Erin Costelo
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Erin Costelo

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF
Band R&B Soul


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"in a league of her own"

Local maverick Erin Costelo finds truthfulness a touch mischievous. The jazz-infused piano-pop songstress released her debut album The Trouble and the Truth mid-September. It’s been nothing but glowing reviews ever since.

Canadian hipster mp3 Internet blog Said the Gramophone compares her vocal characteristics to Genesis-era Peter Gabriel, her initials and last name mirror Elvis Costello (minus one L), but the melody-driven mood-maker is in a league of her own. Her baritone vocals move through shades of loneliness, deep-sea dives through oceanic sounds of isolation and inspiration, only to bubble to the surface of piano-pop passivity.

Her 7-track anthology features guest performances by local troubadour Al Tuck, Lukas Pearse, Bernard Kehler, Gillian Gostelo, Alex Porter, Caleb Hamilton, Andrew Glencross and Ron Koop. The title track The Trouble and The Truth bookends the album, as part one and part two are the album’s stamped and sealed envelope of winsomeness.

The Halifax-native has crafted a lovely introduction to her stylistic musical landscapes with “Pale Moon” and “The Unanswered Question,” though it’s the unique relationship between her skillful instrumentation and the echoes and experimentation of her voice on “Architect of Fashion,” which keep troublemaker and truth-tellers curious and craving more.

Sylvie au Contraire - Belletristic Impressions

"Jazz Fest review: Love Upstream with Erin Costelo"

Jazz Fest review: Love Upstream with Erin Costelo
Costelo's voice and compositional prowess received a fulsome workout.
Posted by Graham Pilsworth on Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 1:19 PM

Who approached who really doesn't matter. The fact that it happened and a large crowd in the Jazz Tent yesterday afternoon got to listen to and thoroughly enjoy Erin Costelo with Love Upstream was, well, beautiful. This was a playback for me of a nervy idea: namely for a group of Costelo's finely wrought original songs to be rearranged by members of Love Upstream.

Gyrated into fresh shapes, textures and colours, Costelo, bravely would then perform these new settings. With the band. In concert. I luckily got to hear that. Bowled me over then. Bowled me over again hearing those numbers reprised. Costelo, unlike many of her contemporary young singer-songwriter peers, is no musical naif. Well-schooled in higher-learning music programs, she knows her stuff. And therefore is cognizant of the wide historical range of styles musical inspiration could be dressed in to show it off to its best advantage. Because of that and her sharp intelligence and stellar talent, her compositions, to me, evoke the cutting lyric smarts, memorable melody-making and stand-out musicianship of one of America's finest songwriters-- the brilliant ironist Randy Newman. With one exception. Vocalizing. Newman's croaky, strained-through-rusty-steel-wool vocals cannot ever compete with Costelo's rich, flexible, dynamic alto voicings.

Costelo's voice and compositional prowess received a fulsome workout. From "The Day Before War" which kicked out the tropes with a jaunty, ol'-timey show tune bounce --talk about irony, given the subject matter--to the achingly beautiful ballad "Go Home," to a rivet-popping, spine-shaking, foot-stomping song setting by arranger/bassist (and Costelo sidesman), Lukas Pearse. A blend of the twist, bossa and trance rock. "Stereolab meets Chubby Checker," he explained. A matchless program of whing, slang, song for a splendid afternoon. My sole complaint? That I couldn't hear it again. And again. And... - The Coast

"Music of the Spheres"

Erin Costelo can make an old piano with tacks in the hammers sound like music of the spheres...awesome songs! - Charles Austin


Erin is a highly original creative artist - Don Kerr


She herself is a maverick, with all the angles covered. Her classic original song forms bust out with style, heart and true promise. Jackpot alert indeed. - Al Tuck

"Said the Gramophone Review"

