At age 12, Costa received his first guitar but it was quickly shelved and replaced with a more "thrilling" gift: a skateboard. Costa compensated for his late start skateboarding with intense dedication to the sport and in a matter of years nearly turned pro. Three years ago that path shifted drastically when Matt shattered his leg in a skateboarding accident. The injury required eighteen months of recovery and rehabilitation. During that downtime, Matt directed his energy, passion and talent toward the guitar, writing and recording simple tunes. Initially, a mini tape recorder served as his crude studio. Matt's songwriting later flourished when he invested in a 4-track recorder.
Two years ago, Matt's homemade demo began circulating amongst friends and acquaintances in and around his hometown of Huntington Beach, California. One copy found its way into the hands of No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont. Costa made such an impression that Dumont offered to record more demos for him in his home studio. Those first recordings led to a self-titled 5 song EP that Costa and Dumont distributed themselves. As interest in the EP grew, the two were already deep into the sessions that led to Songs We Sing. Considering Dumont's experience as a songwriter, one might expect him to have taken a more active role in the songwriting process. This however, was no usual mentorship, as Dumont remained behind the control board, offering encouragement, more interested in capturing Matt's talent than in shaping the songs himself. Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, The Shins) applied the finishing touches, mixing the twelve tracks that have become Songs We Sing.
Archetypal themes run throughout Songs We Sing. Evil, love, nature, poverty and the universe itself all make appearances. Costa approaches these topics without posture and without politics. As the narrator in "Cold December" Costa sings, "I have not failed to be what you'd expect of me / Swallowing glass just to stay pure." Costa doesn't put on an act and he makes no effort to meet anyone's expectations. He re-presents his life in a mixture of words and melody, and the seeming effortlessness with which he performs leaves one wondering why songwriting isn't a more common form of communication.
Matt Costa's skill with a guitar is immediately apparent, especially in a live setting. He has supported a variety of artists including Built To Spill, Lou Barlow, Pinback and James Mercer from the Shins. A 2005 summer tour with label mate Jack Johnson opened Costa's eyes to the rigors of touring. Taking the stage as the opening act for one of the most anticipated tours of the year can allow you to shine, or lay bare your weaknesses, but Costa held his own on the road. Whether it be solo, armed only with an acoustic guitar, or backed by a collection of musicians, his performance draws you in and you are left with no choice but to listen to the stories he has to tell.
Costa's flexibility and willingness to embrace almost any situation, musical or otherwise, keeps Songs We Sing fresh and free from categorization. It's an unexpected effort from a young man in the unlikely suburban surroundings of Huntington Beach: a city whose reputation is built on surfers and skaters, not brown-eyed bards with compelling voices.