NIKKA COSTA CHUCKLES WHEN SHE RECOUNTS how she retired from the music business at age 15 for the second time. The 28-year-old singer, who will hit the road with Erykah Badu later this month behind her Cheeba/Virgin debut, Everybody Got Their Something, is an industry veteran, although few on this side of the Atlantic know it.

Costa is the daughter of the late Don Costa, an arranger, producer and composer for such legends as Frank Sinatra (her godfather), Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughan and Paul Anka. Her first “professional” appearance was at age 5, singing with Don Ho in Hawaii for a Christmas release her father produced. At 7, she sang “On My Own” with the Don Costa Orchestra during an encore for one of his shows in Milan, Italy.

“I was always around music and the lifestyle, traveling with my dad. I didn’t really have a ‘normal’ childhood to compare it to,” she said during an interview with POLLSTAR in Toronto.

In North America, Asia and the U.K., Costa never released anything prior to Everybody Got Their Something. But in Europe, Israel, and South and Central America, she put out her self- titled debut at age 8, which went platinum in each territory. “It was full orchestra, Gershwin songs and stuff like that,” she said.

Costa, who was actually born in Tokyo during the Tokyo Music Festival, never got stage fright, even opening for The Police in Chile before 300,000 people at age 8, she said. Although she never thought twice about it as a child, she was recognized wherever she went in Europe.

“I just knew that when I would sing, chaos would happen. It was surreal. I wouldn’t be able to walk down the street,” Costa remembered. “The balance was, I would come back home to L.A. and be completely normal.”

At age 10, just as she finished her second album, Fairy Tales, her father died. But she was forced to promote the record during what should’ve been a mourning period. “The media really wanted to exploit that he had passed away. It was really twisted,” she recalled. “After that, I wanted to have a break because the energy was not right, so I retired.”

Retirement lasted a mere four years. At 14, she made what she calls “terrible Euro trash,” an album of “bubblegum pop” for a German label.

“The people who I was working with were very oppressive and would tell me to sing a certain way. It was not a good experience, so I retired again,” Costa said with a laugh.

Nikka Costa

Back in L.A., she performed occasionally in high school and sang back-up in various local bands such as The Impostors, which sometimes jammed with members of Fishbone. “That was fun for me because I wasn’t the focus of attention, but I could still get my groove on and it was in a club and playing in a band which I had never done before.”

Still, when her friends had their sights on college, she arrived at that fork in the road but couldn’t think of any area of study that appealed to her. “I made a conscious decision that I would absolutely do music for my life and my career.”

She made several major moves next, including marrying Australian producer/songwriter Justin Stanley and moving down under. There, she started honing her guitar skills and writing her own songs. She formed her very first band, Little Mona & The Shag Daddies, which played “happy funk” but broke up after four gigs in Sydney.

Her next venture was a four-piece called Sugarbone, which toured the country. “It was really scary to unveil it but the reaction was good. It helped my confidence,” she said. “So out of Sugarbone, I was signed to Mushroom in Australia.”

With her husband producing and co-writing some of the bluesy rock material, Costa released Butterfly Rocket, which she describes as “the little sister” to the new album. “It was the first songs I had written or co-written,” she said of the material that earned her a nomination for best new artist at the Australian Recording Industry Awards.

She considers that time her “college years” because she learned a lot about being on the road. “Australian audiences are really hard because they’ve seen a lot of live music,” she explained. “The more I went for it, the more I lost myself. The more I put into it, the better relationship I had with the audience and they give back, too. But it doesn’t matter how big you get in Australia; if you want to break in America you have to start all over again anyway.”

Five years ago, she and Stanley returned to California where she put a rock band together and started playing cuts from Butterfly Rocket plus new material. Meanwhile, Cheeba Sound’s Dominique Trenier heard the Australian CD and loved her voice soulful, raunchy, powerful and sexy.

She signed in 1998, but took two years to hone the vibey mix of rock, soul and urban that became Everybody Got Their Something. Costa even spent a year in New York, “submerging” herself in the club scene where she met DJ Mark Ronson, who co-produced the album with Stanley.

“We wanted to create a new sound,” Costa said. “I wanted to still have the rock elements, but I love soul music and funk is my first love.”

The final result includes the first single, “Like A Feather,” “Push & Pull” (a more acoustic version closes out the movie “Blow”) and the title track, which is hitting radio in mid- September.

Since the album’s release in May, on Cheeba/Virgin, Costa has toured with Black Eyed Peas and played some European dates with Beck, as well as international festivals. She’ll hook up with Badu this month. After that, ARTISTdirect’s Don Muller has set up a headline tour that runs September 26th to November 22nd. Pull quote: “I just knew that when I would sing, chaos would happen. It was surreal.”