After years of writing songs for herself, the singer-songwriter is gaining a new, wider audience

Indigo De Souza remembers the moment when she realized this whole music thing might actually work out for her. It was early 2018 and the now 22-year-old was playing a house show in Raleigh, North Carolina, four hours east of De Souza’s adopted hometown of Asheville.

“From the first song we played until the last song we played, everybody in the room was screaming all the lyrics,” De Souza said. “It was really loud and sweaty, and the whole room was jumping. I just remember crying and realizing that everybody knew the lyrics and that they'd all been listening to the album. It really felt like it meant something to them.”

Before that house show, and before I Love My Mom, De Souza’s garage-pop 2018 debut, the musician was a kid growing up in Spruce Pine, North Carolina (pop. 2,175), a small, conservative town that proved an ill fit.

“I was bullied intensely. I was pulled out of school multiple times because of it, and tried homeschooling and alternative schools. I was one of the only mixed people [in school], so my skin color was different, and also I was just very different,” she said. “Really up until Asheville, I thought that life was the hardest thing in the world. Everything was hard, and I thought that I was really different in a bad way.”

De Souza moved to Asheville at age 17 with her older sister, living in a home purchased by their mother. Prior to relocating, the musician lived with her mom, stepdad and a grandfather suffering from dementia.

“A teenager and an old man with dementia just didn't go very well because I was ignorant to the disease at that time,” De Souza said. “I was mostly frustrated that there was this huge change in my life, and I didn't know how to handle it.”

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Asheville, with its vibrant arts scene and a population 35 times larger than De Souza’s hometown, proved a welcome change. De Souza met her bandmates, fell in love for the first time and discovered the city’s underground music scene, along with Echo Mountain Studios. She started out doing some live sessions at the studio and learning about recording before realizing that she preferred a sound that was a little less clean. De Souza recorded her first EP, Boys, from 2016, in a friend’s garage.

“I realized that things could sound dirty and crunchy,” she said. “They don't need to be perfect. The songs don't need to be verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. They could be whatever I wanted them to be.”

While De Souza doesn’t like to analyze her songs — “I kind of feel like a fraud anytime I try to attach anything to [my lyrics],” she said — the musician is comfortable discussing her mother, the woman who designed the album’s artwork, inspired its title and remains “an endless inspiration.”

“I don’t need anyone to have me,” DeSouza sings on “Ghosts.” “I love my mom than any of you fools.”

“Realizing my mom's humanity was a really important turning point for me, and everything in my life became easier when I started to see people as mortal,” De Souza said. “I think when I was young, I just saw moms and dads as moms and dads and babies as babies. I just saw everyone in a very one-dimensional way, and then that changed at some point.”

There have been many moments of change throughout De Souza’s life, this one included. She is getting ready to sign with a label, though she couldn’t reveal which one. This year she’ll also record her second album — in a studio, no less — while stringing together both a headlining solo tour, which stops at Big Room Bar on Friday, Jan. 17, and dates opening for Beach Bunny.

“I love everything about [touring],” De Souza said. “I love staying with random people and learning about them and connecting with them. It's really been insane to see how many people in places that we have never been are excited to see us and sing along and care about us being there. That's been really heartwarming. It’s been exhausting, too. It's hard. And it's amazing.”