Anthony da Costa
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Anthony da Costa

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2004 | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2004
Band Rock Americana




"30 Great Guitarists Under 30"

With his new beard and old thick eyeglasses, Anthony da Costa could be your therapist. He’s not. He’s just another excellent singer-songwriter who puts a nuanced balance of strumming and fingerstyle picking to smart songs Loudon Wainwright III could have written—had Wainwright been a 23-year-old therapist-looking guy from Westchester. - See more at: - Acoustic Guitar Magazine

"Anthony da Costa is an artist going from strength to strength"

REVIEW OF NEW RECORD, "Not Afraid of Nothing" (2009)
By Neil Pearson

Not Afraid of Nothing is the third of Anthony da Costa’s albums that we’ll have carried in around 18 months, and he’s as versatile as he is prolific as this disc expands his sound into new areas. In 2007, at only 16, he became the youngest ever winner at Kerville and Falcon Ridge, and since then he’s gone on to play significant festivals and open for some big artists. Now, still aged only 18, he’s keeping his acoustic folk roots, but bringing in new influences on this new album; and it’s an exciting mix where folk meets, Americana, indie and rock, creating a sound that shares much with contemporary artists such as Josh Ritter, but also nods to classic Neil Young.

As if to underline his versatility, the songwriting has also shifted a little for this disc, with the 14 songs documenting his last year of high school and all the associated trappings that go with being a young man. There’s confusion and honesty, love and loneliness, and an obvious air of change across the songs. What separates Anthony from almost all of his contemporaries is his songwriting maturity, and instead of being a clumsy analysis of teenage life, his songwriting skill turns this into a well crafted album that every older listener will immediately be able to relate to. He has a turn of phrase and ear for a melody that marks him out; he may be a young man but he’s already a few albums down the line and comfortable in developing his style.

Recorded mostly around his hometown of Pleasantville, NY, Not Afraid of Nothing has a bigger sound than his earlier albums, with more depth and colour. He provides the lion’s share of all the instrumentation, and he’s joined by Abbie Gardner on four tracks; other backing comes from violin, cello, piano and some subtle brass in places.

The Ritter and Young influences are easy to spot across the album, from the guitar sound through to melodic and vocal phrasing, and he’s created a disc with a sound that feels somewhat familiar, but with a fresh and relevant edge.

Anthony da Costa is an artist going from strength to strength; he’s proved his songwriting skills over the past few years, and this album shows him growing as a maturing artist.

Very highly recommended.
- Fish Records UK (September 2009)

"Da Costa may be a prodigy with lyrics and melodies, but he's always honest about who he is"

Review of "Typical American Tragedy" & "Bad Nights/Better Days"

By Geoffrey Himes

ANTHONY DA COSTA doesn't graduate from Pleasantville High School in New York until June, but for the past three years the teenager has been one of the most talked-about singer-songwriters at the annual Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis. Tall and gangly with glasses and a Beatles mop top, da Costa boasts an appealingly boyish tenor and the ability to turn his passionate feelings about American foreign policy or his latest girlfriend into songs that have a distinctive personality.

What's most appealing about da Costa is that he never pretends to be something he's not. He never acts as if he's a foreign-policy expert or a world-weary adult or an experienced lover. Whether he's writing about Iraq, the music business, his parents or a pretty girl, he always sings from an adolescent's perspective of new discovery and impulsive feelings. He may be a prodigy with lyrics and melodies, but he's always honest about who he is.

On his solo album, "Typical American Tragedy," he sings to his parents, "I'll probably do what is wrong before I do what you think is right/Though you say be home by 11 p.m., I'll be back in the morning light." He delivers the song not with angry rebellion but with a sad realization that he won't be able to avoid hurting the parents he loves. "Ain't Much of a Soldier" is a young infantryman's bewildered lament, while "Fiddle Girl" is a lively burst of infatuation for a fellow musician. Da Costa dips into bouncy folk-rock on "Dance to This Song," but mostly he relies on his acoustic guitar with tasteful help from his friends on fiddle, organ and dobro.

