@story TONYA MCCOY
@images MARCUS COKER
Desirae Souverville picks up her acoustic guitar and weaves a tale of life, love, and the search for home. The Fort Smith singer/songwriter has written more than 200 songs and she’s been in love with music her entire life.
“I can’t remember ever not singing. My first memory of music was probably when I was four, and my favorite album was Tommy by The Who, and I could sing the entire thing.
“Of course we had a record player and I had four or five favorite records when I was six. It was Johnny Cash’s Live At Folsom Prison, Buffy Sainte-Marie, John Denver, Michael Jackson, The Moody Blues. It was this weird mix.
“When I was real young there was something about it for me that was transcendent, you know, that I could connect to music for some reason.”
The twenty-seven-year-old listens to everything from heavy metal to classical now. But her two latest CDs, Ephemera and Pendulum are a mix of indie folk and acoustic soul, with mostly acoustic guitars. It’s mellow music perfect for grabbing a glass of wine and sinking into a bubble bath. Her voice is rich and at times so smooth it’s haunting, although she’s never had a voice lesson in her life. She even croons an Arkansas twang in some songs. The music is very chill, but the imagery in the lyrics is vivid and not easily forgotten.
“I know there are different audiences for different things, but I’ve sort of settled into this singer/songwriter idea and that’s really the kind of music I love. It’s soulful, it means something, there’s a message, you can hear what’s going on in the music, and that’s what I gravitate toward.”
In the song, “Summer of Change,” Desirae sings about something that has a powerful meaning for her: the search for home. “Every city is every city, they’re all the same, overpacked and too busy for feeling/It’s the concrete jungle that steals my joy, I want to run for the hills, leave everything that’s tied to this sad, sad story/Been looking for a place to call my home.”
Desirae, her four brothers and mom, Francoise, were a family of wanderers. Desirae was born in Fayetteville. When she was two, her mom moved the family to the Sacramento area and then moved around California and Washington state.
“Literally, we moved every two years, sometimes to the day. We never stayed anywhere longer than that. You know, I don’t know why we moved so much. I think it’s just her [Francoise’s] gypsy blood.” She laughs affectionately when she talks about her mom.
Desirae’s mom was also a performer - a belly dancer - but she gave that up when she had kids. She became a midwife, continuing in that field while still working other jobs.
“She worked her butt off. I remember her working two and three jobs just to keep us in a house.” Desirae says despite her own hardships, her mother always helped others. “She’s the kind of person who’d give you the shirt off her back.”
While living in Seattle, Franciose became concerned about the growing drug problem in their community, so she decided to bring them back to Arkansas.
There were other problems as well. Despite her best efforts, there had been times when money was so tight the family was forced to live in shelters for short periods of time.
“Looking back on it, it seems surreal… Looking back on some of the things I went through, you know I was thirteen or fourteen, I’m like wow. How did we get through that?”
Though Desirae wasn’t homeless long, she remembers those experiences. Recently she’s used her talent to raise awareness for The Next Step Day Room, a center in Fort Smith that helps the homeless with employment, food, housing, and counseling.
“My heart goes out to those people because I lived that in my younger years… I understand that it can be anybody, it doesn’t mean that you’re lazy and don’t want to work. People come across hard times and what they do down there [at Next Step] is just amazing.”
The Next Step Day Room recently broke ground on a new shelter specifically for veterans, and Desirae sang the National Anthem. She also recorded a song for the fundraising video.
Desirae is now working on another CD, and this time she plans to mix it up. There will still be indie folk, but she’s also singing rock, jazz, and honky tonk type songs. She plans to release it sometime next year around March.
It will be quite a month; she’s also expecting her first child in March. When the time comes, her mother, who now lives in the south of France, will come home in time to deliver Desirae’s baby.
Desirae sees it as proof of just how small the world is. Her husband, Aaron, was delivered by Desirae’s mom when she was a midwife in Fort Smith.
Until then, she’ll keep writing songs and singing. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll have a lullaby or two ready when her newest fan arrives.
Purchase Desirae’s music at desiraeecrater.com.
Information about The Next Step Dayroom is at nextstepdayroom.org.