Perhaps this speaks more to the unusual musical proclivities of my adolescence than it does to the quality of Erin Costelo's baritone voice, but when Costelo sings, she reminds me most of all of Genesis-era Peter Gabriel. Costelo doesn't sound like Gabriel exactly, and more often than not, her jazz-inflected, sprawling pop songs owe a greater debt to the composer of "Big Yellow Taxi" than to the man behind "Carpet Crawlers." It's in the way Costelo acts the parts of her songs' protagonists that she recalls Gabriel and his ability to inhabit his many characters and convincingly sing in their voices. In the two versions of "The Trouble and the Truth," the careful ballad that begins and ends Costelo's new EP of the same name, the singer and pianist shows us how a melody's meaning depends upon its frame. The first part - rumbling organ, lonely and reflective - sounds like a distant but formative memory; while the second part, in which Costelo sings more vigorously, accompanied by church-reverb piano and an affectingly unsteady male voice, seems vital and immediate. Only because of the Gabriel-like evocativeness of Costelo's arrangements and delivery can we hear that she begins her album at its end and ends it at its beginning - Said the Gramophone


The Trouble and the Truth
There is a maturity in Costelo’s voice and approach that is disarming in a debut. When she extends the “I” in “Pale Moon” into three and four notes, it has the heartiness of someone delighting in finally getting her song out there. Costelo is an alto who can reach higher if needed, but does so sparingly. Some ubiquitous locals like Charles Austin, Al Tuck, Andrew Glencross and Lukas Pearse lend support where needed. “Architect of Fashion” is striking from the get-go with what sounds like pots and pans over a mellotron. Her piano playing is understated and suits her voice. Costelo is like Diana Krall, except with a personality. - Doug Taylor, The Coast


- "Fire and Fuss" 2009 (Independent)
- "The Trouble and the Truth" - 2007 (Independent)



Erin Costelo blends rich layered piano driven compositions with lyrics as often searing as they are sweet on her first full length album Fire and Fuss. Recorded at CBC's radio H, this album has taken it's place in a long line of remarkable debut albums from Halifax's singer-songwriter community.

Nominated for two Music Nova Scotia Awards and an ECMA, Costelo has captured the strength and fragility of her distinctively low, smokey voice in moody, unique arrangements that blend barrelhouse blues, boogie woogie and 60's soul with her truthful melody driven ballads to create a sound that is all her own.

Erin is poised to release a new album in 2012 which promises to showcase her soulful voice and revisit 60's soul with a twist.

Although born in Nova Scotia, Erin spent a lot of time moving from place to place. At the same time she was beginning to read, she started taking piano lessons. Eventually, Erin became diverse in piano playing everything from Bach and Mozart to the Beatles and Elton John. Upon graduation, she decided to turn down a scholarship to study classical music and attend St. Francis Xavier to study jazz piano.

After completing her degree, Erin traveled to Winnipeg where she performed her first gigs as a side musician and began honing her skills as an accompanist. From there she resided in Texas where she pursued studies in composition. Erin states "It was my experience in Texas that really allowed me to explore every extreme piece of my personality in composition. I wrote classical chamber music, performance art pieces, electronic music and multimedia pieces, played in a jazz trio, worked as a pianist in a drive-thru wedding chapel, played country music and began writing songs."

After 8 years away from Nova Scotia, Erin decided to move to the highlands of Cape Breton Island where she lived in a cabin writing songs. After four months, she moved to Halifax to record her first EP The Trouble and The Truth.

Erin burst onto the rich Halifax music scene in 2007 with that self-released EP. Since that introduction, Erin has performed across the maritimes and has become a highly sought after composer, pianist, and vocalist amongst her peers.

She has shared the stage with a long list of the Canada's new stars including The Skydiggers, The Great Lake Swimmers, David Myles, Rose Cousins, Amelia Curran, Al Tuck, Catherine MacLellan, Thom Swift, Bob Wiseman and Duane Andrews.

Erin currently resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her first full length CD Fire & Fuss was released in May 2009 to critical acclaim.

"the melody-driven mood-maker is in a league of her own. Her baritone vocals move through shades of loneliness, deep-sea dives through oceanic sounds of isolation and inspiration, only to bubble to the surface of piano-pop passivity." - The Coast

You can hear a live concert performance on CBC 2's Concerts on Demand. This performance was taped at the In the Dead of Winter Festival in January of 2008.