One of those friends is dobro player Abbie Gardner, and da Costa has released a duo album with her, "Bad Nights/Better Days." He wrote most of the songs and sings most of the leads on this 13-track contemplation of young love, both its exhilarating highs and its torturous lows. The lovely ballad "Let Me Die in Your Arms" is the kind of unreserved declaration of love available only to the unscarred, while the despairing lament "Nothing Left" exposes the romantic wounds that don't close until one grows older. With its skillful use of cello, violin and bass, this album's chamber-folk sound represents a sonic leap forward for one of our most promising folk musicians. - Washington Post (April 24, 2009)

"Anthony continues to demonstrate that he is an outstanding writer of unadorned, plain-spoken Americana"

Review of "Typical American Tragedy" & "Bad Nights/Better Days"

By Scott Sheldon

It is, of course, impossible to write about Americana singer-songwriter Anthony da Costa without mentioning his age. Four years ago, when Anthony was 13, he got the urge to write songs and rattled off 30 over Christmas break alone. Now 17, Anthony has written hundreds of songs, and has firmly established himself as a performer, having produced seven albums of original music and won a string of awards, including "Most Wanted" at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, "Emerging Artist of the Year" at the Folk Alliance conference, and a winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival's New Folk showcase.

That Anthony is a teenage prodigy (and a prodigious prodigy, at that) makes for an interesting back story: How can such a young man write songs with such adult emotions? How does he balance constant writing and performing with his chemistry homework? But, after seven albums, the real story is Anthony's songwriting and performing, which both deserve attention regardless of his age.

In Typical American Tragedy, a solo album, and Bad Nights/Better Days, a duo album with Abbie Gardner of the trio Red Molly, Anthony continues to demonstrate that he is an outstanding writer of unadorned, plain-spoken Americana. Although Anthony cites Dan Bern, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan as influences, the songs much more echo the classic Texas songwriting tradition of Steve Earle, Guy Clark or even Townes Van Zandt. The lyrics hew closely to a single idea and tell their stories simply, in short declaratory lines. The melodies and rhythms vary from pensive ballads to honky-tonk rockabilly to show-tune-style duets, but rarely depart from stolid major chords, strummed energetically but without flash. The same is true of the accompaniment; both albums feature a classic and understated combination of fiddle, bass and guitar, with dobro, cello and banjo added on some songs.

The two albums also arise from a similar creative process. Typical American Tragedy was the result of Anthony's coming to producer Fred Gillen's studio with "tons and tons of crumpled up lyric sheets" and recording from them spontaneously; six of the eleven tracks had never been performed before they were recorded. Bad Nights/Better Days was created over three nonstop days of writing and playing at a local "small wooden studio". There, however, the similarity ends.

Typical American Tragedy is a mostly-upbeat set of Anthony's solo songs, largely in the storytelling style and rarely personal. Highlights of the album are "Dolly & Porter," an homage to the duet days of Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, and "The Devil's Won," a tongue-in-cheek song of lost love. Both of those songs have made it onto Anthony's concert set list. By contrast, Bad Nights/Better Days is a collection of yearning, almost mournful songs of love unfulfilled, unrequited or undone. Of these, the highlights are Abbie's "Crazy in Love' (a clever song of longing for a lover who will let his hair down a bit) and "I'd Rather Be," a classic show-stopping duet that could have come direct from Broadway.

Although Bad Nights/Better Days is billed as a duet album, it feels more like an Anthony da Costa solo album, on which Abbie sings wonderful harmonies and adds elegant dobro and banjo accompaniment. Abbie shines much more on her wonderful solo CD Honey On My Grave and in her work with Red Molly. This contrasts to Anthony and Abbie's hugely entertaining duo concerts, in which their interplay both musically and personally has the chemistry and electricity of a true duo performance. - Sing Out! (March/April/May 2009)

"The prolific singer-songwriter pens serious-minded fare, but can also wax believably romantic"

TODAY.MSNBC.COM Names "5 Top Up-&-Coming Young Singers"

