Blues man out to change the world

By Andi Berlin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 20, 2005

When most boys his age were listening to Milli Vanilli, Sean Costello was busy becoming the next blues legend.

To say that Costello had an early start would be doing the man injustice. Armed with both a blossoming passion for blues and an amazing talent, taking up music at a young age may have been a no-brainer, but still required a little effort.

"I just got into blues since I was a young kid. The sound of it always excited me when I heard it," Costello said.

It all started when Costello was about 11 or 12. With an inquiring mind, Costello looked deeper into the roots of his favorite rock icons like Jimi Hendrix and found blues nestled underneath. At 14, Costello was on vacation in Memphis, Tenn., and decided to enter (and eventually win) a local and then national blues contest.

This gave him enough exposure to produce his first record before he was out of high school. Now, Costello has played with famous blues men B.B. King, Levon Helm, James Cotton and Bo Diddley, in addition to working with one of the most famous record producers in history, Steve Rosenthal.

Costello draws from a number of different styles and genres, including but not limited to gospel and hillbilly music, prison songs, country or R&B, and even hip-hop beats. The old and the new mesh together on his albums, creating an amalgamation of historical and stylistic periods.

But that doesn't mean he necessarily likes a lot of today's music.

"I happen to think that there was a higher level of musicianship in the past. They put more into their craft and played their instruments better; crafted songs better for the most part," he said.

Costello labels himself a member of the "Blues Police," a metaphorical squadron of blues musicians dedicated to upholding traditional blues values and musicianship of the "old masters."

"You see a lot of cheesy white bands doing cheesy stuff that's in bad taste and not relevant to society in any way and just kind of boring and bad," Costello said. "I like real music and real people playing something that's pure and emotionally true and not just some kind of heavy rock thing that's not all about the music really."

Costello started out adhering to traditional blues rules, but has used covers and original songs over time to branch out.

"I like interpreting other peoples' songs too. Doing something different with them because the song is already there. You can say what you want to say with the song that's already there," he said.

Costello is doing what he loves, but he also has a bigger goal in mind. He's trying to bring good American music to the people of our generation.

"People just aren't exposed to anything but what's super popular for the most part. I think that there's a need to keep alive the music that comes from this country and the different styles that are there to be chosen from that are roots of everything else," Costello said.

Costello will perform at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Rd., at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for this 21+ show.