Curated by the visual artist and musician Sean W. Spellman through his Rhode Island based live music booking entity Westerly Sound, Mystic Folkways is a one-of-a-kind spectacle that gathers musicians from all over the globe.
On October 7 & 8, an array of talented songwriters and ensembles are going to be performing at the Mystic Seaport Museum with a truly unique experience being created. Some of the performers at this year’s edition include Providence rock & rollers The Quahogs, Boston blues phenom Julie Rhodes, local alt-country artist James Maple, Michael Nau from the Maryland psychedelic folk act Cotton Jones and Ethiopian keyboardist Hailu Mergia to name a few.
Another musician who’ll be taking part is the California folk-rock troubadour Matt Costa. A lot of millennials probably listened to his songs such as “Cold December” and “Sunshine” during the mid-2000s and he’s going to be performing on the Main Stage during the second day of Mystic Folkways at 12:45 p.m.
We had a talk ahead of this weekend’s festivities about how his music career sort of started by coincidence, a documentary he released earlier this year, thoughts on coming back to perform in the New England region and what he has going on for the rest of 2023.
Rob Duguay: You got a big break in your career when No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont got a hold of a demo of yours in the early 2000s and offered to record you in his home studio. How did this come about with one of your demos getting into Tom’s possession and what was the experience like working with him during that time?
Matt Costa: I met Tom in Costa Mesa, California. My friend told him I played music and that he should check it out, so I gave him a bunch of my TASCAM four track recordings. I didn’t realize that he was in No Doubt at the time, but I watched the Super Bowl the following week and he was playing the halftime show. I eventually met Tom and I brought a new song every week to record since we could only get one recording done about once a month. The new songs started to add up, it became two EPs and a record over a year and a half that I would combine into Songs We Sing, which was my first full-length.
His patience and experience was encouraging, especially in developing songs. I would bounce my ideas down to a hand held tape recorder and show him before I played them in the room with him.
RD: It sounds like you had a very positive experience. More recently, you put out a film called Katabatic Flight back on April 28 that you did in collaboration with Roark, Vero Watches and Danner Boots. It centers around the pilot and former Olympic field hockey coach Matthew James Hetherington and his drive to explore while improving himself and helping others. What inspired this concept for this project and what was the experience like making it?
MC: Katabatic winds are locally known in Southern California as the Santa Anas. Matthew and I had a talk about them one evening before a flight with winds changing direction and major life shifts becoming a comparison that I wanted to explore deeper. He had a small Cessna and I used my 16 mm camera to make short vignettes. I really love old public broadcasting, so that was my goal, to make something as informative and intriguing as one of those programs.
RD: Very cool. Along with making the film, you also did the scoring for it. When it comes to film scoring, how much of an adjustment was it for you versus just recording some songs of yours in a studio? Did it make you change your creative approach or get into a different headspace?
MC: I really feel all music, so if it is made into a short structured song or one note drawn out over three minutes, it doesn’t matter. I like meditation and when sounds induce that state then that’s the goal. If it’s catchy, well, maybe more people will find peace.
RD: Being from California, what are your thoughts on coming to the New England region to perform as part of Mystic Folkways? Do you have any certain opinions when it comes to playing shows in this part of the country?
MC: I had a radio show a few years back and one of the episodes was based on New England. I’m looking forward to being at an event with artists I’ve listened to for quite a while, it’s an honor.
RD: It’s wicked cool that you feel this way about the event. It’s been a bit since you put out a new studio album, so are there any plans to make one going into next year or do you have any other projects you’re involved in?
MC: I’m slowly putting together a new full-length. In the meantime, I just put out a new single called “The Golden Ghost” and I’m going to be touring with this great indie pop band named Cayucas during this fall and winter.