In Conversation: Indigo De Souza

"This past year has probably been the best year of my life..."

Indigo De Souza is creative to the core. The daughter of a bossa nova guitarist and a wildly creative visual artist, music and art have been constants in Indigo’s life from the get go. She grew up in Spruce Pine, North Carolina – a small, creatively uninspiring town. Things changed, however, when she moved to Asheville during high school with her sister. An otherwise shy character, this was where Indigo’s musical artistry would begin to flourish.

Now, she’s released her sophomore album, ‘Any Shape You Take’. Her 2018 debut, ‘I Love My Mom’, focussed around death, mortality and motherhood, its namesake a reflection of the strong mother-daughter relationship which Indigo has with her mum. It was recorded and produced in Indigo’s own bedroom and quickly garnered the attention of labels like Saddle Creek Records, a label known for its progressive ideas and a roster which now bears Indigo De Souza’s name. Centred primarily on the theme of change, the new album’s shift to a hi-fi recording aesthetic has been matched with an equally refined songwriting style that’s endearingly open. Music is Indigo’s medium for expression and connection, and ‘Any Shape You Take’ delves fully into both of these realms of human understanding.

We talked to Indigo to find out more about her new album, being under the microscope and how 2021 has been the best year of her life so far.

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Hey Indigo, how have things been so far this summer?

Everything has been very good. This past year has probably been the best year of my life. Summer has been really fun too with lots of swimming, dancing, hanging out, making meals and stuff.

Nice, what’s made 2021 the best year of your life?

Probably lots of music things. But also, I think just having deep-rooted community involvement and a lot of really good people around me.

Taking things back a bit, how special was it to have such supportive and creative parents?

When I was really small and my dad was still around, I remember he played guitar a lot for me. My mum’s more visually inclined and music is a more casual part of her life. She just kind of listens to whatever falls under her lap – she doesn’t go out looking for music. I remember growing up listening to a lot of reggae, bluegrass, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones and Jack Johnson as well.

I’ve read your mum used to pick you up from school in a truck covered in naked Barbie dolls and fake bombs?

Yeah, it was funny. I definitely was very embarrassed by her when I was very young and I didn’t see the value in all of her artistic nature until I grew up and was able to see her from a true state of mind that wasn’t clouded by my embarrassment! She’s a really wonderful person and also vibrantly talented in many different ways.

What other eccentric things does your mum still do?

She makes all different kinds of art. She gardens, grows a lot of her own food and also builds and fixes houses. We also had multiple restaurants growing up. I remember we lived upstairs in an apartment above a restaurant. At first, it was like a donut shop. Then it was a bakery, then a restaurant with all different types of food, then it was a pizza place, then it was an art studio with art on the walls – it was so many different things. Oh, and at one point it was a free store too, so you could go in and leave things that you didn’t want and then other people could come in and take whatever they wanted.

Do you still sometimes feel like the same shy kid you once were when your mum first introduced you to music and arts, or have you matured a lot since then?

I definitely would say I’m not shy anymore. But I don’t talk to strangers or things like that. I had a kind of realisation where so many people would walk up to me and just start talking to me pretty often in my life – people were just drawn to telling me things. But I’m not like that, so I guess in that sense I’m more reserved. But I’m definitely very confident and embodied most of the time and I celebrate myself a lot more of the time than I did when I was young.

Are you still adjusting to everything you’ve achieved with your music so far?

It’s all very new and strange. From the outside, there is kind of no way to understand the music industry and how it works until you’re actually in it. It’s all just so wildly intricate with lots of moving parts and people who do different jobs… it’s been a wild ride. No matter what, it’s a system that’s not very human and is all built around this product that is coming from humans. It’s funny. But so far, I have been absolutely blessed. Everybody that I work with has been so wonderful and they’ve all been so sensitive to me as a person with my emotional landscape and needs. I just feel that I’m very lucky because I’ve seen other people around me struggle with the music industry, get taken advantage of, get pushed around in different directions and not seen as emotional human beings.

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In Conversation: Indigo De Souza

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You view ‘Any Shape You Take’ as being in communion with your debut, ‘I Love My Mom’. But what does the new LP explore which your debut didn’t?

For this one, I was trying to encapsulate the idea of change. Mostly because I have gone through a lot of change lately and have shed a lot of people and modalities of being from my life. I’ve just been really inspired by this new place that I’m in where I’m only accepting health into my world and people that treat me well, who see me in a positive light and allow me the space to express myself whilst feeling safe and accepted. I’ve come into a space of only giving that to people around me too. I feel like all my relationships have been so much healthier than they were before and it’s all because I’ve been better at allowing change to happen and accepting things without getting too attached. I was just inspired by the idea that people can love each other through any shape that a relationship takes.

Who created the psychedelic style artwork for the album cover?

My mum painted the artwork for both my album covers. They were both visions that came to me at a time and I just knew that the imagery had to be on the covers. I just explained the imagery to her and she created it from what I told her. It feels special. The paintings themselves are huge, they’re both in my house. I live in a big church in the woods and the last video that we put out (‘Hold You’) was filmed in that church, so you can probably see the album covers in there a little bit.

‘Real Pain’ is one of the album’s focal points. What did it feel like compiling together people’s screams and yells that were sent in to you for the track? It was heavy to receive all the recordings. Some were dark to listen to and people were really letting loose. But then others were quite sweet and had said direct things to me in the recordings. I also received a lot of written letters too which was nice. It all just felt very natural and good and made sense to me to involve people in the song.

How did it feel shifting from your bedroom setup at home to taking charge of a hi-fi studio for producing the new album?

The difference really was just that this album felt limitless. There were no bounds in which I had to work in and anything I wanted to explore, I could. Any sound I wanted to make, we could try and make it with the tools that we had. I was just really grateful for the experience, and to go from a bedroom recording to that was wild. I learned a lot and it was great to work with other people too. I had Brad Cook working on it with me and two other really talented engineers who ended helping with the production as well. It was really nice to have so many people to bounce ideas off of.

Given you recorded ‘Any Shape You Take’ in early 2020, what shapes are you taking now as an artist having come out of the other side of this album?

I don’t know. I think what’s funny is that I’m now making art that I’m sharing with people – that is my place in the world. Now the shapes that I’m taking are kind of under a microscope. But I think I’ll just naturally morph in the way that I do and I’ll share my changes and be honest with my world. If I do that, then it feels like I’m inviting other people to do the same. I think that’s my calling in this life: To give people a safe space to be themselves and feel a full spectrum of emotion.

You said in an interview recently that, “I can’t relate to most people in the world.” How does music help make you feel more connected with the world and with other people?

I think it’s special because it just brings people together. Even if a person is not saying anything with emotion, music in itself has emotion to it and people feeling emotions when they hear a sound together gives them this collective experience. It just feels so special to be able to do that. People’s brains are separated from each other and there’s no way for everyone to actually fully see one another and understand how they are or exactly how someone thinks. But to give people a space to connect and feel through music is just special and it makes me feel a lot closer to people.

Do you have a set goal in your mind you’re aiming to achieve with your work as an artist?

I’ve never really thought about it in that way. I’m always just going with my gut and leading with my intuition always. I think that goal or whatever will be revealed to me along the way, you know?

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'Any Shape You Take' is out now. 

Words: Jamie Wilde / @jamiewilde__

Photography: Charlie Boss

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