Greek Music Kostas Style!
"Kostas is so radically talented as a songwriter...I've been flattered and blessed by the opportunity to collaborate with him..." —Dwight Yoakam
Kostas— A True (20 Year) Overnight Success
Jack Hayford: Kostas, you were born in Greece, correct?
KOSTAS: Yes, I was. I came over to America with my parents when I was seven and a half.
JH: When you came to the US, you went directly to Montana where you've pretty much lived ever since?
KOSTAS: We moved originally to a little town called Savage and then we moved to Billings in '58.
JH: And your family and you still keep homes in Montana, don't you?
JH: Do you come from a musical family, were your parents or grandparents involved in music?
KOSTAS: Not directly, but there was always music surrounding me. Greek music is folk music and I was influenced by Greek and Turkish and Balkan music. I love the bouzouki. I would say the bouzouki led to the guitar for me. As a kid I would sell papers and sell shoes and I would hit the clubs selling my goods and on the jukebox it would be like Ernest Tubb and Kitty Wells and it was all steel guitars and twangin' guitars...the radio was full of twangin' guitars...it was just a guitar world and so as I was growing up I was attracted to the guitar. It went along with my voice really good. So my mom got me this Harmony Sovereign. The neck on it was the size of a telephone pole! It was kind of painful to play that thing with those tiny ten year old fingers!
JH: Did anybody show you music on the guitar or did you just pick it up yourself?
KOSTAS: I took some lessons when I first began and the lessons were like [sings a major scale] da da da da da da da da da and I could not and I still do not understand all that stuff so I basically started learning a few chords and then songs....
JH: Are there any songs that you remember and maybe even still play today from your very early years of playing?
KOSTAS: One of them would be "On the Wings of a Snow White Dove," that old Ferlin Husky song and "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands." One of my very early rock n' roll influences was The Byrds and I literally consumed those first two Byrds albums. I just loved that jangly sound of the guitars and those harmonies and melodies. I think many people don't realize that the Byrds were a very influential band.
JH: What about writing songs, how long did you play before you actually wrote an original song?
KOSTAS: Well, the actual creative process started before the first song was born.
In other words I would hear things in my head when I was out selling papers and shining shoes and walking around the streets by myself and I would make up melodies and start phrases. As soon as I got into an electric garage band situation I started emulating what I heard other bands doing, using my own melodies, and I'd play them for the drummer and he'd say "Oh man, that's great, let's learn that." And so we'd learn some of my songs and play them at the school dances.