By Tony Sclafani

Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam, and admit that the age-old folk music scene is being given new life by young ’uns. Last year, Texan Emily Elbert wowed the acoustic crowd with her preternaturally mature CD “Bright Side.” But now that Elbert is a ripe old 20-year-old, the new teen folk sensation is 18-year old da Costa, who has been releasing CDs since 2005 and got a coveted write-up in the New York Times (something that helped establish Bob Dylan way back when). The prolific singer-songwriter pens serious-minded fare like the personal/political “Ain’t Much of a Soldier,” but can also wax believably romantic, like on “Let Me Die in Your Arms.” He’s also nabbed a bunch of folkie awards, most notably winning the “new folk” category at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. And even though he’s still in high school, he has several albums worth checking out, like his 2006 effort “Rearrange” and last year’s “Typical American Tragedy." - (April 20, 2009)

"Their duets are more of the Dylan-Baez variety with da Costa’s rough voice (think Dylan) being sweetened by Gardner’s achingly beautiful harmonies"

Review of 2008 Duo Record, "Bad Nights/Better Days"

By Eli Petersen

Ryan Adams. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings. Conor Oberst. Cory Branan. These are names that are thrown around a lot when you are talking about modern day singer-songwriters. What if I told you there may be someone not just like them, but better? Anthony da Costa might just be. About 3 hours ago, my brother handed me his new record, a duo album with Abbie Gardner entitled Bad Nights-Better Days. I was instantly blown away. After about twenty minutes, my brother dropped back in to tell me, casually, that da Costa was just 17 years old (cue Conor Oberst reference). This is his seventh record (cue Ryan Adams eference).

Da Costa got his start at the age of 13 doing Bob Dylan and Neil Young covers at local open mic nights (not a bad way to start if you ask me). He gradually began writing his own material and recording. Local producer/songwriter/performer Fred Gillen Jr. took da Costa under his wing as both a mentor and a producer. Da Costa’s won a passel of awards last year including “Emerging Artist of the Year” at the Folk-Alliance festival. However, he seems to have remained grounded and plans to attend college….ahem….after finishing his last year of High School.

The other half of the duo is Abbie Gardner. A member of Red Molly as well as a solo artist, Gardner’s dobro is a perfect match for da Costa’s songs. Her voice, both in her own songs and accompanying da Costa, is a subtle blend of Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch. Their duets though are more of the Dylan-Baez variety with da Costa’s rough voice (think Dylan) being sweetened by Gardner’s achingly beautiful harmonies. Gardner also writes and sings her own songs on the record, creating a great give and take with da Costa that adds to the drama of the record. Oh, by the way, the record was recorded in 3 days.
- Twangville (July 8, 2008)

"He has obvious links to modern day songwriters such as Jonathan Byrd, Chuck Brodsky and Dan Bern, but he’s a distinct talent and a writer who knows how to connect with his audience in both the live setting and in his recordings"

REVIEW of 2008 Solo Record, "Typical American Tragedy"

By Neil Pearson

A trip to the Folk Alliance conference in Memphis in February is a great way to see both established acts and up and coming singer/songwriters – chatting to artists around the conference in 2008, the one name that kept cropping up was Anthony da Costa, and after catching a couple of his shows it was obvious why.  There were many brilliant performances at the event, but none left an impression quite like Anthony’s showcase. 

He’s a young man, and he writes in a unique style – he has a songwriting maturity well beyond his years, but also sees things through the eyes of a young man.  It’s a compelling mix, and because of his unique outlook he tackles issues as important as the theme of ’Ain’t Much of a Soldier’ through to the playful thoughts of ‘Carnival’ with equal care and attention.

What is most striking on this disc is the feel of flow, it has a tangible presence and a natural air – it’s not raw or unpolished by any means, but it feels fresh, organic and full of life.  The production is very subtle, Anthony and his guitar are joined by dobro, lap steel, fiddle and drums – it’s simple and direct, but it’s an approach that turns a very good album into a great one.

This relatively simple, stripped down approach brings the focus on to the lyrics, and that’s where Anthony shines. Of the 11 songs here, there isn’t one that isn’t worthy of comment — the focus of the album is ‘Dolly & Porter’, a beautiful track with memorable lyric and melody; ‘The Devil’s Won’ evokes the memory of a young Dylan; and ‘Carnival’ appears a throw away on first listen, but as a piece of writing it’s a beautifully constructed song.

