His first taste of the music world outside of his friendly confines came a few years earlier, when someone gave him an Elliott Smith record, but it was the move to Asheville that allowed him to bond. friendship and being inspired by a range of artists who helped shape her sense of structure, melody and more.
“My writing has become a lot more brutally honest and direct and less poetically fluffy,” she says.
That was true for her 2018 debut, “I Love My Mom,” but especially for last year’s “Any Shape You Take,” an album in which the singer-songwriter often gazes into the afterlife in his life or death love songs: “I’d rather die than see you cry” or “You were darker than death / the last time I spoke to you” or “Kill me slowly, take me with you / Into the garden where the magnolias bloom… kill me in the morning.”
This obsession with death extends to the album covers, both painted by his mother, Kimberly Oberhammer. The paintings feature a gruesome pair, each a skull with a body of gray flesh, seemingly from a time when nature has reclaimed Earth. De Souza describes them as “visions” that she explained to her mother, a creator of all kinds of arts and crafts who carried them out.
“I definitely use a maternal-like visual as a symbol of death and dying,” says De Souza. “It’s a morbid symbol of death, like a mother and her child and a void behind them.”
However, it’s not all so heavy: sometimes love is a late-night phone call or “breaking up with someone you love because you know it’s gonna be alright,” as she sings. Both vibes run equally deep in De Souza’s six-string slow burners, whether choppy or jagged, with Auto-Tune bits and drum machine patterns stitched together. Sonically, “Any Shape You Take” is a departure from “I Love My Mom.” even though many songs were written at the same time. For that evolution, credit him with growing — not just from a DIY setup to a more hi-fi setup, but also as a person.
“Personally, I changed a lot during this time and became more confident in many ways and more interested in letting my intuition guide the recording,” she says. “I was much stronger when I did this new album, in general.”
April 20 at 7 p.m. (doors) at The Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. blackcatdc.com. $20 to $24. Proof of vaccination is required for admission.