Nikka Costa was destined to a life in music. Her father, Don Costa, was a legendary producer, arranger and conductor who worked with musical legends like Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra (Nikka's godfather). Born in Tokyo, Japan, on June 4, 1972, musicians including everyone from Quincy Jones to Sly Stone were always in her house, when Costa was a child. When Costa was only three, she would make up songs and sing them for her family and their guests. Before she knew it, Costa wound up in the recording studio with her father and pressed a Christmas single with Hawaiian singer Don Ho. When young Costa was just five, she sang an opening set for Ho in front of thousands. Her childhood was spent traveling and living in Los Angeles and various European cities.
Costa, influenced and encouraged by her musically gifted father, and her supportive mother, recorded her debut self-titled album when she was eight. This was almost a year after she sang in front of 300,000 Chilean fans at a concert for rock band the Police. The album, Nikka Costa, became a number one album in Europe and South America and soon the young singer was flying around the world to perform concerts. Costa didn't realize she was any different from other kids; she figured everyone had famous musicians hanging out at their houses at all hours.
Costa continued to record albums and singles of songs by Gershwin and other very adult standards, with the occasional ode to her teddy bear thrown in. In the Nikka Costa official biography, the singer joked about her younger days: "I had an early, early career sounding like a chipmunk singing torch songs with my father and an orchestra."
Soon after Costa recorded the album Fairy Tales, her father suddenly died. Costa was only 10 years old. Despite the significant loss in her personal life, not to mention her career, Costa continued to record and perform. The 1989 record Here I Am was released to fulfill a contractual obligation, and while the album and subsequent singles charted in various countries, barely a teenager, by 14, Costa was a vet of the music business. As a teen, her repertoire was sugary pop music that topped the charts in Germany with its' Eurofriendly dance music. By the end of her teens, Costa was ready for a serious change.
"I didn't have my sense of self," Costa said in her official biography about her teenaged career. "I didn't know what kind of artist I wanted to be. In the end, it wasn't a great experience and the minute that ended, I graduated high school and started writing and delving into what kind of artist I wanted to be."
After she finished high school, Costa began to search for her own voice and style, one that she could call her own. In an interview with MTV.com, Costa described her maturation: "I was really into Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, all the old Motown stuff and Stax. I would just sit around and rewind [the tapes] and try to sing the harmonies and learn each part. I would sit in front of my stereo for hours. I wanted to get that—whatever that was. This little white girl in Beverly Hills. It took a while."
A move to Australia, a marriage, and her twenty-first birthday marked the dawn of a new artist. Costa's taste in music began to favor the music she often heard in her home as a child—funk, R&B, and bluesy rock. Costa also discovered she could manipulate her voice in a way she never had before. "I could be raspy if I wanted to be raspy, or I could belt out, and there was this certain sound," she told MTV.com. "I don't know if it was just some sort of hormonal thing or whatever, but it kind of shifted for me. I remember that day. It was actually my birthday."
Teaching herself the guitar and piano, Costa put together a band and began to play out in Australia. She embraced her sensual side at her lives shows, and delved deep into the flavor of old-school funk performances, developing a phenomenal stage energy that couldn't be ignored.
In 1996, Costa signed with Australian label Mushroom Records and released Butterfly Rocket, the first album she felt she could truly call her own. For the album, Costa was nominated for Best New Artist at the Australian Recording Industry Awards.
Some five years after moving to Australia, Costa moved back to Los Angeles. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Costa's manager Dominique Trenier commented on Costa's new appeal: "I was intrigued by her ability to perform. She's like a post hip-hop Janis Joplin—white and rebellious." Virgin Record caught wind of Costa's sweat-inducing live shows and signed her up to release 2001's Everybody Got Their Something.
The funky rock album had guest appearances from Billy Preston and The Roots' ?uestlove. The first single, "Like A Feather" was used in a Tommy Hilfiger promotion in 2001, and though Everybody Got Their Something only sold 250,00 copies, Costa's voice and fierce concerts earned her comparisons to Lenny Kravitz, Prince, and Tina Turner.
"...Everybody Got Their Something weaves the histories of rock and soul into a collection of songs that somehow feel both retrospective and contemporary," wrote Kristin Roth for Rolling Stone. People also noted Costa's mix of styles: "She effortlessly blends soul, hip-hop and rock on sexy, hard-driving tracks..."
After touring for her first American album, Costa took time off to work on a follow up. In May of 2005, Costa released Can'tneverdidnothin', an album that contained highly personal songs, including an ode to her dad, called "Fatherless Child." Shortly after its release, Costa toured with Lenny Kravitz, who played on the record.
It wasn't just Costa's outstanding voice that caught people's attention after the release of her two American albums; it was her knockdown, drag-out concerts in which Costa and her band worked the audiences into a frenzy. "When I perform, I try to let myself go as much as possible," Costa said in her biography. "It's not staged or choreographed. I've found the more I let go, the more I get out of it. Performing is the ultimate."
For the Record . . .
Born Domenica Costa on June 4, 1972, in Tokyo, Japan, grew up in Los Angeles and Europe; daughter of arranger/producer Don Costa.
Opened for Don Ho at the age of 5; released debut album in 1981; released platinum albums in Europe and South America as a child; in mid-twenties, moved to Australia, signed with Mushroom Records, released Butterfly Rocket, 1996; moved to Los Angeles, signed with Virgin Records, released Everybody Got Their Something, 2001; Can'tneverdidnothin', 2005.
Addresses: Record company—Virgin Records, 150 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10019, phone: (212) 786-8200, website: http://www.virginrecords.com. Web-site—Nikka Costa Official Website: http://www. nikkacosta.com.
Nikka Costa, 1981.
Fairy Tales, 1983.
Here I Am, 1989.
Butterfly Rocket, Mushroom, 1996.
Everybody Got Their Something, Virgin, 2001.
Can'tneverdidnothin', Virgin, 2005.
Billboard, May 5, 2001, p. 14.
People, May 28, 2001, p. 39.
"Everybody Got Their Something," Rolling Stone,http://www.rollingstone.com (June 15, 2005).
Nikka Costa Official Website, http://www.nikkacosta.com (June 15, 2005).
"7 Questions with Nikka Costa," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com (June 15, 2005).