Indigo De Souza doesn’t hold back on ‘Any Shape You Take’

The musician, who visits Big Room Bar for a concert on Tuesday, continues to write with startling honesty

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Indigo De Souza

Growing up, Indigo De Souza didn’t have a television, and her mother wouldn't allow her to have a phone or access to any screens. As a result, the North Carolina musician has always felt a strong connection with the natural world, which stemmed in part from being forced to continually engage with it.

“It’s where I got all of my life and entertainment and love from,” said De Souza, who visits Big Room Bar for a concert on Tuesday, Sept. 28. “And since I was a child it’s been that way. There’s just a lot of magic that comes from relationships with people and learning about others and the way their brains work, and how we can lift each other up and make the world more tolerable together.”

This long-felt connection to humanity made the earliest weeks of the pandemic particularly challenging for the musician, who, while comfortable alone, described herself as an inherently social person. Fortunately, De Souza was able to form a social bubble early in COVID, meeting in an outdoor setting with a small group of friends to play board games, hike, swim and sit by the fire. “And that saved everything for me,” she said. “I wasn’t alone for that long because I acclimated and created this little utopian world with some people I love very deeply.”

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It’s a sense of belonging that carries throughout De Souza’s excellent sophomore full-length, Any Shape You Take (Saddle Creek), an album that finds the musician exploring all types of love, from romantic to familial, a lyrical direction shaped in part by a desire to move away from the disconnect brought about by the pandemic. Which is not to say Any Shape always takes on a positive form. Witness “Real Pain,” which gradually decays, becoming slower and darker before exploding into a series of primal screams. Then there’s the cathartic “Die/Cry,” where De Souza repeats the line “I’d rather die, before you die, before you die,” until it begins to feel like a mantra about finding comfort in the hurt.

Throughout, De Souza writes with startling directness — “I don’t think I’m ready for a clean-cut kind of love,” she offers on one tune — a trait she said she discovered early in her songwriting career, and which can still strike her in its absence on her first recordings. “I was actually listening to some old recordings the other day and realizing I was a bad writer back then,” De Souza said. “Well, not that bad, but I just didn’t like the songs I was writing because I hadn’t gotten to that point of clarity yet, and I was still writing around the ways I was feeling.”

De Souza further traced this inclination to the social circles she ran in earlier in her life, saying that she had a tendency to surround herself with people who talked around their feelings instead of speaking bluntly. “And once I became friends with people who were very candid about their emotions, I noticed how beautiful that language was in real life, and how beautiful it was when someone told me how they really felt,” she said. “And I think I wanted to reflect that same sentiment in my songs. … When my relationships with people changed, my relationship with songwriting changed, too.”

De Souza said it also helped when she stopped writing with the idea that anyone would hear her music and instead approached the craft from a place of honesty. “Which is the space I write songs from now,” she said. “Once I was able to trust myself and follow my intuition, everything else just fell into place.”