Nikka Costa tells billboard.biz the music on her new album, “Pebble to a Pearl,” is “the raw answer to the sweet, formulaic music of today.” The singer/songwriter’s third album was released Oct. 14 through Stax Records.
“They [Stax] didn’t want to change one note and that was totally refreshing to me as an artist,” says Costa, who possesses a voice described as a cross between Janis Joplin and Chaka Khan. “Other label executives have wanted me to sound like Christina Aquilera or Kelly Clarkson, telling me, ‘We could do so much with you.'”
Costa, daughter of legendary producer/arranger Don Costa (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr.), was formerly signed to Virgin Records. During that association she released two albums, 2001’s “Everybody Got Their Something” and 2005’s “Cantneverdidnothin’.” Following what she calls a “tumultuous” relationship with the label, she “took a minute to find the joy again” in music.
The result is the soul/blues/funk/pop gumbo “Pebble to a Pearl,” funded by her and album producer Justin Stanley on their cheekily titled label, Go Funk Yourself Records. In addition to Stanley, Costa worked with veteran drummer James Gadson (Bill Withers), songwriter/keyboardist James Poyser (Erykah Badu) and guitarists Jason Falkner (Beck) and Chris Bruce (George Clinton). She also collaborated with pioneering songwriter Lamont Dozier (of Motown’s famed Holland-Dozier-Holland), co-writing the track “Cry Baby” with him and Poyser. The album’s lead single is the funky “Stuck to You.”
“I just wanted to get back to the kind of music that made me want to sing in the first place, bring it forward and make it my own,” says Costa. “And we wanted versatile musicians who could play the shit out of songs and elevate them to a whole other level.”
Costa is currently on tour in the U.S. until Oct. 31. The opening act on several of those dates, including stops in Philadelphia (10/21). Toronto (10/26) and Chicago (10/28), is R&B singer John Black. Then it’s off to Europe for a couple of weeks.
Thanks to such companies as Kmart, Soapnet and Tommy Hilfiger licensing her music (“Everybody Got Their Something,” “Like a Feather”), Costa is eyeing other TV and film projects. “Thank the lord; I’ve been so lucky on the licensing side,” she says. “I haven’t had radio love but TV and film really resonate with my material.”