On the Doorstep of an Ending, Indigo De Souza is Reborn

The Asheville singer/songwriter talks All of This Will End, her songs becoming stories for other people and the triumphs of creating through joy

Music Features Indigo De Souza
On the Doorstep of an Ending, Indigo De Souza is Reborn

When Asheville, North Carolina hero Indigo De Souza wrote and released I Love My Mom in 2018, she was only 20 years old and already tracking the aches of alienation. “When am I gonna get out of bed / Like everybody else does, everybody else does? / When am I gonna get a better head / Like everybody else does, everybody else does?” were the first lines of her first album ever. It might have been easy for folks to write those questions off—especially given De Souza’s age—but, unless you were a college kid in the Trump years, the catastrophe of a mundane life’s chaos will nihilistically endure in all of us. I Love My Mom’s chronicling of shortcomings, both romantic and emotional, resembled the headspace of us young adults living in quotidian towns while the immediate world beyond our grasp was folding inwards.

And by the time De Souza’s sophomore album, Any Shape You Take, came out in 2021, I felt like I’d already spent an entire lifetime searching for a musician who built a world that felt similar to my own. I’d found a songwriter who was also on a one-way ticket to the quarter-century mark in life, and the songs she put on Any Shape You Take—like “Hold U,” “Pretty Pictures” and “17”—catered to a very specific type of language I needed: minimal yet honest, thoughtful. De Souza never overdid it, refusing to muddy each song’s language by saying too much. On “Hold U,” it was the warm blanket of “I will hold you” that was enough; on “Way Out,” it was “I’ll be here to love you.” Amid all of the expositions of coming undone, De Souza screamed and lullabied her way through agony and ecstasy; it was a perfect portrait of someone my age sparring with inescapable harmony of fucking up and falling in love. I felt seen, and so did countless others who fell in love with her microcosm of wide-ranging genres and articulations.

After Any Shape You Take was finished, De Souza listened to it in her car while crying through a spell of goosebumps, knowing that the album was perfect the way she made it. But, even though Any Shape You Take was critically revered and beloved by her fans, the post-recording process was brutal for De Souza, who lost her band in the wake of its completion. “It was a really hard time in my life, and I’d made music with people who ended up abandoning me right after we made [Any Shape You Take] and didn’t want to be a part of the process—the journey I was on—anymore,” she says. “I felt really scared and alone, because I had been convinced that those people were the only people for me. I was worried about being able to find people who feel good playing with and would feel good to move forward with. [Any Shape You Take], even though that happened, it feels really special and I’m really glad that I was able to make the album with those people. That was our final moment together.”

The community De Souza had come to love and make music with was now gone. With a tour and the inevitable, eventual cycle of another album on the horizon, she had to isolate the processing of her grief, rediscover the meaning of boundaries and, literally, decide what shape her life would take next. “I morphed out of the entire community that I’d had up until that point and realized that I was in a really unhealthy place and had unhealthy relationships and needed to find a different path,” she adds. “It really was a shedding of a lot of things.”

In the space of her transition after Any Shape You Take, De Souza began writing the songs that would form the skeleton of All of This Will End. She assembled a new band—Alex Farrar, Dexter Webb, Avery Sullivan, Zack Kardon, Dave Hartley, Ryan Oslance, John James Tourville and Alex Bradley—that she trusted, and they all holed up in Drop of Sun Studios in Asheville to bring her next chapter to life in 2022. “I had [made a record] twice; I learned a little bit each time,” De Souza says. “Going into [the studio] this time, I had a lot of the songs already figured out—the way I wanted them to sound—or I had demoed them out and had those references. I had a pretty clear vision for everything.” The people she brought in this time helped her return to a stable, creative space. “I was in a much darker place the last time I made an album, so this one felt a lot lighter. And I felt a lot more supported,” De Souza adds.

All of This Will End was teased two months ago with lead single “Younger & Dumber,” a four-and-a-half-minute seismic shift in De Souza’s career. As soon as it hit streaming services in February, the floodgates of discourse online opened. The talk wasn’t in a negative light. No, instead, folks were calling to the heavens that De Souza had released her greatest track yet. And maybe they were right. Gone were the coats of auto-tuned alt-rock and subtle dance-pop. She had found catharsis through closure.

