“My mom is the figure in my life who makes me think about mortality the most,” Indigo De Souza said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “That’s probably my biggest fear, losing my mother.”
The artwork for her debut LP, aptly named I Love My Mom, features two ghoulish figures crouching in a sea of greenery; behind them, a swirling pattern of pink and blue recedes into darkness. The image, painted by De Souza’s mom, foregrounds imminent death, yet there remains an inexplicable tenderness. In the vortex of mortality, the skeletal smiles of mother and child remain.
Throughout her work, De Souza floats through the transience of the human condition. Leaning into love and loss, the musician dips her brush into various genres, painting an impressionist landscape of the world as she sees it. From the indie rock of “Take Off Your Pants” to the neo-soul of “Hold U,” she resists rigid delineation, instead embracing the fluidity of musical form.
“My songwriting is just kind of brutally honest and centered in this place of true expression and true emotion,” De Souza said. “Just kind of offering that space to the listener, like a safe space, to think about their own inner world.”
Though her second album Any Shape You Take comes three years and a record deal after I Love My Mom, the two combine like perfect pieces of a puzzle. Taken as one, they produce a beautifully jagged image of young adulthood and its growing pains.
“A lot of the songs from those albums were just written over a span of about five years and are from a certain era of my life that I would call like a coming of age time,” De Souza said. “I was going through a lot of the hardest parts of growing up and the hardest parts of a first heartbreak and just discovering what it is to be totally myself.”
During “Real Pain,” De Souza reflects on heartbreak, realizing that she cannot outrun her feelings. As the song progresses, the personal yields to the collective; the layered audio of screaming fans, submitted to De Souza anonymously, ascends into a chaotic, cathartic beauty. Suddenly, it breaks into raw vocals: “I wanna kick, wanna scream, I wanna know it’s not my fault,” De Souza sings, jumping between her upper and lower registers with wild uncertainty.
“It was really just an insane time when the pandemic was beginning, and it’s kind of at this height and there was a lot of mystery around what was going to happen and if we were ever going to be able to be together again,” De Souza said. “(‘Real Pain’) felt like a special way to timestamp that moment and allow people to have a safe space to interact with each other without knowing each other.”
Though De Souza began writing music at nine years old, she found her hometown of Spruce Pine, North Carolina to be creatively stifling. Always a bit of an outcast, she felt as though she could never authentically exist, nevermind express herself.
“When I moved to Asheville, everything changed,” De Souza said. “I was surrounded by people that I could connect to more and was surrounded by artists and creatives and people of color as well, which was something that was really missing from the town that I lived in.”
In the music video for “Hold U,” De Souza pays homage to the community that has given her so much. Following a group of friends, as they dust on colorful eyeshadow and melt together on a sofa, the visuals are youthful and vibrant. Doused in glitter and euphoric light, the group dances the night away, radiant with joy and triumph.
“It was just this beautiful moment in which we all collided and actually just had so much fun together, and it was all on camera,” De Souza said. “I just wanted to depict this support and love and celebration of joy within my community and the queer community and just the artistic community that exists in Asheville.”
Less than a year after Any Shape You Take, De Souza has already finished recording her third album. Though she hesitates to reveal too much, she admits that she wants to wander more into the realm of pop music.
As for the album artwork, it will likely strike a similar chord as her previous records. “I always have my mom paint the album covers,” De Souza said. “She’s definitely working on the next one.”
When De Souza says she loves her mom, she really, truly means it. Her mother is a driving force of her art and life — an inkling of beauty that emerges from the impermanence. With candor and compassion, De Souza earnestly captures each moment of fleeting joy, even as she feels them slipping through her fingertips.