MATT COSTA: Well when I was a kid my godmother had a piano at her house and she would watch me when my parents were gone. I always would just be drawn to the piano and I would just start playing. So my parents decided that since I was always drawn to music they should start putting me in music classes or get me involved with music. My parents put me in school band, I played the trumpet and I took some piano lessons. I got my first guitar when I was 12. I’ve pretty much just been involved with music my whole life.
A lot of my main influences have been music from the 60’s and folk music from the early 1900’s. Like Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly and all the things that inspired a lot of what Bob Dylan and all the 60’s beat folk thing that happened. That just inspired the roots of what I would like to do just because it was so much easier to understand a song in the simplest form and understand what made it, you know what I mean? As opposed to so many sounds happening at once. I hear other music and it’s just a world of sound and I would get so lost in it that I couldn’t understand what was happening – how to create that musically. I would get lost in the world of it. Folk music was like a miniature world of that where I could learn how to do that. From there I could expand and then gradually grow into what become the bigger art productions. So that’s how I started learning about music.
AD: It seems like you took the express to fame after just starting out. Can you elaborate?
MC: Well you make a deal with the devil at the crossroads. You go down the crossroads and play a couple of songs and he takes your guitar, you don’t look at him, he gives it back to you and you can play any song you want. You’ve got to be a little creative because you have to come up with the songs but you can play anything you want so it makes writing a little bit easier.
AD: I’ve read that you have been compared to Bob Dylan. What do you feel about that?
MC: You know, it’s an honor but I think I just do what I do. Everyone out here, all the musicians, they just do what they do. You can’t take any of that stuff too seriously and just make the most of it. It’s a great compliment but I know that even Bob Dylan wants to shed his past. It’s a crazy thing. He is who he is and he shouldn’t have to live up to anything and I don’t think anyone
should have to live up to anyone. People are who they are, what comes out comes out and they are going to do what they are going to do. Everyone that is playing today is going to be way more respected 100 years from now because they aren’t doing it anymore – they are not alive. When you can’t get it, it’s that much better. That’s what makes it so special.
AD: Tell us about that songwriting process.
MC: It’s a weird thing. When you write a song it all comes off of one basic idea that happens. Whether it’s like a 5 second, 10 second or 20 second bit of inspiration that comes, it’s using itself as a form of meditation. You’re doing it or you’re involved in it. Writing music, 6 hours go by and you don’t even realize it. With anything you love, time goes by and you don’t realize it – you’re in that zone, you know? I think what happens when you write music is that it’s weird because you don’t have the song and the next second you do. And it’s like, “What happened in that 20 seconds; where did it come from?” It really just comes out of thin air. It’s just a matter of capturing that moment when you have it and from there you just elaborate on that. I’ll sit around for months at a time and wait around for that moment and then when you have it and you really like that melody or song then I’ll sit down for 2 days or for however long and just assess it until it becomes a full, thought out piece.
AD: What does playing ACL Fest mean to you?
MC: It is an honor to be invited here. I’ve played a lot of festivals this year, touring around the country and hitting all the festivals in between there. Austin is such a big music town. Everywhere you drive down the streets, every place has got their venue. The whole town is dedicated to live music and that whole thing. I’ve been here a bunch: I’ve been to SXSW, I’ve played lots of shows here before. But to come and be part of a grander thing where it’s an event where all this music comes together, the whole city comes together and people come from everywhere, to be involved in that is just a privilege. I just try to soak it up. It’s great because a lot of people that I know who are my friends I see when I’m here.
AD: Tell us about your recent album.
MC: Songs We Sing is the name of my record and it came out in March. Basically it’s just a definitive collection of everything I have been working on for the past 3 years. It pretty much sums up, until a year ago, who I was. So now I’ve been touring and growing a lot faster since then. Things have been coming in every direction. It’s a documentation of what my life was -the books I was reading, the people I was involved with, my friends. There was a whole period when I was going to a friend’s house and there were a bunch of people that would stay there – it was like a flop house. We’d go there and I would bring my guitar and I’d sing cover songs. Every new song I wrote I would play over there. Those were the songs that we would sing, you know? So I figured what better title to call the album then, Songs We Sing. It just made sense. So that’s how that came about.
AD: What’s next for you?
MC: Oh geez. I’m going to go to Europe in 5 days. I’m going to Europe to tour for 3 weeks. It’s my third time in Europe this year. This year has been crazy. I have no home anymore; my home is the road. It’s great though. It’s great to be out and seeing so much and trying to write as much music as I can and learn as much as I can while I’m out here and soak it all up–see all the different people and soak it all up.
AD: Is there anything else?
MC: Live it up. ****