Discovery: Katie Costello



Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Katie Costello has a bone to pick with the other Costello. “Elvis Costello is definitely a fraud—it’s totally a stage name,” the pixie blonde singer joked, as we chatted one afternoon in early March. “I am the authentic Costello.”

While she might not be the better known of the two singers just yet, she certainly has the vocal chops worthy of the Costello name. Already showcased on the soundtracks of 90210, One Tree Hill, and Private Practice, Costello’s pristine, smoky vocals invite comparisons to Ingrid Michaelson or Regina Spektor. After releasing her sophomore album, Lamplight, in February 2011, she takes her show on the road this month.

AGE: 20

HOMETOWN: Hermosa Beach, California. It’s a little beach town near Santa Monica.

STARTING OUT: I started recording Kaleidoscope Machine when I was 15 and finished it when I was 17. I was at the tail end of making it, and a friend knew somebody at KPRW. They had a demo of one of my songs, gave it to Nick Harcourt [at KPRW], and he instantly started playing it. It was the Top Tune of the Week and all these things started happening—and it was only a rough mix. We were like, “Oh, we better finish the record in time.” We just started tying up all the loose ends and it came together quickly—but also, in the best way ever.

ON RECORDING LAMPLIGHT: I wrote all of the songs during the first year I was in New York. I lived in the Lower East Side in a really awesome shoebox and I was living by myself. I feel like everything on Lamplight reflects the fact that I was alone. Not in a depressing way, but in the sense that I literally and figuratively lived with myself for a year. I had dreamed of moving to New York and having my own place. Actually having that happen—I was able to reflect on what I had left behind, what I was becoming and what I was at the time. A lot of it is just figuring out, on a personal level, what you are and what you feel, if that is not too big. I am happy that it turned out sounding the way I envisioned it.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND?: Tender, dark, piano something-or-other.

ON WRITING MUSIC: I have a handful of co-writers, but the majority is just by myself. Every song emerges in a different way—I would say as a general rule, [the idea comes] when I am traveling or walking. I think that invites a flood of ideas to everybody, really. Sometimes, I will have a thought or a melody and I use my iPhone for voice memos. Now I have like 100,000 billion voice memos that are [of] me, really creepily whispering into my phone. I hope that nobody ever finds them.

MUSICAL INFLUENCES: My first love affair was with The Beatles, and then I got really into punk. Fiona Apple was also an enormously huge influence on me. I just remember being like 12 years old and crying my heart out to it. I like rockabilly, love the Stray Cats and Bob Dylan—although, it was not necessarily a full-on love affair like it was with The Beatles. Billie Holiday and Chet Baker eventually became my favorite singers.

WHAT SHE’S LOOKING FORWARD TO ON TOUR: I am excited to say potentially perverted, offensive things to larger quantities of people.

WHAT’S NEXT: I am working on more tour dates right now. I hope I start recording again at some point this year, whether it’s an EP or a record. The main goal of this year is to tour as much as possible and hopefully, get into some weird, crazy shenanigans.

CRAZY SHENANIGANS?:  Every time I go to Los Angeles, I get trapped in a car. I do something terrible to other people, or myself, involving a car. Basically, the only thing I am worried about touring is that me and cars are like oil and water. I am scared of endangering myself and other people; if you see me on the road, just pull over.