When I covered the song upon its release, I considered what kind of power-move it was to release the finale of an album first. De Souza had returned to us with this ballad of irreparable heartbreak and geographical disaffection, and it felt like the grandest gesture she could make. “I don’t feel at home in this house anymore / Which way will I run when I’m over you? / I don’t feel at home in this town,” she sings, as Tourville’s pedal steel swells into a brief, full-band mirage of distortion. De Souza—whose influences sprawl from Hole to Arthur Russell—was inspired by Kacey Musgraves when she was producing “Younger & Dumber,” hoping to mimic the country superstar’s glossy-yet-beautiful, rugged style. It was initially going to be a solo guitar song, but, when De Souza discovered the, in her own words, “most beautiful-sounding piano I’ve ever heard” at Drop of Sun Studios, the single’s dynamics contoured into one spell-binding, breathless take.

“Younger & Dumber” wasn’t originally going to be All of This Will End’s lead single. De Souza made the decision to self-direct the music videos for all three teaser tracks she and her team were set to release, and first on the block was “Smog,” an amalgamation of catchy hooks, monotone vocals and an earworm melody that had chart-topping architecture. “In planning the video [for ‘Younger & Dumber’], we were building the set and the costume was coming together and I was planning on taking four grams of mushrooms and dancing through the video,” De Souza says. “It felt like the clearest that a visual vision had ever come true for me, and I was just so excited about it. I had a gut feeling that I needed to lead with that song, because it was the most-personal and most-powerful thing that I could lead with.”

All of This Will End is, sonically, much like Any Shape You Take. It weaves in and out of different genres, textures and approaches, touching everything from grunge-inspired alt-rock to dancefloor pop to folk songs plump with synthesizers. But here more than ever before, De Souza’s tracklist sequencing is an ambitious revolving door, as she pairs two perpendicular songs together far across the album. The heavy, whistling, distorted noise rock of “You Can Be Mean” falls into the slow-burn piano ballad “Losing”; “Wasting Your Time” is one of the heaviest cornerstones of All of This Will End, while “Parking Lot” softens into a glossy indie rock vibrato soon after.

The pastiche of All of This Will End—and the explorations of different sonic worlds in a very close, compact environment—is a translation of De Souza’s emotionally nonlinear brain during the songwriting process. “I do feel very intense or, sometimes, I feel soft. Sometimes I feel like jumping around and dancing; sometimes I feel really sad about existing and heavy,” she says. “And all of these things—all of these emotions—align with the way I write songs. I just write from whatever space I’m in and genres end up naturally aligning with my emotions.”

The songs tackle familiar themes: heartbreak, bodily autonomy, mental health and love. On “You Can Be Mean,” De Souza reflects on the brevity of a toxic relationship she had with a “manipulative L.A. model fuckboy” and how daddy issues don’t expunge abuse. She gleans self-doubt from “Wasting Your Time”; out-of-body experiences, fear and anxiety populate “All of This Will End,” as she comes to the conclusion that “There’s only love / There’s only moving through and trying your best / Sometimes it’s not enough / Who gives a fuck / All of this will end.” On the best track from the album, “Parking Lot,” De Souza navigates through losing touch, with one immense realization: “Maybe I’ll just always be a little bit sad.”

A centerpiece on All of This Will End is “Smog,” which reflects the subtle disco tones of album opener “Time Back.” Though she’s never bent this far into the color of synth-pop, her demos usually feature similar arrangements—because that’s the sound she tends to lean into when she’s alone. But, instead of mutating every bare-bones composition into something soaked in distortion and auto-tune, she put more trust in herself and in the conceptions of those first drafts through her collaborations with Webb and Farrar, with the latter of whom serving as an engineer on Any Shape You Take.

A big part of why the album sounds so vibrant is because of Webb, De Souza’s lead guitarist. “He’s my best friend and soulmate in the world. He got to show a lot of voice and he did a lot of production, as well,” she adds. “His guitar-playing is some of the most magical movements I’ve ever heard in music, and it’s very inspiring to me. He really knows my emotional state well, just because of how long we’ve known each other and how long we’ve been playing together.” Webb had played some guitar on Any Shape You Take, but only parts that other people had written. On All of This Will End, he had the opportunity to write with De Souza, including the arrangements on “Younger & Dumber.”

