Five Questions with... Erin Costelo
Erin Costelo’s latest album Down Below, The Status Quo(out March 25 on Venue Records/Pheromone Distribution) is something rare in Canada: A thought-provoking, songwriting tour de force that seems completely detached from the folk tradition. Having paid more overt tribute to her vintage soul music influences on her previous album, We Can Get Over, Costelo’s musical evolution has taken its next natural step on Down Below, The Status Quo by channeling those themes into 10 new deeply personal tracks that display her exceptional gifts as a producer and arranger as well.
Costelo, a Halifax, Nova Scotia native, painstakingly made the album at Joel Plaskett’s New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth, working closely with engineer Thomas Stajcer and a top-notch band comprised of her longtime guitarist Clive MacNutt, bassist Ian Bennett, and drummers Dave Marsh and Matt Gallant, along with the Blue Engine String Quartet and horns supplied by Matt Myer, Andrew Jackson and Andrew MacKelvie. With the tracks “Worry Don’t Weigh Me Down” and “Fighter” already being embraced by the CBC, it seems evident that Costelo is on her way to moving beyond her regional reputation in the Maritimes.
Down Below, The Status Quo follows on the heels of We Can Get Over in being named R&B/Soul Recording of the Year at the 2014 East Coast Music Awards. In the wake of that triumph, she shared stages with Mavis Staples, Dr. John, and Bettye LaVette, as well as appearing on Joel Plaskett’s latest release, The Park Avenue Sobriety Test, and joining him for his performance with the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
Costelo will be joining Plaskett again this April, opening a few select Ontario dates for him in the midst of her own tour that kicks off this Saturday in Margaretsville, Nova Scotia. Go to www.erincostelo.com for full details.
What were some of your biggest influences on this album, both musically and lyrically?
I am a huge fan of Randy Newman. I am sure his writing style seeps into the cracks of my brain somewhere. I really loved that Michael Kiwanuka record Home Again as well and listened to it a lot. I am not sure how much my record sounds like his, but he was present.
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
There is an older song called “Go Home.” Writing this song was the first time I felt like a songwriter. I don’t know that it is my best song, or even a good song! But it felt like an accomplishment at the time.
What has been your most memorable experience while touring in Canada?
I wouldn't say I am a person that loves touring. It is tiring, hard on the body, and mentally it can be isolating. But I really, really love performing so the desire to perform will always win. Touring in Canada is particularly hard because of the long drives. I think as touring artists we begin to build markers on tour. Things that bring us joy. A restaurant we love, a park we stop at for lunch, and for me it is a bakery in Rivière-du-Loup. The lady who runs it is so kind and remembers us each time we come! It is a real pick me up on the road.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
Pretty much any Al Tuck or Amelia Curran song. And that song from Frozen, just for the money!
What do you recall about your first time performing in public?
I was six, and played a musical festival in Halifax. The song was called “A Mountain Stream,” and I forgot the whole thing. After a few minutes the adjudicator let me sit down and try again later. I sat through 15 others playing it perfectly and when it was my turn again I sat down and immediately burst into tears. I relive this before every performance, terrified I will forget it all! But then the show starts and I am fine.