On the Record with Indigo De Souza, Indie Songwriter

North Carolina-based indie singer-songwriter Indigo De Souza will perform at the Cat in the Cream on Feb. 28 alongside student-band Jane Hobson and the Hobgoblins. Since 2018, De Souza has released two studio albums: I Love My Mom (2018) and Any Shape You Take (2021). Like many of the tracks on her sophomore record, the leading single “Hold U” explores queer joy in order to grapple with the nature of love in a year of isolation and virulent political instability.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

I am really drawn to your lyrics. You have this range of direct and earnest statements to the lyricism of prose poetry. What does your lyric writing process look like?

I don’t really have a super special-looking process. I mostly just write when I have something to say. It’s normally just a very natural process that is kind of mysterious to me, because I’m not thinking a lot when I’m doing it. I’m just following some kind of feeling and the words just string together.

I learned about songwriting mostly from this person that I dated for four years. He is just an incredible songwriter, and he showed me a lot of under- ground music that really inspired the style of writing that I use. I just try to be, like, very honest and open with my lyrics, too. And that just always feels right.

My lyrics sometimes come when I’m in a moment of extreme emotion, but I think usually it comes from a place of calm. It can’t happen when I’m in a heightened place and feel really hyper- active. It’s more like once I’ve settled into an emotion, when I feel kind of heavy and still, or reflecting on the emotion and thinking about how it impacted and changed me. That’s when I am able to say something about it.

Your mom designed your cover art, which is so incredibly special. How did that come about?

Well, she is a really incredible artist. She has hundreds of paintings, sculptures, and just random mediums of art- work that she’s made that nobody has ever seen because she is a manic creator. Like, she is constantly creating things because she needs to.

That’s something that I don’t think she will ever be able to give up. She’s always thinking about the next thing she wants to create. For example, before we left on tour, she gave my whole band these jumpsuits; that she sewed us. And she had made probably like 13 of these jumpsuits, she’s just been honing in this design. That’s just how she’s been my whole life. She’s always thinking of something, some kind of project or some kind of invention, then she starts making it and can’t stop for a little while. Then she starts on something else.

She’s had multiple restaurants as well. She’s incredibly creative with food and really good at cooking. She is wildly active in making things in general and I wanted her to be seen for her artwork. I realized that the cover art was the perfect way for people to notice her artwork, because she doesn’t really put it out in any way. I guess my hope is that someday, some publications will want to do a piece on her and her artwork because of the number of album covers that she’s painted for us. She’s just finished the third album cover recently. I’m hoping to have her paint all of them.

Does the grocery store image on the album cover of Any Shape You Take have any significance?

Well, it didn’t. When I thought of it, I just thought of it. I’ve always just thought grocery stores were insane, and I’ve always felt really anxious in them, so I think that imagery just came to me naturally. We were in the process of getting ready to put out the album, then the pandemic happened. I remember being in a grocery store, and thinking that it was strange that grocery stores now looked the way that the cover had portrayed them. Like, in the moment when there was no toilet paper. I just remember, like, standing in that empty aisle thinking, “This looks just like the painting.”

Do you feel the soul of the I Love My Mom album is different from Any Shape You Take?

Yeah, for sure. I think that every album is very different or has a very different soul. I changed a lot as a person in between those two albums. I shifted out of a lot of pretty bad spaces into a lot of new and healthy spaces, and I felt stronger and clear-minded when I made the next album. It feels like I Love My Mom came from the most angsty, depressed state that I’ll probably ever be in my whole life. Because I think I am constantly learning how to be more and more stable; I don’t really think I’ll be able to go backwards to that space. Any Shape You Take just felt like I was more grounded when I made it. I recorded an- other album recently and it was amazing how different it felt. Yeah, it’s just wild — the way that you change as a person really affects the way that you record.

If I were to show someone one song of yours, which would you want me to show them?

I would probably want to share “Real Pain.” I think it is a good example of the kind of emotion that I draw attention to. I don’t know, I just feel like that song is very representative of the kind of energy that I bring into recording. The idea for that song also felt very important. It felt very important to share that with the world, and I think that if someone heard that song as the only song they’ve ever heard from me, hopefully they would be interested in learning more.

“Real Pain” is the one with the crowdsourced screams, right? How did you get the idea for crowdsourcing that?

I have lots of ideas constantly. I remember that one popping into my head because the song was about a collective idea of pain and how to move through pain by feeling it all. It was the middle of the pandemic, and I was kind of struck by the idea that there was a lot of collective pain happening at that time and that I could represent it by getting people to send voice bytes of themselves. I could hear it in my head, the cacophony of many people’s voices.

Okay, my final question: who are your favorite artists right now?

Really, my favorite artists are the bands I’m taking on tour. We’re taking our friends Horse Jumper of Love and Friendship with us. The singer of Friendship is Dan Wriggins, who also has a solo project, and he is, in my opinion, maybe the best songwriter I’ve ever heard. At least, of this time. His lyrics are absolutely nuts. Every time I hear them, I want to cry because I can’t believe that it came out of anyone and that they exist in the world. And it blows my mind that he doesn’t have more listeners than he does; he’s pretty under the radar right now. He just deserves so much more attention.