By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Photo: Melodie McDaniel
Nikka Costa has been making records since she was a kid, and started recording with her father, Don Costa. She has experimented with different types of music over the years, and her signature style lies in a cocktail of soul, funk, and rock. Peach talked to Nikka Costa about her love for music and how she loves to give people some relief from the world by making sure they have a great show!
What are some of your favorite songs from your most recent album, ‘Nikka & Strings: Underneath and in Between’– and why?
‘Come Rain or Come Shine’ is a favorite because it’s my dad’s arrangement (beautifully rearranged for a string quartet by Jeff Babko) and it’s like having a special moment with my dad each time I sing it. I also love ‘Lover You Should’ve Come Over’ by Jeff Buckley. I’ve always wanted to sing that song but could never find the right home for it even at shows… It’s so heavy and beautiful and dramatic. I lost two dear friends over the course of the string project and that song just felt right to cover for that time in my life.
You have a very distinctive sound that lies perfectly in between R&B, jazz, and retro. Who are your sources of inspiration?
I’m inspired by so many artists. There are the obvious one like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Bill Withers, Prince, the list goes on and on, but I am also heavily inspired by rock and current music too. I love everything from hip-hop to classical. I like to write about situations I’m in, or my friends are in and just flesh out my observations. It’s harder and harder to get time to just think and dream especially when we are chained to our phones, but I think it’s so important to create that space for ourselves to just have a thought that pops into our heads when we aren’t being distracted by outside information. So, I try for that for inspiration too.
Your version of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ is one of the best out there. Tell us about how that came about?
Wow, thank you! We had been playing it at the string shows before Prince passed, and it was always a favorite of mine to sing and the audience always really loved it. It’s such a great song with such a simple and universal sentiment I think people appreciated revisiting it after all these years. When Prince passed, I wasn’t sure if we should continue to perform it. It was just so heavy and charged, but then I felt like we all needed to hear it somehow. Each night we played it, it was like a beautiful release for everyone and the room seems to hold its breath until the end.
You took some time off last year to raise your two children – how is it to be back and on the road again?
I’m super excited to be playing more now, and even though I slowed down to be around for my kids I never fully stopped making music and doing shows. I just kept it more local, closer to where I live. I love getting out of LA though and really looking forward to getting back to cities we’ve had such a blast to play in the past.
How would you describe your road to success?
Blood, sweat & tears with some great joy thrown in and lots of gratitude, humility, and fire to improve on myself as a performer and artist.
You are known for a passionate and energetic performance on stage – what can the audience expect at City Winery in Atlanta?
Well, I’ve been supporting my strings record for the past year so haven’t been playing my funk shows. I’m amped to get sweaty and loud and get people up out of their seats! I’ve got some amazing players in my band Josh Lopez on guitar who’s been with me for years, Jacob Luttrell who’s a beast and a great artist in his own right, Tim Lefebvre who I haven’t played with yet, but I’ve admired for a long time on bass and Rob Humphreys laying down his sick groove. Plus, there will be wine which is always a plus.
Are you working on any new projects right now?
I’m excited to be getting back in the studio and seeing what comes out. I always go in with a plan and then surrender to what comes. It’s always such a cool surprise usually not what I was expecting and then voila, a record! So getting into that space is going to be fun.
What is your process of writing new material?
It depends on what I’m going for. With this new record, I want to do lots of collaborating with other musicians and friends so tons of jamming and writing with the band. Stuff like that. Then take it from there. I always write lyrics last. That has been a pretty consistent part of my process. Other than that, anything goes.
Anything you’d like to add?
Just that if you’ve never been to one my shows it really is worth it to come out and see if it rocks your boat. Not a lot of people truly play live anymore without tracks and autotune etc. We put it all out there and work our asses off to make sure everyone has a great time. We all need a break from the weight of the world especially now, so I’m hoping to give some much-needed relief if only for an hour! Come get live with us!
Nikka Costa Performs on August 27, 8 pm at City Winery Atlanta. Check out
citywinery.com for more info and tickets.