A 16-year-old singer/songwriter from Asheville, Indigo is rapidly making a name for herself around Western North Carolina. Between her angelic voice and butterfly-like guitar picking, the teenager is a breath of fresh air with a presence that mesmerizes the senses. Peeling away the layers of her rich tone, one can see where names like Joan Baez, Regina Spektor, Joni Mitchell and Kaki King come to mind when describing her music. Alongside her original compositions, Indigo also finds new and exciting ways to transform pop standards and Top 40 radio hits into something uniquely hers.
The Smoky Mountain News caught up with the young virtuoso as she readied herself for an upcoming performance on Dec. 27 at Tipping Point Brewing in Waynesville. She spoke of the challenges being a teenage artist, how music impacts her daily life and the importance of making a connection with the listener, onstage and off.
Smoky Mountain News: Any highlights from 2013?
Indigo Blue Desouza: I moved to Asheville, which was a huge step for my career, and for my life in general. Asheville’s diverse and accepting quality is comforting. The Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College was the most influential and life-changing experience I’ve come across so far. This past summer was my second year attending as a scholarship winner. I couldn’t be more grateful. The amount of musical intelligence that I gain from one week of camp with older, working musicians is more than I learn in a whole year. I also have been working on an album with the generous help of Josh Blake, who runs a project called IamAVL at Echo Mountain Studios in downtown Asheville. The project is an aid for independent musicians like myself. I’m so very grateful for their devotion to helping me.
SMN: What’s it like to be a 16-year-old musician in a modern world?
IBD: It’s difficult sometimes to balance my passion and career with school obligations. In all honesty, school feels unimportant to me right now, though I know that’s not the case. Every professional musician I’ve ever spoken with has told me not to drop the importance of school and to take advantage of my youth. I won’t be a kid for long, and for any career in life, one should be educated. Modern day music has become slightly out of hand in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about belting out some “Wrecking Ball” in the car as loud as I possibly can, but I’m not crazy about today’s music and our country’s influences. It’s almost as if the world doesn’t look for the truth in music anymore. We seem to want to hear danceable songs, songs about money, drugs, break-ups and confidence almost to the point of self-absorption. People are forgetting about that organic pain and experience that thrives in music left on the backburners. I feel like it’s important to recognize the work of the smaller artists as well as the wildly well-known ones. My goal in life is to make connections with people through music and to build myself as an individual.
SMN: At the heart of your music is simply a singer and their guitar. What do you feel when you pick up that guitar?
IBD: When I pick up my guitar, it’s like coming home. No matter how uncomfortable I am in a situation, once I have my guitar and the chance to sing for someone, I’m completely at home. I grew up with my mother, Kimberly Oberhammer, always telling me that I could be “the coolest kid at the party if I brought my guitar.” I used to think that was silly. There’s no way I could become the coolest kid there just because I have a guitar with me. Though, now I understand what she means. Music has a way of bringing people together. One person playing music can bring everyone together.
SMN: What’s your songwriting process like?
IBD: In the process of writing, lyrics and chords develop at the same time. When I’m writing, it’s most likely because I’m feeling an overpowering emotion, so the song starts to sound the way I feel. Mom tells me that when I was 8 years old, I asked her how to get rid of all the thoughts in my head. Naturally, she was worried. Now, I have a way to pour my thoughts out into the open.
SMN: Where do you go in your head when you’re performing onstage?
IBD: When I’m performing onstage, I’m completely immersed in each song and what it means to me. I can feel a connection between myself and the audience. I can see in their faces that for a moment, they understand me. Each time I’m privileged with the opportunity to play for an audience, the feeling is golden.
SMN: What do you see as your ultimate goal in music?
IBD: My ultimate goal in music is really just to connect with people. I have this one, short life to make an impact on the world in a positive light and I won’t give up on that chance. I hope, as we all hope, that I can make a living doing what I love full-time and leave this world knowing that I left some part of me behind.
Editor’s Note: Indigo Blue Desouza will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27, at Tipping Point Brewing in Waynesville. The show is free and open to the public. To find out more and listen to her music, you can search her name on YouTube or Facebook.
1: Indigo will perform at Tipping Point Brewing in Waynesville on Dec. 27.
2: ZZ Top plays Harrah’s Cherokee on Dec. 31.
3: Brad Waldrop and Friends play O’Malley’s in Sylva on Dec. 27.
4: SmokeRise performs Jan. 4 at Lucky Jakes in Maggie Valley.
5: Balsam Range and John Driskell Hopkins hit the stage at the Colonial Theatre in Canton on Jan. 4.