While widely known for her cathartic brand of indie rock, singer-songwriter Indigo De Souza’s first foray into music came with bluegrass. The small-town North Carolina native, a Saddle Creek Records artist performing at this year’s Maha Music Festival, started learning guitar at nine-years-old from a local country artist. From there, her mom would often drop Indigo off at picking porches around Spruce Pine, their town of close to 2,600 about an hour outside Asheville, to play music with “the old-timers.”
As a teenager, De Souza began recording and releasing music on her own. She self-released “I Love My Mom” in 2018 when she was 21 before putting out “Any Shape You Take” in August 2021 with Saddle Creek — and she’s been on tour ever since. The Maha Music Festival is one of 24 performances that will conclude her international tour.
The Reader sat down with De Souza to discuss her recent tour, upcoming third album, as well as what the Maha audience can expect from her July 29th performance.
TR: When did you first realize you wanted to pursue music? Was there ever a turning point when you realized that’s what you wanted to do?
ID: From the time I was very small, before I knew what jobs were, I already wanted to play music and knew that was what made me feel most fulfilled. I was nine when I started playing guitar. I was learning from a country musician and bluegrass artist in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. I was singing before that and just have always been singing. So that was one turning point. When everyone else was starting to look into colleges and trying to decide what their path was, I didn’t want to go to college and hated school. I really just loved playing music. So I just made the decision to do what I was passionate about and trust that it would sustain me if I was giving myself over to it.
TR: Describe your music in three words.
ID: Emotional, catharsis, compassionate.
TR: How did you become signed with Saddle Creek Records here in Omaha?
ID: It was kind of a snowball of people in the industry believing in me. I met people in Asheville first that just knew things about the industry and worked in it in some way. They took me under their wing[s]. Because of them, I met more people who did the same and then because of them, I ended up working with a manager and then with a booking agent. I then eventually shopped my stuff around and tried to be really conscious and intentional about the steps I was taking so that I didn’t end up in a bad situation, as I know a lot of people do with labels. It was a long time of sifting through many different offers and trying to understand what the people at each label were like. What their intention was with the music and with me and if they saw me as a person and not just as a money sign. Saddle Creek was the most humane, the most artist-friendly label that I was talking to. They ended up being the one I felt most connected to.
TR: Regarding your two albums “I Love My Mom” and “Any Shape You Take” released through Saddle Creek, what do you think is the most substantial difference between the two? What was the musical evolution from your first album to the second?
ID: There’s two kinds of evolutions. There’s the sonic evolution. They sound very different because I had different resources. For the new album, I had a lot more sounds to use and spaces and people’s brains. It also feels different just [because] I was a lot younger when I did “I Love My Mom.” I was still a teenager when I wrote all of the songs. “Any Shape You Take” was coming into the beginning of my 20s. And the album I just recorded feels so different from those two. It just makes sense. It seems like a silly thing to say out loud but just growing up and learning a lot about myself affects the music. The music just changes with me.
TR: Speaking of that third album, when are you planning on releasing that?
ID: It will be next year because production takes so long.
TR: Do you have a favorite song off of your two albums? Are there any tracks that you’re particularly attached to and love playing?
ID: Not so much anymore because I have overplayed everything. I’ve been touring for almost a full year now. I’m so burnt out that the songs almost don’t sound like anything anymore. But I still always find a way to connect to them when I’m playing, mostly because of the crowd. Like when the crowd is really engaged and kind and is really listening, it makes me feel like I’m in an experience with the crowd. If I had to choose one, I would probably say that “Real Pain” is my favorite to perform and to hear because it just feels like the most emotional song, and it’s easiest to connect to when I’m playing live. It always feels good to engage with the audience, [especially] for the screaming section. It’s also really fun for me to perform because I don’t have to play guitar.
TR: Since you’ve been on tour for so long, how do you maintain your voice and overall energy when performing?
ID: This year was a lot of me learning what my limits are and realizing that I need to be more involved in the booking and the scheduling of tours. Now, I realize that I need more space in between tours. This year I did a lot of coming home for a week and then leaving again, and so I didn’t get to really ground myself at home, which I think is really important for the performances in general, to be able to find my center again before I leave. It’s such an important thing to recharge at home. To cope, I definitely started having my own hotel room this year. Alone time, space, having boundaries, caring for myself and eating well.
TR: What is your creative process like? How do you start writing a song?
ID: It’s different every time. Sometimes it starts with the melody or sometimes it starts with words. It always comes from this heightened space of emotion and kind of outpouring of whatever I’m feeling. It’s really hard to write music and be creative when you’re touring so much. So I’ve actually written less songs this year than I’ve ever written because I’ve been so busy and so tired. I haven’t really had the energy or felt connected enough to myself to write new material. This touring cycle is almost over and that will be really important because I’ll have about five months off to just find that place again.
TR: How does it feel to be performing at Maha with all these other artists?
ID: I’m sure it’ll feel similar to other festivals which have been really pleasant this year. I’ve enjoyed meeting other artists and talking to them about touring and how they’re doing. It feels nice to be around other artists and create a support system. It’s something that you wouldn’t understand unless it’s your job. It’s such an intense thing. It always feels really sweet to connect to other people who know what it’s like to be this deep in the music industry. And I just really love watching other people’s sets, too. It’s always really inspiring to see what other people choose to do at festivals and what their production is like. I remember being really small and seeing shows and just thinking that I would never be able to penetrate that community. It feels like a dream to be right in the center of it all and learn from all those people around me.
TR: What is your set going to be like? Will you be playing a mix of songs from “I Love My Mom” and “Any Shape You Take”?
ID: Yeah, that’s normally what we do. We have been touring so much that we haven’t had time to practice new songs from the new album because we’re never home.
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