The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Indigo De Souza’s new album is her most upbeat. The theme is death.

Indigo De Souza. (Angella Choe)
4 min

North Carolina singer-songwriter Indigo De Souza’s third album is in many ways her most upbeat. Yet its title, “All of This Will End,” isn’t exactly cheerful. Death haunts De Souza’s songs, even ebullient ones like the new “Smog,” whose chorus proclaims, “Come alive, it’s the right time / To really start having fun.”

The album’s title “can be taken either as grim or as hopeful,” says De Souza in a phone interview, “depending on where you’re at in your life.”

“There are so many different interpretations, and that’s why I like it.”

Now 25, De Souza began writing songs at 9, an age when “I was having a hard time and was getting bullied a lot and living in a place I didn’t like,” she recalls. “Music was my safe space to process my emotions and to journal about myself. It’s always been a place to process my real life.”

The songwriter confirms that her lyrics are as personal as they seem. “It’s always been like the only thing I can write about. If I were to create a fictional song, it’s like it’s not even mine.” But she relies on producer Alex Farrar and her band to realize the eclectic arrangements.

Do Souza’s material tends to be folkie, but can veer into hard rock and even screamy grunge. It also employs synth beats and other modern pop electronic touches. Her latest album includes trumpet and pedal steel, which “came about when we were moving on to the studio and I was talking to Alex about what we had available to us and what instruments might work for different parts,” she says.

The singer took guitar lessons briefly as a child, then turned to self-tutoring with YouTube videos. She doesn’t read music, “so I need to have people in my band who can just hear me sing it and then play what I sing.”

“My guitarist, Dexter Webb, who’s also one of my best friends, really understands me musically and emotionally,” she notes. “Even though I’m not able to say which notes I’m playing, I can just sing or play him something and he can pick out the chords that I was using.”

De Souza controls many of the creative aspects of her career. She directed the three music videos that accompanied the release of “All of This Will End,” including the one for the hushed, characteristically intimate “Younger & Dumber.” It features home-video snippets of her as a little girl with her parents, including the father whose absence she addresses in the clamorous “Always.”

“It’s really a sweet thing to look back at, and also a really sad and heartbreaking thing,” De Souza says of the footage. “Because of seeing yourself as a child and being not a child anymore, and knowing that you will eventually not even be in existence anymore.”

That concern with mortality is also reflected in the covers for the musician’s three albums, a series of pictures of a gray-skinned, skull-faced woman and child. The scenarios are devised by the musician but painted by her mother, Kimberly Oberhammer. De Souza titled her first album “I Love My Mom,” she explains, after “coming to the realization that my mom eventually would die.”

The acceptance of death recurs in De Souza’s music and musings, even when she’s talking about her late-blooming love for her home state. After moving from the small town of her childhood to the more cosmopolitan Asheville, “I found more community and started to feel less alone.”

Now when she’s touring, De Souza intensely misses North Carolina. “As soon as I’m there, with those trees and that water and those people,” she says, “I feel like I could just die there and I would be happy.”

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