He has obvious links to modern day songwriters such as Jonathan Byrd, Chuck Brodsky and Dan Bern, but he’s a distinct talent and a writer who knows how to connect with his audience in both the live setting and in his recordings.

A fantastic collection from an important, emerging artist. 


REVIEW of 2008 Solo Record, "Typical American Tragedy"

By Neil Pearson

Following on quickly from the release of Anthony’s superb solo album ‘Typical American Tragedy’, is ‘Bad Nights/Better Days’ a duo collection with multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter, Abbie Gardner.

While Anthony is blazing a trail on the singer/songwriter scene and Abbie plays both solo and with Americana-trio ‘Red Molly’, this disc has a distinct feel that sits somewhere between Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart and Gillian Welch & David Rawlings. They’ll certainly be likened to these artists, and the power, honesty and quality across the 13 songs is guaranteed to make many people take notice and bring them to a wider audience.

What is most striking is the edge to the songs, and like Anthony’s recent solo album, the recordings are full of energy and life, they’re by no means rough or ready, but they have a genuine feel of an honest recording that can often get lost in over-production.

This approach works well on the fuller tracks such as ‘Spent’ and ‘Red Barn’, but it turns the quieter more acoustic tracks such as ‘You Remind Me’ and ‘Better Days’ into truly beautiful songs. The advantage of the more open sounding songs allows Abbie and Anthony’s vocals to stand out, and the combination of their vocals is genuinely powerful — they’re both expressive singers, but together they really work well and there are many memorable moments across the whole album.

Anthony provides most of the guitar, while Abbie plays dobro and lap steel, but there’s nothing too showy here — she’s an excellent player and sympathetic to the material; other instrumentation includes strings, bass and percussion.

Add this album to Anthony’s ‘Typical American Tragedy’ and it’s obvious he’s going to be leading a new generation of singer/songwriters in the near future; he may be a young man but he writes and performs with the skill of some of the very best, and combining his skills with voice and instrumental ability of Abbie makes it even better.

Very highly recommended. - Fish Records, UK

"Anthony da Costa’s precocious streak of genius runs deep"

By E.J. Friedman

MEMPHIS — I think it must be damning on the soul to never recognize the potential for greatness that lies just under the surface of each of us. I mean, we toil endlessly at these jobs, these relationships, these goals we set for ourselves, and some of us never figure out how good we really are at what we are until the years have slipped by us. Anthony da Costa is in no danger of being struck by this curse. At the tender age of 17, da Costa has quietly made a name for himself throughout the Northeastern U.S. playing coffee shops, bars, schools, and music festivals big & small. As an observer, I’m struck by the casual observation that da Costa’s songwriting and performing is wise far beyond his years, and I’m definitely not alone. His appearances at the 2008 Folk Alliance reassured those familiar with his resume while earning him a large audience of new fans.

People are quick to make comparisons between da Costa and Conor Oberst because of the relative ages in which the two began their songwriting and performing careers. I think that the comparisons pretty much end there; where Bright Eyes is the posterized emotionally distraught poetic anti-hero of disaffected youth, da Costa’s poetry and passions lack the relative bleakness of Bright Eyes, offering the protagonist in his songs hope. In da Costa’snist in his songs hope. In da Costa’s world, our hero’s emotional reactions to what is happening will always leave him a real chance at achieving the life and love he seeks. On his latest CD, Typical American Tragedy, we are offered a clean window into da Costa’s exceptionally complex understandings of love and hope, an unflinchingly moving portrait of a love we’re often curious how da Costa could know about at so young an age.

Regardless of why or how, the combination of spare arrangements and consistently solid songwriting place his current achievements in a class with some of our greatest American songwriters. One has to believe, upon hearing his work, that Tragedy is only the beginning for da Costa on a long string of accomplishments as a performer. Personally, I couldn’t be more excited to see where the future leads or more fortunate to have seen him so close to the beginnings. I sincerely hope and believe that ten years from now, we will all still be talking about Anthony da Costa.

- Loudersoft (February 26, 2008)

"At 17, a folk artist on the rise"

By Tammy La Gorce

HE first thing you notice are the sideburns.

