Becca Damante '17 Arts Editor
Self-proclaimed “rebel pop singer-songwriter” Katie Costello has a voice that is equally charming, quirky and hauntingly beautiful. In advance of her show at Smith on Oct.15, I had a chance to chat with her about her experience as a musician and about her newest EP, which comes out on Oct. 13.
How did you get your start as a musician?
I have loved singing and composing poems and stories since I can remember. I started writing songs when I was about 13 years old, after my voice teacher taught me a few chords on the piano. I didn’t listen to much music growing up, but a cool friend turned me onto The Beatles and punk rock around the same time I started writing songs, and from there I was hooked and listening to music constantly.
You moved from California to New York City at age 18 to fulfill your music dreams. How did the process of moving and New York itself change you as a musician?
Moving to New York forced me to rise up to my inner potential as an artist. My big dreams and high aspirations came with a lot of reality checks and disappointments that were hard to accept at the time, but now I see they each made me stronger and brighter in the end. I feel New York City has a very striving and thriving creative energy that I love to learn and grow from.
Take me through your songwriting process. What is usually the catalyst for a new song? What inspires you musically and lyrically?
I am inspired to write songs when I witness or experience the majesty of humanity, injustice, heartbreak, faith, love and hope. I am also inspired by [my] own search for happiness and the meaning of life. I get my best ideas from listening to and thinking of other people. I like to write songs that help me overcome my own fear and worry, thinking of what my higher self would say to me. Music has been a powerful healing agent in my life, so I wish to share that with others ... That’s what inspires me.
At the end of last year, you released a music video for your latest single “New World,” featuring scenes from the People’s Climate March. What inspired the song and subsequent video?
I became passionate about environmental issues when I finally understood the gravity of the situation we are in -- climate change and the sixth great mass extinction of life on earth. My passion to stop environmental and social injustice is thanks to my dear friend and mentor, Vivekan [of Bodhisattva Yoga in Brooklyn], whose expression and example helped me get more informed and first inspired my mind toward environmental issues. Since learning more about the injustices surrounding climate change, I feel a responsibility to use my voice for a peaceful message, hence the sentiment and vision of the song “New World.”
You’ve already released two stellar albums, “Kaleidoscope Machine” and “Lamplight,” several EPs, and I heard you are working on something new. What can fans expect to hear? What will make this album stand out from some of your earlier work?
I am very pleased to announce that I’ll be releasing a new EP [titled] … “REBEL POP SINGER SONGWRITER.” To me, this represents who I am as an artist. I’m the singer, I’m the songwriter, I’m the pop and I’m the rebel. I’m releasing big pop songs independently because that’s what makes me happy. This new music is an evolution from my former indie-pop sound. My fans can expect to hear an overall happier, more upbeat feel that has wider popular appeal. This new chapter features songs that I have written in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, London, Berlin and India ... So, in a way, my new material has a more global perspective ... It’s about following your dreams, fighting for what’s right, listening to your heart and feeling connected to a bigger picture ... It’s inspired by the reflections I’ve had since studying yoga and meditation at Bodhisattva Yoga in Brooklyn and my journey to find happiness for myself and others.
One last question, if you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be and why?
I think there needs to be more transparency and honesty ... And I’d love to live in a society where everyone who is a true artist is heard, respected and given every opportunity to enjoy their passion. Too often, artists are talked out of their dream and told to take a more conventional career path, just to find themselves unhappy [and] wondering, “What if?