Singer/songwriter Matt Costa has always dreamed big ever since he was young. While having a huge interest in music, Costa took lessons in learning several instruments such as the guitar, piano, and trumpet, and even played in his high school band. But when he wasn’t playing music, Costa also had dreams of becoming a professional skate boarder. Unfortunately, those hopes and dreams would come crashing down, as he was involved in a serious accident at age 18.
During his process of rehabilitation, Costa placed his attention towards songwriting and playing the guitar. He would eventually create demos that would soon catch the attention of Tom Dumont, guitarist of the popular rock band No Doubt. Dumont, who liked the demos so much, offered to help out Costa by producing more tracks for him.
With the help of Dumont, the two would go on to produce Costa’s two EP’s; a self-titled extended play in 2003, and “The Elasmosaurus EP” in 2005. Songs from the two EP’s eventually made it out to Costa’s first full length CD titled “Song We Sing.” This first version caught the interest of Jack Johnson, owner of Brushfire records. Johnson quickly signed Costa to his label, invited him to be a part of his 2005 summer tour, and had him re-release a new version of his album “Songs We Sing,” Costa’s first album under a major label. The video for Costa’s first single, “Cold December” was released in 2006. Costa was quickly having his presence felt in California as he performed in major North American music festivals such as Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits.
In 2007, Costa released his first single, Mr. Pitiful, from his record “Unfamiliar Faces.” The song was featured in movies such as “I Love You, Man,” “Youth in Revolt” and “Marmaduke.” It was even featured in a few commercial spots for Apple’s iPhone 3gs. Costa has also toured with artists such as Jack Johnson, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie and Oasis
In our exclusive interview with the indie-folk performer, who has just released his third album “Mobile Chateau” earlier this fall, he discusses topics such as the influences of his latest album, favorite tracks, how he got into music, tour experiences, plans for the future and much more!
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A lot of the stuff from the late '60s, like Fairport Convention. A lot of British things. I’d gotten into that stuff early on in my career. I started listening to that stuff, like really digging into it maybe 10 years ago. But I could only really grasp, in the beginning, the more broken down stuff they would do. Like early folk stuff that Donovan [Frankenreiter] did or some of the broken-down stuff. I sought out more of the folk and root side of it, just because. I thought that’d be a good basis. Like I didn’t want to copy their songs right away, I wanted to know where they were coming from. I went down that path for a while, but my goal was always to come back to that sound, and try to do my interpretation of it. There are a lot of things that crept in. I think hearing a lot of those late records from the '60s, a lot of garage-y sounding stuff, it appealed to me.
Yeah, I’d seen them play. They were playing around Orange County and L.A., doing their own thing, and one of my friends was playing in the band, so I went to go see them play. I thought that the songs that I’d been writing would suit them, and they’d really suit the songs as well. So I recorded the first two songs with them – one was called "Season," the other was called "Witchcraft." I realized that I could accomplish the sound that I wanted. So I started arranging. I haven’t done a lot of engineering, so naturally it would be a little bit rougher around the edges, and that’s what I wanted to go for.
Yeah, I was the producer, and essentially I felt like – I had my hands on the studio for about a month. I still have it, I’ve had it for a year. I’m just renting it. It’s kind of like a warehouse that we turned into a studio. So we had our time to be in there, and capture the spirit of the things. And I think that really comes through to the songs too.
Everyday I have a different favorite one. Today ... hold on let me ask my wife. [Asks wife] "What's your favorite song on the record? Pick one at random if you want." [Matt answers] I like “Johnny’s Love of Majik.” She didn’t say anything, she just froze up.
Well, I’d always been drawn to music. You know, this is something that I’ve never told anyone before. I always forget. My parents, when I was really young – I don’t follow any particular sect of religion now, but when I was growing up my parents were religious – and they were friends with preachers and nuns and stuff like that, and a preacher came to our house one day, and he had told my parents, when I was really young, like 1 or something, that I was going to be a good musician, because I could hear a sound. When I hear a sound, I hear a pattern or something and recreate it. And I think once he told that to my parents, they were always really supportive. Really supportive about having music around me. So I played piano and trumpet when I was young. So I would just learn melodies. That’s how I got into music -- playing it. And then I started getting into writing music when I was 18 or so. I had a guitar since I was 12, but I broke my leg [while] skateboarding, and I had a lot of time on my hands to listen to records, and dissect what I really liked about them.
I was writing songs, and I had a four-track that I had borrowed from a friend for a year. That’s when I felt like I had really started writing songs, because I could actually hear myself back, and pick out what I thought sounded bad and sounded good. So there was a point of reference for myself. And what I did like, I’d keep. Like there are two or three tracks, and I’d make little demos of that. I made two different four-track EPs over the course of a year and my friends would ask me to play songs. But I didn’t want to play songs, so I just gave them a recording. Like, “Oh, listen to this.” I didn’t feel like I could play the songs live. But alone in my room for six hours, and I’d work out a song. And that’s how it started. And Tom got his hands on one of those. The first time I went to go meet up with him, we started recording. Every week I went back. I wanted to record these songs. Every week I’d have another song to record. So that’s how it all started. It snowballed after that.
Yeah man, I tell you, I was scared of ‘em. Their reputation and stuff. Seems like they’re witty and funny and they write so many great songs. They were actually really nice. I did the shows solo with my friend Mitch. And my friend Chris came and helped us out, organizing everything. And they were really nice. Like Noel would come in the room and talk with us occasionally, and Liam, you could hear him next door with his acoustic guitar and just seeing him, I don’t know, just being around that stuff, was pretty surreal. But at the end of the tour, one of the last shows we did, we went to their dressing room and they were like, “You gotta come in for a drink,” and I sat down and had a drink with them, and they were like, “Where have you been all tour mate? Why haven’t you been in the room with us afterwards?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I was scared to come in here. I didn’t know it was cool.” If I had known, maybe I could have done a song with Oasis or something. Ryan Adams was on the tour as well, and every once in a while, he’d come in, and sit on the drum set during our set, which was pretty awesome, seeing him back there, in the middle of our set. Sometimes I’d just look back there, and he’d have the drumsticks ready. Sometimes he’d be himself, sometimes he’d have a wig on, in order to disguise himself, so that people wouldn’t call out his songs. That was pretty cool to get to know all those people.
After touring I think I’m gonna go someplace with a moderate temperature. I don’t know – write, listen to some records. I’d like to record another record. I have a whole record’s worth of songs I’ve already written, while I was writing this record. I like having all the songs be in the same vein, because I was writing a lot of Americana and folk. I heard songs at the same time that were just coming out, so I demo-ed those out. Some solo, and some with a band. Separate band that I wasn’t playing with when I was recording this record. I think the next thing is going to be a little bit of relaxation, but hopefully not too much, because I want to get in and record that next record. The only problem is, I’d say I’m stuck between a rock and a hard spot because I feel like I really want to record that record because I have songs that’s ready for it. But I want to do more shows, and I want to get more out of this record now. I’m still really excited playing those songs. So I don’t want to cut the life off of those songs, because I like playing them. I don’t know what I’m going to do.