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Indigo De Souza on the influence of Arthur Russell and her mom

The cover of Indigo De Souza's "Any Shape You Take" is a painting of a skeleton mother and child in an overgrown/dystopian supermarket. It's dark and yet somehow kind of touching. De Souza's mom painted it and it shares the bleak-but-touching outlook on the world that she says binds her and her mother.

Here we talk about that relationship with De Souza's mother, her love of Arthur Russell, and a song that she can't stop listening to.

You’re going to play with Lucy Dacus when you come here and so I’m excited for that. And I want to talk to you about music, primarily. What was the kind of the music that you grew up with? What’s the earliest music that you remember listening to?

I remember my mom listened to a lot of Lucinda Williams. Also a lot of reggae. I also grew up in a town that was very Bluegrass oriented, so there was a lot of country music and uh like parlor pickin’. And um, yea, like I used to clog in school.  

I also had some small underground influences like I had an Elliott Smith album when I was young. And I listened to like a lot of Jack Johnson and Regina Spektor. My early influences are kind of scattered. It’s funny, and it wasn’t until after I left the nest and moved to Asheville that I actually started to have a broader idea of music and a deeper understanding of Underground music.

What was one of the first albums that you had that like, deeper understanding of music that you really fell into and loved?

When I discovered Arthur Russell’s “World Of Echo.” That kind of really changed a lot for me because it started a true obsession with Arthur Russell and I started listening to all of his records. He is probably one of my greatest influences, musically I think.

What do you think is it about Arthur Russell that grabs you?

I think that he just like meanders to so many different areas and is just really explorative and free sounding. And his lyrics just remind me of, it’s almost like a stream of confidence type of thing and it feels like it’s not as structured as other music I’ve heard. Structure has always been a funny thing for me like, I think I learned how to do traditional song structures when I was young and then eventually broke out of that and realized that I didn’t need to follow any structures if I didn’t want to. I could make my own structure. And he is definitely one of the biggest influences in that way because his songs just go wherever he wants them to go, and you can tell that he’s not really thinking about who’s going to hear this song or what it’s going to mean to them; He’s just making music because he has to make music.

Yeah, I think there’s only two albums of his that were actually put out by him, and then all the other ones were compiled after his death. I think he is just so romantic because he was such a perfectionist. He wouldn’t have put out the music that’s out now because it wasn’t finished. But it’s so, so good and I’m just so happy that it is out.

That is great. I want to play an Arthur Russell song on the radio today, what song should I play?

Oh man, there are so many good ones… um let’s see, I like the newer album, the most recent album “Iowa Dream” is probably one of my favorites. Let me think…... um, this one is from an older, this an older cut that’s “I couldn’t say it to your face, but I won’t be around anymore” that one’s really special.

We’re playing ‘ Hold U’, could you tell me how that song came together? Like what was going on in your life as you wrote that song?

At that point in my life I was really just in the first healthy relationship I’d ever been in. I had only been in turbulent, dysfunctional relationships and it was the first time that I was in a very simple relationship. So yeah that was just really inspiring to me and it also made me feel inspired about other relationships in my life, just like platonic friendship relationships and I was just feeling inspired in general about love and how simple it can be, and how accepting it can be, and how it can truly be a safe space that you hold for people around you and receive the same from them. Yea, just kind of how sacred relationships can be and how often they’re not treated that way in the world.

What is your relationship with your mom like now that you’re on the road, and traveling and a career musician? Is she supportive of the whole thing?

Yeah, now more than ever.  She’s been supportive my whole life. But with music, there is always a doubt from families that it’s going to turn into anything or that it’s really going to be sustainable. At this point I think that everyone understands that what I’m doing is a constant and demanding job that is doing really well and that I’m not only able to sustain myself but a lot of people that work for me as well. So I really feel the support right now.

What is a unique quality about your mom that you share?

Maybe that we both laugh a lot. We both have very vibrant senses of humor. We are constantly feeding off of that as a coping mechanism in the world. Cause we both have deeply bleak outlooks about existence. But we manage to have a good time and make the best out of it because we have a good sense of humor.

What is the last song you couldn’t stop listening to?

Honestly, I just went on tour with my friend Dan Wriggins. His main project is called Friendship. He just recently made a solo project that is just his name Dan Wriggins. It’s wild. He’s definitely just one of the most incredibly songwriters I have ever heard in my life, if not the most incredible. His songs and his writing just absolutely blow my mind to bits. It’s wild because he doesn’t have a ton of recognition and he’s a smaller artist so I just champion him so hard and want him to blossom and for people to hear his music.

Right now I’m obsessed with one of his songs called, “Dent.” It’s honestly one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. Every time I hear it I just can’t believe the lyrics and the feeling of it.