As Farrar took on a bigger production role this time around, De Souza was able to conjure some newfound bravura and take risks without leaning on a bounty of bandmates. “This record was a moment for [Farrar and me], where we inspired each other to have confidence in ourselves, knowing exactly what [the album] needed to sound like and being able to execute that without leaning on other people. On my past records, I knew what I wanted the songs to be, but I also felt like I didn’t really know much. I leaned on other people and wanted to learn from them, but, this time, I felt like I could cut out a lot of the questioning and just go for it.”

More so than ever before, All of This Will End finds De Souza in her clearest place yet. While writing, she found the answers she was looking for while also becoming more comfortable with not having those answers to begin with. “I can remember, in particular, ‘All of This Will End’: When I wrote it, I had unlocked a new way of writing songs that I hadn’t really done before,” De Souza says. “It was very linear in a run-on-sentence kind of way, but still coming back to familiar motifs. And then, that brought me into writing ‘Parking Lot.’ As the songs came out, they felt much less muddled by pain and just…triumphant, or as if I had overcome something that was really hard.”

Though it’s only been two years since Any Shape You Take, it doesn’t feel like a stretch to call All of This Will End a rebirth for De Souza. She remodeled her circle and placed an unparalleled amount of trust into new musicians around her. But, it was those very players and friends who injected a new courage into De Souza’s approach to musicianhood. The songs, though vulnerable, heavy and honest, came from a place of joy and transparency.

“To make this record and finish it and feel so clear and happy and safe in a community and feel all my growth as a human and my work has really amounted to a feeling of stability, and that is such a brilliant space to be in,” she says. “I’m more able to give to my audience when I’m in a stable space. I have more capacity for playing live shows and doing it the way that I want to do it and really represent those songs. Coming out of recording the album and deciding to direct my own videos and having people really care about me, it has given me so much strength to have confidence in my own ideas and my own visuals and sound and thoughts.”

One of the best parts about being in some form of community with De Souza is having the privilege of watching her use her platform as a forward-facing musician for the greater good. During our call, she brainstorms an idea about interviewing the people who care about her album once it’s out, rather than critics asking her all of the questions about the music. “I think that’s what’s really special to me about making personal artwork, that people end up projecting their own lives onto it,” she says. “If I was making it just for me and wasn’t gonna put it out, then it would just always be about my story. But, once it’s out there for the world, then it becomes everyone else’s story, too. I know what that is like, because I have albums that have become very personal to me that other people made. This album just felt very triumphant and wild and it felt very powerful in my body to make. It felt like I had a lot of strength that went into it, so, I’m just hoping that that strength gets passed along.”

When I caught one of De Souza’s Mohawk sets at SXSW last month, she electrified the crowd with a magnetism that signaled her appreciation toward the folks singing along with her. While performing the new songs, she isn’t playing guitar as much, which allows her to move around on stage more and test the limits of what she can achieve in a live space. Debriefing with her after the festival, it became clear, quickly, that that’s become her mantra:

“[All of This Will End] has been this very awesome opening to have greater fearlessness that I didn’t have before. I fully realized that my purpose is to connect with audiences and people in a really genuine way, to show that community and openness and care for each other is important,” De Souza says. “The world feels like a really overwhelming place because there are so many issues and so many things going wrong. But the thing that I have come to know is that I can only shine light on the corners that I can reach. I can’t reach farther than my own community and, because I’m building a community by having listeners and people that are paying attention to what I’m saying and doing, that is a power that is not to be taken lightly. It feels really important for me to create a space of safety for everyone.”

Despite the foreboding, doom-and-gloom title, All of This Will End is a new, hopeful chapter of gratitude and triumph for De Souza. Heading into the release of the album, she is putting her “I can only shine light on the corners that I reach” psalm on her merch, because she wants to say all of the things that feel important for others to hear in whatever ways are feasible. “Every aspect of my career and the things that I’m putting out into the world, I want them all to be intentional and infused with actual meaning, rather than being a T-shirt that says my name on it. I want my every moment in life to mean something,” she says. On Any Shape You Take, in the outro of “Way Out,” De Souza sang “I wanna be a light” over and over, as the song faded into a quiet hum. There was a proclamation there, a desire to be a source of guidance for somebody else. “I can only shine light on the corners that I reach” is a sentence that took De Souza a long time to find the right arrangement of, but how lucky for all of us that she did.

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