The TH Interview: Matt Costa

Actors and musicians often act as if they have all the answers to the world’s problems. Not Matt Costa. The talented singer/songwriter from Southern California has a genuine concern for the environment, but he doesn’t pretend to be an expert. The 24-year-old Costa says he would rather learn from others than preach a specific message, at least at this stage of his career. At the same time, he lends his music to environmental projects, such as a recent 'Thank You Ocean' public service announcement, and a forthcoming National Geographic film about global warming. In addition, all Costa-related materials are printed on recycled paper and a percentage of his album sales go to the environment through 1% For The Planet. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Costa on Saturday evening before his show at New York City’s famed Bowery Ballroom. We spoke about global warming, camping, and touring with fellow eco-celebrity Jack Johnson.TH: Tell me a little bit about your background, and what turned you on to being green.

MC: You can’t help but look out. Basically, being a big fan of the outdoors and nature… I really like going to the woods and camping. I think that people take it for granted; to me it’s a simple thing to always watch out and to be aware of what impact your actions have.

TH: Is there a specific environmental issue that you’re most passionate about or projects that you’ve been involved in?

MC: Well, yeah there’s a new film that National Geographic is doing about a polar bear and a walrus that they followed for a couple of years. Basically, it’s about how global warming is changing their environment, and how their natural instincts don’t work because the environment is changing around them. I saw the film and had the opportunity to compose some music for it. That’s one of the things I’ve been involved in. I’ve also been involved in Heal the Ocean and the Surfrider Foundation.

TH: How do you see your role as a traveling musician in the environmental movement? Is it to help spread awareness?

MC: I’ve never been one to preach to people or tell people what to do. I’ve seen other groups do that. Someone came up to me the other day and said that I should carry a message. I feel it inside, so I guess as time progresses I’ll start outwardly expressing it more, but I haven’t reached that point yet. The things I do are little things on my own, but I guess I could probably do more.

TH: Does your love for nature and respect for the environment affect the type of songs you write? Does it come through in your music?

MC: Being overwhelmed by beauty or whatever it is in your life is what creates that spark or inspiration. I think being away from the city, and going out to the woods or to a river, and really seeing… the power of nature has inspired me.

TH: If you could change one element of the music industry to incorporate environmental sustainability what would it be?

MC: I’ve been on tour with Jack Johnson and he uses biodiesel buses, and things like that, but we’re not at a big bus situation yet. But, I don’t think it has to do with any one industry. I think it’s about people’s personal choices, and the things you choose to do. Every little thing affects a large group of people. I don’t know what the solution is, but I’ve been learning from the people around me, and the changes they’re making. Basically, traveling around the world makes me want to make a difference.