Glancing down the track listing of the “Blow” soundtrack, there are few surprises. It’s your standard classic-rock fare except for the final track, a song from newcomer Nikka Costa.
“It’s all these classic, classic bands and then me,” Costa said, laughing in disbelief.
In addition to “Push & Pull,” the song featured during the closing credits of director Ted Demme’s cinematic glimpse into the life of a drug baron, Costa has an album of her own Everybody Got Their Something coming out May 22.
Demme was so impressed with “Push & Pull” that he offered to direct a video for it. “He’s the coolest guy. We went for a real intimate, organic approach for that video,” Costa said.
For many, the song and video serve as an introduction to the young singer’s work, and early returns, it seems, are good.
“The drummer from Soundgarden [Matt Cameron] really loves it. He got the CD somehow, and he wants to collaborate,” Costa said. “He’s such a dope drummer. … Even Chris Rock [is a fan]. He’d heard it a long time ago and wanted me to come on [his] show.”
Nikka is the daughter of Don Costa, famed producer for the likes of Paul Anka, Tony Bennett and even Ol’ Blue Eyes. Frank Sinatra is her godfather.
A-list directors, rock star fans and legendary family members aside, Costa is an artist in her own right and tasted success outside the States in the mid-’90s with her album Butterfly Rocket.
“[Singing] was naturally what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know I’d have a career so soon,” she said of her recent momentum. “Now it’s a full-time job.”
As those who’ve seen her “Push & Pull” video will attest, Costa is definitely easy on the eyes, but she wants to make it perfectly clear that she’s no prepackaged fluff act.
“I’ve had the experience of not being involved in the production, being told what I should sing and how. From that experience, I made a very conscious decision to take control of my artistry,” she said.
While she did take advantage of producers Justin Stanley and Mark Ronson in making Something, Costa handled most of the work herself.
“All the lyrics, I do on my own,” she said. “I find it kinda hard to collaborate on lyrics.”
In other words, she’s a singer/songwriter.
“But when you say singer/songwriter, it sounds like some folk sh–. So I don’t like to say that ’cause people automatically think, ’Oh, you do folk,'” Costa said.
While it’s not folk, it doesn’t exactly fit into any other neat-and-tidy category, either. Something veers from Janis Joplin-style rock-soul to Lauryn Hill-esque R&B and back again.
“I didn’t want to make a record that was one-dimensional. I wanted to make a record that was rock and hip-hop and soul ’cause I like all those things,” Costa said.
Still, this poses a bit of a difficulty for, say, radio stations that limit their play lists to music that conforms to a narrow definition.
“They get really confused if you do all different kinds of stuff. They’re like, ’The audience won’t understand.’ And that’s bullsh–,” she said. “Sometimes you wanna rock out, and sometimes you want to cry to a ballad, but why does it have to be different artists that appeal to those different sides of you?”
Next up for Costa is what she calls an over-the-top performance video for her single “Like a Feather,” directed by Paul Hunter (Lenny Kravitz, Hole).
“It’s got this 18-foot neon wall with my name popping up, and there’s all these mic stand tricks. Think Ann-Margret, Elvis,” she said. “The album takes on a whole new life when we perform it live, so he wanted to capture that.”
Fans will get to see Costa’s stage savvy when she plays a few shows with Beck this summer.
“I’m not sure if we’re gonna do ’em in the States, but I know we’re gonna do the festivals in Europe with him,” she said. “He puts on such a great show. I’m such a fan.”