WhatsUp Interview: Musician Erin Costello Opening for Amy Helm March 1 at Narrows Center

Canadian singer-songwriter Erin Costello is headed our way. On Friday March 1st, Costello begins her second US tour at the Narrows Center for the Arts in support of Americana/Folk artist Amy Helm.

Although Costello may not be as well known in the States as in her native Nova Scotia, she’s widely admired in Canada. Last fall she released her fifth album, Sweet Marie, to widespread critical acclaim.

Costello is an artist who’s “genre” is difficult to pin down. Her sound is all over the map, from classic rhythm and blues to modern soul (neo-soul) to rock and roll. But no one’s complaining – however you define it, her vibe is unique and compelling.

We chatted with Costello last fall, as the new album was being released. I noted that a few songs on the album echoed sounds of 1960’s “blue eyed soul” epitomized by artists such as Dusty Springfield and the Righteous Brothers.

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“That’s such a huge compliment,” she gushed. “Those influences are always there – 60’s soul and pop music is huge for me. But also a Dylanesque kind of rock influence is on the record too. Some songs can sound a little bit like The Band, like on a song called “The Sign.” Also, on a song called “Shadow” where Dylan’s stuff was hugely influential, especially the album Desire which I’ve been obsessed with for a long time.”

“There’s a kind of freedom for me in just making the music that I want to make, I don’t really define it in my head. I just kind of start recording and see what fits together in the end. For this record, it seemed to be the collection of musicians, we all played together in a room and it sounds cohesive because of that.”

Costello continued … “That kind of myriad of widespread of influences has felt like a little bit of a downfall for me in the past, people say ‘she’s slightly undefinable and difficult to market, cause you can’t quite put your finger on what it is. The soul retro kind of stuff is there, but may not be quite a deep enough description of it because there’s other things going on. But now I’ve started to think of it as more of a positive, as I get older, all those things that make you who you are, start to feel like more a positive thing than a negative thing.”

Nova Scotia Native

“I grew up in Nova Scotia and lived here for most of my life but in my early 20’s I moved away and was gone for ten years, When I moved back I noticed that the art scene was very supportive regardless of genre. You would do bills and shows with a folk artist, a soul artist and a rock band. Because of the nature of performing here, we’re kind of performing for each other a lot of times. So the kind of boundaries that are set on people in terms of genre are removed here in a certain way. I felt really supported by my community in being slightly different musically.”

She also spoke to the Canadian government’s support for the arts and performing artists.

“Having made friends with a number of artists in the US, I feel so lucky to be able to have access to the funding that I have. It really does allow you to take risks that you would not have been able to take normally. And pursue a career – it’s the thing that I do full time. It allows us to step up the quality of the work.

You can check out Erin Costello Friday night as she opens for Americana artist, and Newport Folk veteran Amy Helm. You don’t want to miss this one! Details on the Narrows Center show can be found here.