Singer songwriter Matt Costa brought a crowd of eager fans to the Hub on Nov. 15. The Watson Twins opened the show with their sultry harmonies and country ballads, flashing back to the folk duos of earlier decades. The Twins’ style, a seamless mix of urban hipster trends, hippie counterculture and Southern charm, complemented their genuine vocal talent.
The twins paved the way for Matt Costa, who entered the stage just in time to be greeted by the crowd’s cheers of anticipation. The singer launched into his acoustic folk melodies, playing favorites like “Acting Like A Fool” and “Oh Dear.” Strumming his guitar and leaning in to the microphone, he delivered his lyrics with ease and seemed to enjoy the performance. Costa matched the energy of his audience, pausing between lines to let the crowd sing along with him.
At the end of his set, Costa invited The Watson Twins back onto the stage. The two bands came together to play and dance to some catchy folk favorites, invigorating the concert atmosphere. Costa took the mic as the twins sang backup harmonies. For the finale, he prepared his audience for a peaceful night’s sleep with an acoustic version of “Lullaby.”
Before the concert, Artsweek had the opportunity to talk to Matt behind the scenes. With the warmth of an old friend, he talked about his music, life and inspiration.
How did you get started in the music business?
I don’t really consider it a business. When it becomes too much a business, that’s when I’ll stop.
To rephrase, then, how did you start playing music?
I started playing music when I was really young. I’d watch cartoons and figure out the melodies on the piano. I also played trumpet in the school band. Then I got an electric guitar when I was 12. I started playing and writing songs when I turned 18. I recorded them on a 4-track and played shows wherever I could. It just went from there.
You started playing guitar because an injury caused you to give up pro skateboarding. If it hadn’t been for the injury, do you think you would still be pursuing a career in music?
In retrospect, I see all the friends that I was skating with at the time. Most of them became professional. When I broke my leg, I was laid up. I lost my sponsors. That’s when I started songwriting. If it hadn’t of been for the accident, I wouldn’t be in the position that I am now, but I would have found music anyway. I have always been drawn to music and I’m glad that I found it at such a young age.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From books and just things that I see. From California. From history. Personal experience, too. Whatever is affecting me at the time. Relationships, books – I’m always overwhelmed by something. I always think about certain characters in books, about their different personalities. When I sit down to write a song, those are the things on my mind.
What’s your favorite book?
It’s always the one that I’m reading. Right now it’s The Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. It’s about the start of the hippie generation and the hippie drug community.
What artists have influenced your music?
Well, there are so many. Artists from the sixties like Bob Dylan, Donovan and Van Morrison. I figured out who they were inspired by – literature and other songwriters – mostly folk music, Woody Guthrie and traditional Americana. I listen to a lot of music from the early 1900s. As far as contemporaries go, I listen to Belle and Sebastian, The Shins, Travis and My Morning Jacket. But mostly old music and British folk like Nick Drake.
If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be?
The Carter Family. Because they are closer to the root, you know what I mean? I am always trying to find the influences. Music is always derived from something. The more I go back, the more I realize that artists are always quoting music from the past. That’s why traditional music is so important.
Do you think that Southern California culture has influenced your music?
Yeah, wherever you’re from influences what you do – it’s engraved in you. I was born in L.A. and grew up in Cypress and Huntington Beach. I recently moved to Sacramento. I just wanted a change in environment – new influences.
Do you have any advice for young struggling musicians?
Quit everything and hop on a freight train with only your guitar. Quit school. Become a hobo. Get a stick and tie a bandana to it and put a couple of things in it. I’ve never done it, but I’m sure it would be fun.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve been working on a new record ever since I finished my last one. I’ll have a new one out eventually. I have one long-term goal and that is to be an old man and sit on my porch, and have lots of stories to tell and songs to sing.