Matt costa could have a lot of things go differently in his life had his fledgling skateboarding career not been ended by injury and the Californian not been forced to give music his full attention instead.
Now the singer’s back with his fourth album, with the self-titled ‘Matt Costa’ hitting shelves last month, and we talked to him about recording the album in Scotland and why he decided to bring new instruments into the equation on this record.
So, what can your fans expect from this fourth album then?
They can expect more horn and string arrangements than I’ve had before, and I guess it’s a blend of all the records I’ve put out until now.
What brought on that decision to us more strings?
Well, I talked to Tony Doogan who produced this album about a lot of Ennio Morricone film scores before we really started working on the record. This got us in the mind-set of adding strings and doing these lush arrangements which lead to a lot the instrumentation on the album. It’s not all just in the style of Morricone, but it really started with that talk, so it’s progressed from there.
How’s the reception been to the new tracks then?
It seems good. I’m touring through the States right now and people are already singing along with the new songs. That sort of reaction is always nice; you want to connect with the songs in a live setting as well as just on the record. I’ve worked hard to build up the live show and I think it’s going good right now. It’s hard to translate some of the elements to a live audience where I don’t have those same instruments. I think we’ve done a pretty nice job though.
You recorded this album in Scotland, what got you to make that decision?
Well, when I talked with Tony, he had mentioned either recording in LA or over in Scotland. I’d never recorded a whole before outside of southern California and I figured it would be nice to have him in his own element, in his own place and comfortable. He also mentioned the prospect of having a bunch of musicians he knew and trusted in Glasgow come in on the record. At the time I was between bands, so I thought it would be good to see what these guys were like and put myself out of my normal element.
I’ve been a fan of that style of acoustic guitar playing for some time, so just to go there and be in their environment was great. When he introduced me to some of the guys from Belle and Sebastian and we hit it off rather well that was great, as I’ve really liked their stuff for some time. It seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up to make a record.
You say in the past you’ve been influenced by British folk music, did being nearer to that have an impact?
I guess. Even before going there I’d already put myself there in my imagination if that makes sense. When I’m writing songs, for me they don’t exist in any set place or time, they just sort of float in time for me. When you get someplace and things are real a tangible, sometimes things are better left to the imagination. Not this time though
So when I got there and I was longing for a little bit of home what was great was that the band there had the same sort of emotions about American music as I did about British, reminiscing about Graceland and all this Americana music. So I think between the two of us romanticising about each other’s music really played into one of my original ideas in recording this record was that interplay of music between us two. Be it English ballads turning into appellation folksongs, rock and roll blues turning into Britpop, it just kept going back and forth.
Also, when I had some time when I had days off going around the countryside and taking the train all the way to the end of the line and going over to the Isle Of Skye was fantastic. That really set a mood in my mind. Meeting all the folks in Glasgow and seeing what they had there was inspiring too. There’s stuff from the visit that I will take with me past this record and use further on.
Is it true that you learnt the guitar plucking along to Nirvana tracks?
Yeah, when I was really young. I think the first song I ever learnt was ‘Come As You Are’.
Also, I heard you had to have a stunt double for the video for ‘Good Times’?
Yeah, I did! There was a guy who had my same build, so he was brought in to do a lot of the filming.
Your singing career only really took off after your skateboarding career was ended unexpectedly. Get on the board still?
No, not too much really. Only a little but here and there but I’s mainly just when I’m messing around, doing a few tricks here and there. I don’t skate that much now, I probably only get on a board once or twice a month.
So what’s next for you then?
I’m travelling around the States touring right now and then hopefully I’ll be making my way over to the UK and doing some shows over there. It’s been a while since I toured over there and I really want to go again.
Matt Costa’s new, self-titled album is out now.