Not that they stand out in a goofy, 1970s lamb-choplike way on the otherwise smooth, youthful face. It's just that they make sense: Take them away, and nothing about 17-year-old Anthony da Costa says folk musician.

At least not until you hand him a guitar.

Mr. da Costa, a nominee for the Memphis-based Folk Alliance's
emerging artist of the year award, was the winner in the “new folk” category last year at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, Tex., and was the artist voted “most wanted to return” at the 2007 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, N.Y. - all coveted honors among certain types of acoustic-guitar-toting singer-songwriters. Now a junior in Pleasantville High School in Pleasantville, NY, he's been the talk of the Westchester County music scene since 2004, when as a 13-year old he started playing open-mike shows in churches and basements around his Pleasantville home.

“I remember as an eighth grader I played Bob Dylan's 'The Times They Are A-Changin' ' and Neil Young's 'Helpless' at a church in Pleasantville,” said Mr. da Costa, who learned the songs after teaching himself guitar at age 10 and discovering crates of his father's old LPs in his family's attic. “The people in the room, there must have been 30 or 40, loved it. They thought it was great that a kid so young knew those songs, because nobody my age listens to that. They listen to Top 40 radio.”

“I was very encouraged - I felt a lot of support,” said Mr. da Costa during a break from a recording session last Monday at Woody's House studio here, where he was working on his seventh self-released album, tentatively titled “Bad Nights, Better Days,” with Abbie Gardner, a folk singer based in Stony Point.

Mr. da Costa started writing his own songs at age 10; at last count, he had written more than 200. Most of them are precocious meditations on girls, including many of the tracks on his January release, “Typical American Tragedy.”

“I tend to fall in love pretty easily,” he said.

Mr. da Costa's mother, Liliana da Costa, signed him up for piano lessons as a 3-year-old, and he remembers her playing records around the house by Joni Mitchell and Nanci Griffith, early but faint musical influences. His father, Dennis da Costa, not only led him to Mr. Dylan by way of his dust-gathering record collection, he has also helped with bookings and promotion after that first open-mike show at St. John's Episcopal Church.

“It's not like we were the von Trapp family or anything,” said Mr. da Costa, who has an older sister, Kristen, 18, and a younger brother, Gianni, 13. “But my parents always loved music. It was always around.”

They also understood the difficulties of a musical career. Taking their advice, Mr. da Costa plans to study music production, or something related to the music business, in college while continuing to perform.

Among his other mentors is Fred Gillen Jr., a folk artist on the Hudson Valley open-mike circuit, the producer of several of Mr. da Costa's CDs and the proprietor of Woody's House.

“Fred played the same open-mike as me when I first started out, but he went on later, and he had me floored with one of his songs, 'Witness,'” Mr. da Costa said. “I saw this weird guy with a shaved head and chrome glasses, and I thought, 'I didn't know you could be cool and do this.'”

Ever since, Mr. Gillen has been quick with advice and the kind of levelheadedness a 17-year-old needs when he is being compared to Mr. Dylan and John Lennon by Louis J. Meyers, executive director of the Folk Alliance, in publications that fans of the genre pay attention to.

“Sometimes I worry about him being so young, because I know in my own life it can be hard to find balance,” Mr. Gillen said. “So I want to say to him, 'Hey, instead of going to Folk Alliance, why don't you find some girl to make out with?' But when you come across people as talented as he is, you have to let them take risks. Even if he got burned out and walked away for six months, he'd still come back. He has the hormones and energy of a 17-year-old, but he's wise beyond his years.” - The New York Times (February 24, 2008)

"Not Afraid of Nothing is a slab of life, real, idealized, and otherwise"

Review of Not Afraid of Nothing by Eli Petersen

This record threw me for a loop when I first heard it. I wrote a quick blurb a couple weeks ago that described the record, somewhat offhandedly, as ‘a young artist exploring new sounds.’ The suggestion being that I was not totally enamored with the record. After yet another late night listening, I have to revise my comments, if not retract them all together.

