Erin Costelo

Erin Costelo

Musician, Songwriter & Producer

Erin Costelo is an award-winning Producer, Mix engineer, Songwriter and Performer from Halifax, NS. She was named the 2017, 2019 and 2021 Music Nova Scotia Producer of the Year.
As a Producer, she has worked with artists of varying genres, and her work as an artist and producer has been honoured with multiple Music Nova Scotia, ECMA, CFMA nominations and a 2019 Juno nomination.
As a touring and recording artist herself, Erin’s albums have earned extensive radio play across Canada. She has opened for notable legends like Mavis Staples, Dr. John, and Boz Scaggs as well as touring and performing with artists Amy Helm, Shannon McNally, Matt Anderson and Joel Plaskett.
As an Arranger – Erin has arranged music for CBC Radio and CBC TV, she has written horn and string arrangements for Juno award winners Amelia Curran and Stephen Fearing and for critical darlings Al Tuck and Reeny Smith.

Digging into the creative process, Byta speaks with artists, musicians, producers, DJs and anyone involved with music creation. A conversation about how they create, collaborate and share music. From studio setups to routines, and the first person to hear about the next 'big' work.

Where are you based?

I am based in Halifax, NS

How, when and where did you start making music? Are you primarily a musician or a producer, or do something else?

I started making music at a pretty young age.  I took piano lessons growing up and I have a pretty musical family, so there was always music making in my home as a child. I went on to study music at university and this is where I first started arranging and composing. When I graduated I started writing songs and producing my own records. That has led to working on records for other people.  I would say I split my time between touring my own music and producing stuff for others.  During the pandemic, I was primarily just producing work for other people.

Who would you consider some of your biggest influences when it comes to your “sound”?

I have so many influences! I love songwriters like Nick Lowe and Carole King, but I equally love Diamanda Galas and Laurie Anderson. I love 60s soul music a lot too. All these things have creeped into my “sound”. I think I get bored pretty easily, so I like finding new ways to keep myself entertained.  I listen to records and love trying to figure out how producers sculpt the sound or what makes me love a song. I can’t really put music on to relax! Which I think is horrible, sometimes.

Explain your creative process? Do you have a routine?

As I have gotten older, I have become a morning person.  I like writing or producing earlier in the day.  The process of writing changes each time.  Sometimes it is the music first, other times the lyrics. When I was younger I was much more of a night owl and would labour over things into the wee hours.  Now I am in bed at 10pm! haha

What is your “studio” setup?

I do a lot of writing on my piano. I find I’m more creative as a songwriter when I sit down at an acoustic instrument. It somehow separates the process of writing and producing, which I like. I have a Yamaha upright and I love it.

When I am producing I work at my computer in my home studio.  I have an iMac, running protools.  Sometimes I will work in Ableton, but I am not as quick in that program, so I find myself heading back to Protools to mix things anyway. I have an Apollo 8 and Apollo Twin and run those through a patchbay with several pieces of outboard gear. I have a Cranborne 500ADAT with several 500 series pieces. 2 Chromas from Louder than Liftoff, two Neve 542s and two Kush Audio Electra 500 EQs. I love all those pieces and use them frequently. I also have several outboard compressors and an SSL Fusion and Audioscape GBus. I love both of those pieces so much and use them in the mixing process.

When I am recording full band stuff I will head to a studio. My favourite place is Joel Plaskett’s studio in Dartmouth called FANG Studio. I have made many records there and know the room pretty well now.

What is your process when working with other people? How is collaboration different in the studio vs working remotely? 

Before the pandemic, I was exclusively working with people in person.  We would do some pre-production stuff over the phone or via email.  But producing people in-studio and working with a group of musicians was my favourite way to make music.  I love creating arrangements of songs and working to the strengths of the people in the room. However, with the pandemic I have found myself doing tons of Zoom co-writes and producing people remotely. Assembling tracks that come in from different places.  Drummer in one city and singer in another etc. A lot of artists have really stepped up and learned to record themselves which has been really amazing to see! I have had to do much more programming and working with virtual instruments than I would normally do, so that has been really fun!

At what point(s) are you comfortable letting other people hear what you are working on?

Well if it is my own stuff, I would say after it is mastered! Haha, But if it is an artist I am working with, then I am pretty open and transparent.  I like to bounce stuff off other producers on occasion and get feedback.

Do you share your work in progress (streams or downloads)? Any technical frustrations?

I have used Audiomovers a lot lately and like it. Collaborating online in real-time is frustrating with the latency, but I make it work. 

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How do you know when a track/album is finished?

I could work on things forever.  But I try to set deadlines and work toward them.  Then the album feels like a snapshot of a moment in time.  It is really hard to create something with an attitude of “creating my opus!”.  There is too much pressure with that and can be really crippling creatively. 

How do you listen to the final mixes/mastered work?

I will listen to a master in my studio, on my phone, in my car.  In a few places to make sure I dig it.

How important is pre-release security when sharing new work?

Hahaha so far that hasn’t been an issue! I look forward to being important enough to have to worry about it though.

Who on your team gets to hear the final versions first and why, what formats do they each need?

I would say that I let my husband listen to stuff first. He has really great ears and musical references. I trust him.

Outside of your inner circle who are the people that will need to hear the new tracks next?

I would say the musicians that played on the recording. Press people. Probably both streaming and downloadable options.

Anything you are working on, anyone you are working with and want to share?

Leanne Hoffman and I are working on her new album. I love her writing so much and think she is brilliant.  Check her out!

Working on a single for Don Brownrigg that is such an awesome song.

And I will be putting out a special project next year, but can’t say too much yet!