HOMETOWN: Hermosa Beach, Calif.
INFLUENCES: Fiona Apple, the Beatles, X
ALBUM: Lamplight, out now
WEBSITE: katiecostellomusic.com

Katie Costello recalls that she was “deathly shy” until she discovered songwriting at age 13. By 17 she was self-releasing her debut album, Kaleidoscope Machine, which generated enough buzz in nearby L.A. to earn her songs spots on TV shows including 90210, One Tree Hill and Private Practice. Still, Costello never felt comfortable as a California girl—so on the day after her 18th birthday she traded coasts and settled in Brooklyn, where she remains.

The songs on her new album, Lamplight, reflect the loneliness, uncertainty and what she calls “creative, masochistic angst” of her first year in New York. “I think of every album as a very particular period of time and thematic contemplation in my life,” she says. “I write what has happened to me and what I have felt simply because I want to understand it. So confusion and sadness and happiness and pain and weirdness inspire my music.” (And her music has long since conquered her shyness: “Now I can’t stop talking.”)

Costello headed back to L.A. to record her new songs with producer Tony Berg, who had worked with artists like Michael Penn, Jesca Hoop and one of Costello’s role models, Aimee Mann. Recording began in October 2009 and was completed by the following February, although Lamplight would wait another year for its release. “Unfortunately, the ‘showbiz’ can be extremely frustrating,” acknowledges Costello, now 20. “Ultimately the way I get through my moments of doubt and sadness is by continuing to recognize that music is the only thing worth living for—or rather, that music makes me feel like life is worth living. The showbiz is what comes after you’ve created music. So when I feel down, I remember that no one can take away my love for writing or listening to music.”

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