Nick Costa Q&A

June 13, 2022
Nick Costa believes Paul McCartney's "Ram" is a perfect album.

“When I’m blocked I’m still writing constantly; I just don’t really like what I’m writing. What usually helps me isn’t anything fancy, but I’ll just take a break. Maybe for a day, maybe a week, sometimes a month. But every time I take one of those breaks, there’s a song that just falls out of me that I’m absolutely thrilled about, and it’s like the flood gates get opened up. That’s essentially how I’ve written every album so far. Also, every time I finish an album I really think it’s going to be my last and I’ll never be able to write again. It’s a whole thing.”

Your new album Sunbleach was inspired by a period where you lived in L.A. It definitely has a Laurel Canyon vibe to it. How much does environment matter to your songwriting? Do you intentionally put yourself in new settings to jostle the muse?

I didn’t think that the environment would be that much of an influence, but over time it certainly feels like it does. I think there’s something really magical about Los Angeles. Having time to really experience that city, and spend time writing every day was a really special experience. I certainly wouldn’t say that I chase new environments for the purpose of writing, but I do think a new place can open up a lot of creative paths you wouldn’t have taken otherwise.

You’ve said that Paul McCartney’s album Ram is your all-time favorite. Have you always favored albums that have a home-studio rustic vibe to them?

First off, yes Ram is a perfect album and I adore it with my entire being. I do think that it’s unpolished approach was appealing to me for sure. I’ve always gravitated toward more raw or honest sounding production. I think that may come from being extremely into punk rock as a kid, and realizing that approach can be really incredible for other genres as well. Damien Rice’s O was made with really bare-bones production as well. Bon Iver’s For Emma was another game-changer as well. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been under the impression that if there’s a sound in your head, and you know how to get there, it doesn’t necessarily matter how fancy the tools are to make it.

You’re a multi-instrumentalist and have been a member of many bands, and in a short amount of time you have been part of seven albums and three eps. Do you have a process for managing writer’s block and moving past it?

Usually when I’m blocked I’m still writing constantly, I just don’t really like what I’m writing. What usually helps me isn’t anything fancy, but I’ll just take a break. Maybe for a day, maybe a week, sometimes a month. But every time I take one of those breaks, there’s a song that just falls out of me that I’m absolutely thrilled about, and it’s like the flood gates get opened up. That’s essentially how I’ve written every album so far. Also, every time I finish an album I really think it’s going to be my last and I’ll never be able to write again. It’s a whole thing.

Who was the first person in your life who liked your voice and encouraged you to sing?

When I was first learning to play, my brother and I would just play and sing blink-182 songs with each other. We never really told each other that we enjoyed each other’s voices, but I’d get all the Mark songs and he’d get all the Tom songs, and we’d just sing until we couldn’t talk anymore. I never stopped doing that.

Your song “Do Better, Man!” is a call to men to hold each other accountable to raise their level of behavior to an acceptable level. Do you feel like the music industry is improving in this regard or is it still pretty rough?

It’s hard for me to say, because as a straight white man I don’t feel like I’m really in the position to say whether or not it’s improving. I feel like if that behavior is happening at all, it isn’t an acceptable level. I think the conversations are happening, which is a great first step. I want to say that people are becoming more aware of this behavior, but the sad thing is that non-men in the industry have been made painfully aware of this through every step, and it’s kind of our job to make that right. It’s a process, and I wish it moved faster, but it’s seemingly moving.

Your second album is a bit of a break-up album. Does externalizing your emotions through music help you process them? Does it ever feel triggering to confront painful memories, even in songs?

I like to think all of my albums are very honest representations of where I am at that moment. Tell My Mother I Love Her was written in the wake of a relationship that lasted most of my life up until that point, and I felt like I had to re-learn how to become my own person. Devastator was largely written in the wake of my brother’s passing and navigating that immense grief. Sunbleach was written during a really weird time in the world, while simultaneously falling deeply in love. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s triggering, but it does help me sort through those emotions in a very therapeutic way.

You’ve said you have plenty of songs ready to go. Do you ever feel a Prince-like urge — or Weezer-like urge — to drop them all as soon as they’re finished? You seem to share a similarly prolific nature.

Constantly. For example, I just released an album of instrumental songs, and I have another 14-track record of instrumentals as a companion piece that I want to release later this year. On top of that I’m working on another record with my dear friend Nate Van Fleet (who played drums on Sunbleach) and we’ve got about 20 songs so far for that. If I had it my way, they’d spend all of about 30 seconds on my hard drive before they were released, but that’s just not the way the world goes around.

What is next for you?

I just released Lull, which is the first part of a two part instrumental series, and I will be releasing the second part hopefully by the end of the year. I also am currently working on a record, with words, and usually that means I’ll have two records worth of material by the time that comes out. There’s definitely a lot to look forward to.