By F. Daniel Kent
The daughter of famed arranger/producer Don Costa and goddaughter of her father’s longtime client, Frank Sinatra, R&B vocalist Nikka Costa is no stranger to the music business. She landed her first gig at age five, when she opened for the Hawaiian entertainer Don Ho. Two years later, a young Costa wowed 300,000 Police fans in Chile. The burgeoning singer was a natural talent, and her childhood gigs paved the way for a fruitful career.
Costa went back and forth between Los Angeles and Europe, enjoying her youth while molding a sophisticated music career. She made her studio debut in 1981 with a recording of “(Out Here) On My Own,” a song from the musical Fame, and watched as the 45rpm record climbed to the top of the European charts. She released several albums throughout Europe, Israel, Central and South America, most of them going platinum. Whirlwind success, however, was matched by her exciting life at home, as Costa spent time in her father’s recording studio alongside luminaries like Quincy Jones, Sly Stone, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Now a mature woman with a fiery spark of determination and passion, the red-headed siren’s songwriting has expanded into an alluring art, and her urban vocals sashay with class and raw sexiness. Costa released the first in a series of EPs, Pro*Whoa!, in late June via her own label, Go Funk Yourself Records. Available on tour and at digital retailers, the six new tracks range from the rock infused first single “Nylons in a Rip” to the breathy and soft “Head First.”
Having recently opened for Prince during his run at LA’s The Forum, Nikka hit road in support of her new release including select dates with INXS, whom she collaborated with on the album Original Sin. I caught up with Nikka Costa while she was prepping for the summer leg of her tour.
Pro*Whoa is a much different kind of release for you. You’re sporting a harder edge to your sound than some people may be used to. Talk to me about how that evolved.
I definitely wanted to start with the beat and the drums so the attack was already pretty well set in my mind once we set out. I’ve always had something of a rock edge. I love rock and have dabbled in it before so It wasn’t unfamiliar territory. I knew already I wanted to make that edge sharper this time and be a little more hard core.
Well, if I may be so bold, you definitely out-rap Madonna.
I was laughing while I was getting ready. I hate my speaking voice, but I was joking one day and it turned out to fit the track really well. So, I decided to make it a joke in the song with this autobiographical tongue-in-cheek “I’m a badass” attitude like real rappers do. I felt like I was kind of parodizing me more than them though.
The first track off the album – “Nylons in a Rip” – definitely gets its message across. Why did you decide to use it as the premiere single for the EP?
I think that “Nylons in a Rip” is one of my favorite tracks on the EP. I think it is one of those songs that may be more digestible where a song like “Pro*Whoa” might be a more hard edged song for some people. “Nylons” has kind of everything that the EP has to offer in one song. It has a message that I like. I’m not a highly political person but the frustrations of things not getting done while things keep going wrong are real to everyone.