Matt Costa is driving in his car through San Fransisco from his new hometown and California’s capital, Sacramento. He’s meeting up with Emmett Malloy who co-owns record label Brushfire Records with Jack Johnson, and to which Matt is signed. Matt also lent a few of his tunes to Malloy and Johnson’s surf film Broke Down Melody. They’re going to show the film and play a few tracks at the San Fran Apple mega-store… if he makes it up those famous San Francisco hills.
Tell me about Brushfire Records?
Emmett and Jack started it as a way to put out their films and then when Jack’s music took off they started to put that out. It now consists of Jack, myself and Money Mark is the latest addition. It’s pretty cool.
Who’s influenced you along the way?
I would say a lot of the early folk, starting with the 60s, Bob Dylan and Donovan and by listening to their music I figured out who instructed them, so I started getting into Woody Guthrie and also Ledbelly and Powder Family and roots music. As far as contemporaries I would say Belle and Sebastian, The Shins and Travis. Those have been what I have been listening to a lot.
You were on your way to a promising skateboarding career before an ankle injury took you out, is that correct?
Actually I shattered my leg into pieces. It was a tibia and fibula compound fracture, I had two surgeries and I was on crutches for a year and another year in physical therapy so I spent all that time just writing songs. That’s how I got started. I just focused a lot of energy into that, not about making a career out of it.
It’s funny then that you should end up on Jack’s label, who had a similar fall, so to speak, into the music industry.
Yeah, we’ve talked about that before. I guess that happens a lot. Before you get into something you need a life-changing event that throws you into it and spins your world around and makes you re-think. I just moved to Sacramento from southern California which is only a six hour drive but is a totally different place which means opening myself up to new ideas and new people. Since the accident I always try to put myself in new situations to grow from.
Whether it’s mentally or physically, music is a fantastic therapy.
Definitely. That’s been the difference for me. Before I was really active. When I was involved in skateboarding I was always pushing my boundaries physically. But when I started writing music that’s when I started really learning about my inner thoughts. I began discovering things that I thought or felt and was able to meditate on and get into another state of mind.
In your downtime you recorded this and it fell into the hands of Tom Dumont from No Doubt.
There was a clothing company called RVCA and his wife was working there at the time and they support a whole bunch of different artists and painters, musicians and I happen to know them. Tom was there and he got a hold of my EP and he wanted to work on some more music. It turned into a thing where we became friends… Oh shit… I’m driving up a steep hill in San Fransisco and it’s all wet, I smell burning rubber. Let me pull over… (moments later). So we put it out independently and Jack picked it up, took us on tour and we joined Brushfire.
It’s not just you and Jack that come from an action sports background, there’s skaters Tommy Guerrero and Ray Barbee as well as surfers Donovan Frankenrieter and Timmy Curran who’ll support your tour here in a couple of weeks. Is there a link between action sports and music?
I’ve played music with Ray and Tommy before, and I think, to credit my upbringing, while kids were watching MTV and finding their music through that, I watched skate videos all the time and listened to the music on them. There was maybe one per cent of the kids at my school listening to that sort of music. No one had heard about these bands so you’re discovering your own music. I think that lead to where I am now.
You’re coming to Australia and you haven’t been here before. What clichés are you looking forward to?
No, I’ve never been. I’m looking forward to seeing some crocs and throwing some shrimps on the barby. No, I heard it’s really similar to California from everyone that has been so I’m looking forward to having summer time in our winter.
Good luck with those San Francisco hills. Watch out for a million multi-coloured bouncing balls.
Yeah, I’ll try not to play any Jose Gonzalez.