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KPBS Midday Edition

Musician Matt Costa Finds Inspiration Up And Down California Coast

Singer Matt Costa in an undated photo.
Jen Rosenstein
Singer Matt Costa in an undated photo.

It’s not often that the worst thing to happen to you actually changes your life for the better. But that’s what happened to Laguna Beach singer-songwriter Matt Costa.

Costa was an aspiring professional skateboarder, but a bad landing when he was 19 broke his leg and kept him home for two years. Costa said his slow recovery gave him a deeper appreciation for the folk music he enjoyed listening to.

“I became more introspective at that point, like why songs connected with me, rather than just connecting with songs,” he said. “And then my outlet for that was my four-track and my acoustic guitar.”


Costa’s latest album, “Santa Rosa Fangs,” is due out later this year. Costa will play songs from that record and his first album, “Songs We Sing,” at The Casbah on Sunday. He joins KPBS Midday Edition Thursday to discuss how his songwriting has evolved and why he writes so frequently about California.

Musician Matt Costa Finds Inspiration Up And Down California Coast
Musician Matt Costa Finds Inspiration Up And Down California Coast GUEST: Matt Costa, singer-songwriter

>> it is not often that the worst thing that ever happened to you actually changes your life in a good way. That is the experience of Laguna Beach singer songwriter Matthew Costa. [ Music ] >> as a teenager he was an aspiring professional skateboarder. Then came a really bad landing, a hospital stay, and time spent gaining a new appreciation for music. In the years between, he has established a music career. He has a new album coming out. On his current tour he is playing a mix of songs from that release and his very first record. Matthew played the Casbah this weekend. He joins me now on Skype. Welcome to the program. >> Thank you for having me. All of that is true. >> [ Laughter ]. I am glad it is. When I was reading about that, I was wondering how did your long recovery from these report injury change the way you thought about music? >> I just slowed down a lot. When I blow -- broke my leg skateboarding at 19 years old, I was laid up for two years. Before that I was always really active. I never really took time to slow down. I became more introspective at that point. I didn't just connect with songs, I figured out why songs connected with me. My outlet for that was my four track and my acoustic guitar. >> The description for your current tour says that after the last album, you read so much music" through off label schedules. What does that mean? And where did that burst of creativity come from? >> I hit a stride with my son writing. During that time I put out a bunch of different GPs. They had about five or six songs each. That was within a year. I had a really strong understanding of how music worked and how I connected with it. That comes from a lot of years of writing and studying music. It was also from trial and error. I wrote a bunch of bad songs and songs that I liked. >> Can you tell us about songs that you really like from that period? >> One of the songs is called smeared pointillist painting. [ Music ] [ Music ] it is a fingerpicking song with eight 12 string. I have always had a fascination with Impressionist and postimpressionist with. I imagined a painting that was pointillist but sorted smeared and the way that inspired my imagination for that song. >> Your work is very rated in California. What is so attractive about writing about life here? >> I think that for me, I grew up in California. It is just natural to me to write about my home state. This new record is called Santa Rosa things. I lived in Northern California, I lived in Southern California, I spent time on the central coast. It is home. I think you can tell the best stories when you write about your home and you know it inside and out or at least your story of it inside and out. >> On this tour, I think it is interesting you are playing a mix of songs from your first album songs we sing and your new one. It occurred to me that maybe you're going to find a contrast between the writing that you used to do and the writing that you are doing well. What about the song sunshine, I know that was one of your big hits? How has that changed for you? >> I wrote that song before I really knew that people were going to be listening or were listening. >> [ Music ] sunshine, I would really like to tell you oh my sunshine, even though your skies are blue, you are trying on my bed, how can I get any rest? [ Music ] >> it is interesting when you write a song for yourself and then everybody takes it for their own. That was a lesson in songwriting that just because you are the vehicle for a song, it does not mean that it is your son. I have been fortunate enough to be able to write many songs to this day and pursue a career in music because of songs like sunshine. I sent in its simplest state, that is where my songs come from. It is just an acoustic guitar and is just me singing. There is a little harmony here and there and maybe a guitar solo. My songs always come from sitting down with a piano or guitar and just at that level. They are impactful. Through use of songwriting you work on other levels to where you work on sonic landscapes and sonic ideas that are harder to translate on a stripped-down level. I think when those two things are married together, that becomes the sound of the record. I think these songs that I wrote on this latest one have that quality. I will sit down on my own and play them and they work in that sense. People still request sunshine at fissures. I do love playing it because I can see how people have taken it to their own lives and into their own stories. I think that is really special. >> I have been speaking with singer-songwriter Matt Costa. He is playing the Casbah this Sunday. Thank you so much. >> Yes, thank you. [ Music ]

Matt Costa

When: Sunday, March 4

Where: The Casbah

Cost: $12