and your own reoccurring behavior that may be a little bit self-destructive.”
night swimming “‘night swimming’ is one I wrote at home. I wrote it pretty early on and when I hadn't written a lot of songs. I wasn't sure how it was going to fit in, because it felt very different―softer and more gentle than a lot of the stuff I was writing. But as I started to write more songs, it emerged as the end of what is now the blue section. The themes that are in this song are very similar to things that are going on throughout the album. I think at the core of it, this song is about loneliness and about feeling like there's always a distance between you and other people.”
crawling in my skin “This is a big shift out of the blue section. This one is really about hallucinating, having sleep paralysis, and paranoia, of just feeling like there's something watching me and there's something following me. It’s about the feeling that you're constantly running from something. Obviously, it's a huge shift in the record, and it comes in with a bang. It's immediately more upbeat and the pace of the album starts to pick up. I think about it like getting your heart racing. During the time I wrote it, I was having a lot of trouble with not sleeping very much and just having this constant paranoia of auditory hallucinations. I had the feeling of being completely on edge for a while and feeling like even when it's not there, the moment things get quiet, it's going to be back. The moment that you're at home and people are asleep, it's going to be back, it’s going to creep back in.”
yellow is the color of her eyes “I really like this one. It's about sickness and the toll that that can take. It’s about being faced with something that is a little bit visceral even for a short, short time. Anything can happen at any second. You're not immortal, your people die, and people get ill. At any time, things can change. Anything can change.”
up the walls “I wrote this on tour when I was opening for Liz Phair. I wrote it in my hotel room, because I was flying to every show and I was alone because I was playing solo. This one is all about anxiety and paranoia, but also just feeling tired of having to be a certain person, especially for someone you love when you’re in a relationship. It’s about wishing you could just take it easy. It’s about trying to be a calmer person and not falling into that anxiety when it comes to new relationships. I guess it's really just about feeling like you wish you could be perfect for someone.”
lucy “‘lucy’ represents another shift in the album, both literally and sonically. It has an evil overtone, even just in the chords. I use this idea of the devil seducing you to talk about morality, struggling with that and things in the world that seduce you in ways you wish they wouldn't. It has this minor overtone all of a sudden, even though it's upbeat, catchy, and fun. This is when the album turns into the gray section. I begin to talk more about darkness and evil and things that tear you apart a little bit.”
stain “I wrote this in my parents’ house. I got this new amp and I was just playing around with it and I ended up writing this song. It still makes me uncomfortable to talk about, just because it's about facing a power struggle with someone, and feeling like you lost, and wishing you could redo it over and over again. But it’s also about knowing that you can't, and just being unable to take that as the final answer even though it is. It’s a difficult thing to feel like you're stained with that interaction, and losing control over a part of your life.”
gray light “This song reflects on everything I've been talking about the entire album and brings in this new element of darkness, mortality, and fear. It also touches on longing for an end to some of your suffering and some of the things that will never be okay. It’s about being tired of struggling with things. It has this anxiety and it also has this kind of sadness that draws you to wanting to end some of your pain. But it also talks about how it’s important to recognize these feelings and acknowledge them.”
circle the drain
royal screw up
crawling in my skin
yellow is the color of her eyes
up the walls
10 Songs, 44 Minutes
February 28, 2020
℗ 2020 Loma Vista Recordings., Distributed by Concord.
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