Matt Costa will be playing at Howelsen Hill on Friday as part of the Free Concert Series. The opening band begins at 5:30 p.m.

Quang Lee/Courtesy Photo

Matt Costa will be playing at Howelsen Hill on Friday as part of the Free Concert Series. The opening band begins at 5:30 p.m.

The past is present

Songwriter Matt Costa looks to history for inspiration

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Quang Lee/Courtesy Photo

Matt Costa will be playing at Howelsen Hill on Friday as part of the Free Concert Series. The opening band begins at 5:30 p.m.

Matt Costa collects postcards from the early 1900s from an antique store by his house in Huntington Beach, Calif.

He appreciates the moments captured in the old photographs and the messages that reveal what people were thinking at that time.

"Now, people just send e-mails, but it's more romantic to send a postcard," Costa said, "because of the time it takes to pick it out, write it, and because of how many hands touched it to get to you."

Many of this singer/songwriter/guitarist's influences are from the past, including the beat generation and the classic novels he reads over and over.

"The beat generation is important to me because they were not concerned with what society expects of people, and that's what they are remembered for," Costa said. "They live it and be it. That's very inspiring to me."

Costa's bookshelf is filled with many of John Steinbeck's novels, including "The Grapes of Wrath," "Sweet Thursday," "Cannery Row" and "East of Eden," on which some of his songs are based.

"I feel like anything that lasts the test of time and has been around that long is worth reading," he said.

He wrote the song "Sweet Thursday" while taking a drive up the central coast near Monterey.

"I wrote the song because it moved me so much being up there and driving on the road where it inspired John Steinbeck to write these stories," Costa said. "It's different now than it was then. It doesn't smell like a sardine factory."

Costa started writing songs and mastering the guitar when he shattered his leg in a skateboarding accident three years ago. Costa was on track to become a pro skateboarder when he was faced with 18 months of rehabilitation.

The demo he produced on a four-track recorder fell into the hands of No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont, who helped him record a five-song EP and his first full-length album, "Songs We Sing."

Costa has filmed his first music video for the song "Cold December." The video was shot in Ely, Nev., where he had to lip synch and pretend that he was playing guitar.

"At one point I was standing on a frozen lake and it was zero degrees outside," he said. "I was trying to pretend there was an audience behind the camera to connect with them."

Costa's songs have a sweet, familiar quality people can relate to. He thinks his best songs are the ones that take you to another place.

"My goal is writing songs in my room and feeling like I'm not in my room, but someplace else," he said. "I will sit down for hours at a time and get lost in the music. I'll go into my room in the evening - my little world that I put to music - that takes you this place when you listen to it. I feel kind of silly, but it's honest."

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