Indigo De Souza is a rising indie musician from Asheville, North Carolina. In the summer of 2021, she released her sophomore album Any Shape You Take, which has now received praise for its emotional and unique perspective on death, heartbreak, and friendship. I had the pleasure of interviewing De Souza for WUSC. Check out the interview below to see some insight behind the album, childhood memories and a retelling of a crazy life performance!
I would love to know what song on Any Shape You Take took you the longest to write and what song took the shortest time?
I think what took the longest was "Hold U." There was a lot of tonalities in the instruments that I felt really specifically about and for a while it didn’t feel right, and we had to keep trying different sounds until everything felt perfect. I remember that being one of the last [songs] we finished. Probably the fastest song was "Pretty Pictures," which was also a last-minute addition to the album because one of the songs that we had recorded felt like it didn’t really serve the album well. We took it out and replaced it with a new song, and it was the newest song I had written, which was "Pretty Pictures." All the other songs are really old, and because [Pretty Pictures] was so new and all my ideas for it were all really fresh, it was a really quick process.
There are multiple songs on Any Shape You Take that reference death in some way, such as "Darker Than Death," "Die/Cry" and "Kill Me." All of these involve this exploration of mortality that is very interesting, but they are also in reference to a person, and I was wondering if you could talk about what that means to you to connect a living person to the concept of death?
That’s a cool insight, I actually feel like no one has ever asked me that. I don’t know if it’s like this for everyone, but there was just this one relationship that taught me the most about relationships in general, and it was the longest one and the heaviest one and the first big one that really impacted my life. That person and I had a lot of perspectives in common when it comes to existential stuff. So, I find myself referencing him a lot or speaking to him a lot in my song writing, or I used to, because of that shared perspective that we had. That was a very special part of my life, so I think I was always speaking to him. But I find now in my writing that I’m not speaking to him anymore.
How would you describe the way you make music?
It’s very different every time. Sometimes it will be a melody that arrives in my brain just as I’m going about my life. Then I’ll kind of slowly put lyrics to [the melody], either in one day or over time, it really just depends. I find that that’s usually how it happens, with melody first, because there’s a lot of emotion in melody for me, so once there’s a melody the words come easily. But sometimes I’ll also write down lyrics on my phone and later take out the lyrics and I’ll start playing guitar and singing the lyrics in different ways. I also usually make demos of songs pretty quickly— if I’m not finished with them, I’ll flesh out all the different instrumentations for the song, just to see what it could sound like, and that helps me finish writing the whole song.
Do you think the way you make music has changed as you’ve progressed in your career, from I Love My Mom to Any Shape You Take?
I think it’s ever-changing, especially with the way that my career has changed so much. There’s such a different energy in writing songs now then there was in the beginning, or there’s kind of a different energy to it. Now I don’t have as much time to write songs, so it feels different when I am writing because it feels like a more special moment than it used to be.
I know you have a close relationship with your mom, your debut album’s title is I Love My Mom, both of your albums' cover art was created by her, and she has many appearances on your social media. Do you think your relationship with your mom has affected your music? And how has her own artistry affected you?
For sure in a lot of ways, because she is such a prolific and disciplined artist and my whole life growing up, [this] was always reflected on me and I was constantly making things also. She was always teaching me how to make things and kind of setting an example of self-expression and vibrancy. I reference her a lot in the songs though because she is kind of a symbol of mortality for me. She has also pushed me to play music my whole life, in a really helpful way, like kind of pushed me outside of my comfort zone and got me to practice performing in front of people a lot. So, there’s a lot of ways she’s inspired the place I am now.
You’ve stated in previous interviews about how your friends are probably the primary relationship that inspires you, and how "Hold U" on the album is about your relationship with them. I’d love to hear about these relationships and how they inform other aspects of your life?
Generally, I have a really powerful connection to friends, and I create a very open, safe space for all the people in my life and I have really clear boundaries in my life now. I really only accept people in my life spending time with me who are kind and who create safe space for me and friendships are really important and really beautiful. I think the power of [friendship] can get kind of lost in the world sometimes because people accept a lot of pain in their lives or accept people who don’t treat them well or don’t allow them to fully be themselves. So yeah, I think that now I’m just really blessed with a clarity that has allowed me to create really healthy and long lasting, really connective, ever morphing friendships.
What do you think was your craziest experience performing live?
It’s all been so wild, it’s been crazy. This is the longest tour I’ve ever been on. I think probably one of the wildest things was playing my first headlining show in LA this time, it’s been 2 years since I’ve been on tour and I’ve never played a headlining show in LA. The headlining show that we played was sold out, there were so many people there! I think that that was definitely wild for me, to see hundreds of people that showed up in this space to hear me. Really just getting to share that moment with my bandmates was really special because they are new bandmates. We kind of formed this new formatting during COVID and this tour is our first big thing that we’ve done together, so it was really special to feel the energy and impact of the new album there in LA and to share that with them. It just felt like a really promising movement forward.
Have your experiences growing up in the south influenced the way you make art or the art that you make? Do you think you’d be making the same art if you had lived somewhere else?
It’s hard to say what it has done for me, it’s hard to analyze myself. But before I moved to Asheville, it feels like my idea of music was really limited to where I lived and I was surrounded by a lot of the same kinds of music and heavily influenced by bluegrass and country and folk music, and I didn’t really know there were a lot of underground artists or that there was even grungy, loud music that existed in the world. So I think that once I was aware of the full scope of what was out there, my world just kind of opened up much more. The south was kind of limiting, I think, but also brought me some really cool fundamentals of song writing. When I was young, my mom would set me on porches—there were all these pickin’ porches, where men would be playing bluegrass in a circle. She would put me there to play guitar with them, and I think that that really helped a lot. Yeah, it’s really cute! But I’m glad I got out because I think that—I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t got out, none of this would have happened.
Who are your inspirations? Are there any artists that you go to for inspiration?
I am very connected to the people in my life and pour a lot of energy into them. That is really the most inspiring thing, the connections I have with other people.
Nowadays, having an online presence seems unavoidable, especially as an artist trying to put your art out into the world. Do you feel like there’s a sort of pressure that comes with posting on social media as an artist? Do you feel like there are positive aspects to using social media?
I’ve always loved social media; I’ve always thought that its toxic, but I’ve also found a way to use it that feels really true to me and really powerful. It allows a lot of control and I’m able to speak to my audience directly and say exactly what I want to say. I’ve been really grateful for the way that I’ve been supported to keep my autonomy when it comes to my social media presence. Everyone I work with has been really sweet about allowing me to do the things I want to do. I’ve always loved it because it feels like a direct line to people who are listening.
What do you think is up next for you in your career? Do you have any goals?
[After the tour] I think we’re going to have a little break and then basically we’re just going to be touring a lot more, there’s a lot of stuff in the future, and a lot of shows, going to Europe. Just a lot of traveling and playing music and recording the next album.
Do you have any music recommendations for the students at USC besides Any Shape You Take?
My top three albums are Iowa Dream by Arthur Russell, Tirzah’s album Devotion and also Weird Little Birthday by Happyness.
To see the full video interview, click here!
Indigo De Souza and her band are currently touring the U.S. through November and starting again in January 2022. You can find more information about touring and dates on her website here. She will be playing at The New Brookland Tavern in Columbia, SC on November 17th, and you can still get tickets here!
I am an avid listener and supporter of female driven and focused music. The show will include music from almost all genres, from jazz and classical to rock and punk. On the show, I will discuss the personal qualities of the artists music as well as relevant historical, political, and cultural factors of the music and the artist.