Folk/Rock Renaissance: Interview with Matt Costa
“Wow, this chicken sandwich is spicy!” I exclaim. “Do you want half of my sandwich?” he graciously offers. “I didn’t touch it!” he jokes. Sitting across from me is Matt Costa, the rising folk/rock singer/songwriter, at a local Huntington Beach eatery to discuss his emergence onto the LA music scene, and his first EP Matt Costa. The lanky, soft-spoken guitarist with his poetic lyrics and heartfelt melodies unveil a humble and sincere personality that is verified by his reflective conversation.
The 22-year old, born in LA and raised in Cypress, California, moved to Florida where he “pursued skateboarding and ‘[high] school on the side.’” Neither of his parents were musicians: his father “worked with the airlines,” and his mother “was around the house a lot.” He began music as a childhood hobby, “I started my first music class when I was really young…piano, but it took too long to read the notes and learn what they all meant. When she [the teacher] played, I’d listen…and figure it out. I played trumpet in the school band and started electric guitar when I was eleven…I was influenced by Nirvana then. You pick up your first guitar and learn your favorite songs.”
While Costa muses on his musical influences, our waitress politely approaches, “I’m a big fan…Matt Costa, right? I requested your table just so I could serve you!” After the waitress leaves, Costa seems quite surprised, “That’s never happened before!” Still a little shaken, Costa, a longer-haired Keanu Reeves look-alike, contemplates his musical roots, “My uncle had an old record collection. He gave me some stuff…Bob Lynn…I listened…his lyrics are really good. I was inspired by him and, of course, Bob Dylan. But more so than Bob Dylan was Donovan Lietch…the English counterpart to Bob Dylan…the most influential on my music and songwriting.” Asked about my favorite genre, Classic rock, he enthusiastically responds, “That’s my favorite kind of music to listen to! I like T. Rex…he’s bad-ass!”
Costa’s career began at home with a small recorder and CD burner. “I started making demos around here [LA], gave them to a couple friends…the demos finally got into the hands of Tom Dumont [guitarist of No Doubt],” Costa explains. “He’s the one who helped me record more and complete my ideas. I thought we would make demos like I had been, but he said, ‘Why don’t you put out an EP?!’ We put it out, and with his help, I started getting shows.” Making the EP has clearly been a satisfying accomplishment, and he elaborates on his songwriting process, “Lots of people ask, ‘What do you write first, lyrics or the music?’…I just write whichever I am feeling. Sometimes I’ll have thoughts and write down a poem. Or, I’ll have a little riff on guitar. Sometimes it works out perfectly, and I can put them together…” Since many listeners relate to the Sixties' emotions of his EP, the songwriter, pondering a moment and then smiling, enlightens me on the messages of his music, “All the things I talk about are important to me, and I want people to take what’s important to them...” Costa’s goal is not to be an over-publicized celebrity but to do what he loves most. He modestly admits, “I try not to standout as much as possible and just do my thing... the most important … to make music that I like to listen to. I don’t want to be anything…I just want to write good songs, and hopefully I do.”
On life outside music Matt Costa confides, “Recently, it hasn’t been much else but rocking and rolling. I just try to relax. Right now, I’m reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I like reading because it takes you somewhere else.” “Have you read The Pearl?” I ask. “I don’t read that much!” Costa laughs.
Returning to the subject of music, we discuss his future. On July 22, Matt Costa will be playing at The Troubadour with Run Run Run and The 88, “who I like because they sound a lot like The Kinks.” The youthful musician is hard at work, creating material for a projected full-length album. For now, his Matt Costa EP provides deeply folk-influenced, heartfelt music, and a glimpse into the soul of a kind and sensitive artist. To find out more about Matt Costa’s shows and to listen/buy his EP, log in at http://www.mattcosta.com/, and experience a beautiful lyrical and musical introduction to a gifted singer/songwriter.
-- Meijin Bruttomesso