Not Afraid of Nothing is not what I wanted/expected from young wunderkind Anthony da Costa.  After the double whammy of last year’s Typical American Tragedy and the instant classic Bad Nights and Better Days (a duo record with Red Molly’s Abbie Gardner), I wanted a folk rock classic.  I wanted a record that would draw from and yet compete with Bring It All Back Home or After the Gold Rush.  I wanted him to go into the studio and record some of his new songs, folk anthems like The Rest of My Life and humorous asides like Poor, Poor Pluto (both of which were staples of da Costa’s live sets if YouTube can act as a witness).  I wanted a record that I could hold up and say “here it is, the new young hope” (the new Dylan, blah, blah, i.e. see Springsteen, Mellencamp, Oberst, etc.).  Turns out, I was misguided and Anthony da Costa is going to hoe his own road.

Not Afraid of Nothing is not a perfect record and thank god for that.  The record is a slab of life, real, idealized, and otherwise.  Da Costa explores new lyrical territory both in style and content.  Scarcely a year has passed since Typical American Tragedy, yet da Costa seems less sure of himself in both life and in love, a sign of maturity if I’ve ever heard one.  Not Afraid of Nothing seems more personal, an insight into da Costa’s soul, rather than the insight to his talent that past records have been.

Not that the talent isn’t present here.  From a lesser artist, this kind of deviation may have seemed indulgent and fail to come across.  The instrumentation isn’t as different as my initial reaction would leave you to believe though. There’s plenty of acoustic guitar and folk songs, but da Costa also uses violin, piano, and lap steel in manners previously unheard on his records. 

This isn’t change for change’s sake though.  The atmospheric production, possibly encouraged by co-producer John Eliot, acts as a counter point for some of da Costa’s more adventurous lyrical and vocal explorations.

Listening to the introspective If You Want It, the grand statement of I Am Way Too Much, and the unabashed emotion of Crazy, one can’t help but wonder just how good is this kid?  While I was hoping for a better version of Ryan Adams, da Costa was reaching beyond that.  This isn’t an emo record, but it reaches for the kind of emotional gravity of Ben Nichols or Conor Oberst.  It isn’t a classic folk record, but it has the lyrical quality of a John Prine or Paul Westerberg.  This isn’t the next Dylan, but I’d keep my eyes open anyway.
- Twangville (Nov. 12, 2009)


CA-TX-NY Vol. 1 (2013) (Elliott, Rose, da Costa)
Secret Handshake (2012)
Not Afraid Of Nothing (2009)
Bad Nights/Better Days (2008) (duo record with Abbie Gardner)
Typical American Tragedy (2008)
Quality Time (2007)
E.B.A. (2006) (Gary and Anthony with Quakers United)
Gary and Anthony (2006) (Gary and Anthony)
Rearrange (2006)
Already There (2005)



Anthony da Costa is a 23-year-old singer/songwriter living in Austin, TX. Originally hailing from Pleasantville, NY (about 45 minutes north of New York City), Anthony has been writing songs since the age of 10 and playing professionally since 13. In 2007 (at the age of 16), Anthony became the youngest winner ever of both the Falcon Ridge and Kerrville Folk Festival songwriting competitions. He has released 7 albums and 3 EP’s to date, including collaborations with Abbie Gardner of Red Molly, John Elliott, and Raina Rose. His most recent solo album, “Secret Handshake” was released in 2012 and debuted by American Songwriter Magazine. Sing Out! once said that he’s “an outstanding writer of plainspoken Americana.” Cool.

Anthony has opened for the likes of Loretta Lynn, Dan Bern, Judy Collins, Suzanne Vega, Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) and other awesome folks like that. He plays guitar in a band called Nancy and Beth, featuring actor/singers Megan Mullally (Will and Grace, Children’s Hospital) and Stephanie Hunt (Friday Night Lights, Californication, How To Live With Your Parents for the Rest Of Your Life). That band has played some amazing stages, including Conan O’Brien’s late night show on TBS (CONAN).

For the last four years, Anthony toured around the country while simultaneously earning a history degree at Columbia University, where he graduated in 2013. Anthony loves playing songs and hanging with people who write great songs and hopes to do that for the rest of his life. That’s pretty much it.

Band Members