Matt Costa goes retro

Ironically, as his career in music progresses into the future, Matt Costa digs deeper and deeper into the past for inspiration.

While his 2006 Brushfire Records debut Songs We Sing was a fairly straightforward pop record, its 2008 follow-up, Unfamiliar Faces, drew generous inspiration from Wings-era Paul McCartney. On Costa’s latest record however, last year’s Mobile Chateau, he does nothing to hide his love for late ’60s pop music, including The Zombies and The Hollies.

Not only does Costa prominently wear his influences on his sleeves throughout Mobile Chateau, the production of the record harkens back to the same era from which he has drawn so much inspiration. If you didn’t know better when listening to the record, it would be easy for any listener to believe that the record was made in the ’60s as opposed to any time this century.

“I find that when you have an infatuation with something, you want to get as deep as you can into it. You start finding out who was inspired by who and what led them down this path,” a subdued but chatty Costa says from his California home. “I have known about The Zombies since I was a little kid and so Mobile Chateau has a lot of nods to them and bands like that featured throughout the record.”

Fortunately for Costa when it comes to indulging his musical pursuits, he has the unwavering support of his label Brushfire Records. The label, owned by multi-platinum selling surfer superstar Jack Johnson, has been Costa’s home for his past three records and has allowed him to grow as organically as possible as a musician.

“With Mobile Chateau, I wanted to get into the studio and learn about the process of producing my own record,” he says. “Brushfire were supportive of that decision although I think at the outset of the record, they were pushing to have me work with a producer. But as I turned more completed work into them, they were completely open to the idea of me finishing the record on my own. The process of learning and making mistakes while making the record was another part of songwriting that in turn helped me refine my material that much more.

“Really though, I am very lucky that I have the people at Brushfire to offer criticism and alternate ways of seeing and hearing things because I believe that you end up being happier with the finished product in the long run.”

Costa admits that even before having gone into the studio to make Mobile Chateau, he had assembled a significant collection of songs, including having almost a complete record of Americana-influenced music. But rather than releasing two efforts simultaneously that were not necessarily cut from the same musical cloth, Costa chose to shelve the Americana record for possible release at a later time.

“At the time I was making Mobile Chateau, I essentially had a whole record of Americana songs that didn’t really work with Mobile Chateau,” he shares. “At the time, I didn’t focus on defining those songs but from that time to now, I have been evolving the songs more and more. I am debating putting them out as an Americana record but would also like to see the songs evolve in a way that they would not be classified as such. I honestly find that putting a label on a bunch of songs is kind of limiting. I would really like to push it outside of that realm.”

Seeing how all but two of Costa’s six shows in the Atlantic region sold out in advance, one can only hope that will not be the last time he will be in our neck of the woods.

“My wife was a little envious that I was going on this tour so I told her that she could tag along if she worked a little bit,” Costa jokes. “With any luck, I will be able to get her to come up on stage to sing some harmonies with me. I have never been east of Quebec City and have been fairly restless at my house so the tour is perfectly timed as far as I am concerned.”

Article published in September 2, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript