Home / Sean Costello, 1979-2008

Sean Costello, 1979-2008

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It was hardly a month ago when I was on this space talking up this brand new release by blues wunderkind Sean Costello called We Can Get Together. Costello really impressed me as the former guitar prodigy who was poised to take up a long-term residency at the top of the blues echelon and Together was a slam dunk to expand his fan base further. At the time I opined:

There have been a lot of newcomers to the blues scene over the last ten or fifteen years, but few have given more reason to be excited about the future of the blues than Sean Costello. He's a completely developed package revitalizing the genre using more than a dozen years of experience most blues players don't get in a lifetime. And he's not even thirty yet. If he is this good on We Can Get Together, it's scary to think how good he'll be by the time he finally hits that milestone birthday.


As it tragically turned out, Costello died early morning yesterday, one day short of his twenty-ninth birthday. As of this morning an immediate cause of death is not known. Besides his latest release, he left us with four other albums to remember him by, as well as his sizzling sideman work with such luminaries as Susan Tedeschi and Levon Helm. But as far as Costello had come in his short time on earth, one could sense he hadn't yet reached the ceiling of his abilities yet.

Regrettably, we'll never know for sure, now.

Sean's soulful throat, tasty guitar licks and quality songwriting with an unwavering reverence to his rootsy forebears was just the kind of talent that reinvigorates the blues and keeps it going for a new generation of listeners. Just as Sean Costello got excited about the blues from discovering Stevie Ray Vaughan — another huge talent who's life was cut short — perhaps someday a Costello record will inspire a kid or two to dedicate their lives toward keeping this grandest of music forms alive and dynamic.

May you rest in peace, Sean.

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About Pico

  • Too bad. Sounds like he had a lot left to give and an open road in front of him.

  • Very sad, but a nice to the point eulogy Pico. One only hopes his passing wasn’t due to the dreaded “unnatural causes.”


  • Unfortunately Glen, all indications I’ve read so far point to those “unnatural causes” that you speak of. I don’t want to speculate on anything before the coroner’s report, but that would be an especially sad waste of talent if it’s true.

  • susannah

    Pleas don’t talk about my friend that way- Sean was amazing in so many ways! Simply amazing… thank you

  • I would like to know the name of the person who sold Sean his last load of unnatural causes.

  • Sean Moore

    Sean played a small show here in Colorado just about a month ago.
    I got to see him play live twice.
    He will always be one of my favorites.
    God bless ya real big Sean.

  • Mark

    I happened to catch Sean and his band during the tour in seattle. It’s a damn shame they had gotten together and it sounded great

  • Nathalie

    I came across Sean in a Midnight Ramble Dvd at the Levon Helm Studios and I was blown away by his guitar playing and his vocal delivery, which sounded way older than him, when I closed my eyes, he was black; I mean that in a good way ;-)))
    My boyfriend, who happens to be a very talented and respected guitar player and teacher, was also suitably impressed.
    We are both sad at the loss of such a young talented and promising life.

  • Anna

    He came to my house once, my uncle is in his band. He is such a nice guy, i loved him, he played with me when i was bored of hanging out with the older people….i will miss him..=(

  • Mr. & Mrs. Schellhaas-N.O.L.A.

    Sad is not enough to express how we feel for the loss of such a wonderful man. Sean is a friend of our son Donald in Atlanta and stayed at our home when he was in New Orleans. We have many fond memories of him and his musical talents. We pray for his mom and family. We miss you Sean!
    Your “New Orleans Mom and Dad”.

  • devon

    sean was an amazing musician and an even better friend. he will live on in the hearts of all of those who loved him. anyone who has seen him will understand when i say, i will truely miss the face he could make when he was really getting into playing!

    my love to you all

    ps. hi to donald’s mom. we have met a few times. i hope to see y’all soon!!

  • Tasia

    While Sean and his band were in San Diego, the bassist passed out on stage. That wasn’t all that long ago.

    I hope and pray to God that “unnatural causes” weren’t behind the bassist’s collapse or Sean’s death. Too much talent, man. Too much talent.

  • Marta Slosarska

    Don’t you people have families, jobs and your own problems to deal with?

    Instead of speculating on Sean’s causes of death, (what by the way IS NOT YOUR BUISNESS!!!), you should take care of the people you love cause life is short and you never know what tomorrow is gonna be…
    If you’ve ever got the chance to meet him or not, whatever, for god sake show some respect! To Sean, to his family, to his REAL friends…

    Some of you may think that they know things, or hope that they’re going to find out what happened. Just let him Rest In Peace and focus your fucking curiosity on something else!

  • I think the people commenting here ARE real friends and are trying to work through their grief.Your anger is displaced. People have a need to understand so they can have closure.Sometimes sharing their frustration helps in their healing. Try not to be so harsh …as you said, life is too short.

  • Marta Slosarska

    Sean was a wonderful, caring and private person. He never speculated or relished in other people’s sorrows; rather, spent most of his time and energy trying to help them heal. There is nothing in this speculation that will bring him back or make any of those suffering the immensity of his loss feel better. If you knew him and his music, you would be too devastated to ask questions that have no answer and will bring no peace. Just read the comments from the many who knew and loved him, and the passion he shared through his music. If you wish to spend your days fishing for a story that will somehow make your life more meaningful in some way, there is no way to stop you; however, you obviously are not a person who knew and loved Sean, and, therefore, have no right to any information about his life or death. He did not belong to you. Only his music is open to pu blic scrutiny. One can only hope that you find a more charitable and useful outlet for your energy, because you may be hurting someone you do not even know. Karma is a funny thing, and what goes around comes around. Sean lived his live in peace with others. May you grant him peace in this very sad time…

  • Jeff

    As a life-long blues musician, I have nothing but respect and admiration for Sean’s legacy. He had an undisputable passion for, and made valuable contributions to the blues. It should be of no importance how he passed, what is important is the loss to his family, loved ones and all those he touched through his music. Life on the road as a working musician is a hard way to live and full of sacrifices, sacrifices Sean was willing to make because of his wonderful talent and love of his fans and the music.

    Rest in Peace, You will be missed.

  • Slim

    Hey Marta – if “Karma is a funny thing” and “what goes around comes around”, I wonder what Sean must have done to deserve to die so young.

    We don’t know why he died and it is truly a sad situation. Yet if it was in fact caused by an accidental overdose of illicit substances, I don’t care how nice of a guy he was or how well he played the guitar – he was a fucking idiot.

    And being a public figure as he was, by choosing to make his living playing music in public and selling his CDs, he indirectly gave his implied consent to the details of his life and death being a public matter worthy of public speculation.

    Now I’m sorry you lost your friend and I genuinely feel sad for his family, but you have no standing to judge other people’s concern here. [Gratuitous vulgarity deleted by Comments Editor]

  • Ed

    Really enjoyed Sean’s guitar playing. I spent many hours at work watching some of the youtube clips of him playing. He really had some nice licks.

    I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank him for the music he shared with us and offer my condolences to his family.

    Peace and love to y’all

  • jon

    Slims comments are horseshit. “Now I’m sorry you lost your friend and I genuinely feel sad for his family, but you have no standing to judge other people’s concern here.”

    Who are you? Do you know marta or I or did you spend any time with sean? Do you have anything better to do then to cause his family more sorrow.

    Coming from his best friend, we do not know what happened. He did not deserve to die so young and his parents did not deserve to lose their child. Just because we play music, doesn’t open us up to public scrutiny. You can pay ten dollars to get into our show that doesnt buy you a ticket to our life. [Gratuitous vulgarity deleted by Comments Editor]

  • Peter

    Terribly sad occasion.
    Reminds me of Bluesman John Campbells death in the 1990s ( which was due to a natural cause/ heart failure)
    But Sean was far too young to go.
    I actually sort of preferred Sean’s voice to SRV’s. His guitar playing was phenomenal.
    I noticed Sean had set up a charity fund for Bi-Polar Disorder which i thought was brilliant of him.
    Was he actually a bi-polar sufferer?
    Alot of creative people are.
    If he was he must’ve gone through Hell.
    My deepest sympathy to his family.

  • Lorri Lynn and Cody

    I saw Sean Costello at the Blind Willie Blues Festival in GA. I also met him and got his picture with my son Cody. Sean was so kind to us. He seemed down to earth and geniunely shocked that we wanted a picture with him. I am so sad to hear about the loss of such a talent and a young man.

  • Kelli

    I cannot believe some of the disrespectful comments on here. If you can’t say something nice, then please don’t say anything. Have respect for all of the people who love Sean.

    Some people think they know what others go through, but they have no idea.

    All I can say is that I love Sean and I miss him everyday. The way he died does not reflect the wonderful person and amazing musician he was. Please just keep in mind that you don’t know all of the circumstances and you should not judge anyone.

  • Ruvy

    I never heard of this musician or any of his music. I know nothing about him, and in all truth, his life and death did not affect me at all. But I do know something about giving a dead man and his family honor and respect, and giving them space to mourn a loss. And when people haven’t got even the common decency to keep their gossipy traps shut for a few days to let the body cool, at least, that does affect me.

    It is irrelevant whether there was “implied consent” to make the details of his life public, or some other bullshit. Sean Costello was a human being with a life, dreams and hopes, and relationships that (hopefully) made him greater than just a fellow strumming a guitar. And now he is no more.

    Slim, take your sanctimonious nastiness and GTF lost for a while. It shows only the worst in the culture you come from and demeans you and the culture you came out of.

    And may G-d comfort those of you who mourn his loss.

  • Michael

    I can’t believe that there are people like [Personal attack deleted] Slim who would take time out of their day to write crude comments about one of the most careing, compassionate, and talented individuals to ever play the blues.

    I hope you read this. I hope only the best for you in this life. Do you have kids? I hope that your kids grow up to live lives filled with happiness and joy. I hope that your children grow up without mental illnesses and never have to feel the effects of bi-polar syndrome. I hope that your kids never become dependent on chemeical substances, be it nicotine or caffinee or alcohol. I hope all of these for your children, because I don’t want anyone to suffer.

    So please take your Slim ass away from this site and any other site that relates to Sean Costello. Nobody wants to hear from you. Ur only adding to the pain that so many of us who KNEW Sean already feel and live with. We miss Sean and want to hear about the ways he has inspired people with his music.

  • connor shreve

    I unfortunately never knew sean costello I am just a huge blues fan and a just for fun music historian and all I can say is that his voice and guitar playing are of another world, much like SRV, Hendrix,Duane Allman and so on. His mark on the blues world was bigger than some may know and I truly believe that he will go down as one of the greats as he well should.

  • Jon

    We continue to deal with Seans death in our own ways. Sonia, dont worry if that writer had the balls he would use his real name to post nasty things about Sean. He sounds like a frustrated musician…..jealous…or somebody Sean or I pissed off at some point cause he obviously saw us play…. [Personal attack deleted].

  • annoymous

    Gosh this is sad
    I just find this out now months and months later
    I used to jam out with him years ago probably back in 2002 and we used talk about music and how we were born a week apart.
    This makes me so sad
    Just to let you know he’s the reason or one of the main reasons levon is back out playing again.
    I was there I saw the whole thing unfold
    I just googled him to see what he was up to and got this news…I’m in utter shock
    We lost a good one! a real good one!
    He taught me so much about music and life

  • FilthyMcNasty

    Jon, it is YOU who is the mental eunuch!

  • shifty

    Great musician, wonderful gifts. My condolences to his family and friends. I had just found his music and was telling others about him.

    Regardless of the cause, he didn’t deserve to die. We’ve all done things that could have put us in the graveyard. People here are casting stones…

  • Bill Kline

    I remember first reading about Sean in a Philadelphia Inquirer review of his first album. I read it by chance, I don’t know that I have ever before, or ever since read that column. After reading the great review, I bought the CD. Wow, this man could play! I told all of my friends and we became instant fans. Saw him many a time @ Warmdaddys in Philly. It was a “must see” for us everytime he came through. I never became friends with him, but I did shake his hand a few times, grab an autograph, tell him how much I loved what he did.
    I can’t believe that he passed.
    I really can’t believe that I didn’t know until just now. I was just thinking it had been quite some time since I had seen Sean and started looking to see where I could go hear him play, but sadly that just won’t be anymore.
    I always remember the great nights we had listening to him, the excitement of meeting someone that talented, the wild facial contusions Sean would make when he was jamming, the great joy we all took in seeing him let it just come to him and play like no one could.

    I know how he must of felt at times, it is a struggle for many of us.
    Sean, we will always remember you.

  • Marty

    This guy,the multi talented Sean Costello, was the future of the blues. I had the pleasure of watching him perform on 4 occasions, twice in the US and twice over here in the UK, and he seemed to get better each time.Words cannot describe how i feel, let alone his family and closest friends, for this loss. He will always be fondly remembered over here in Hartlepool,England.R.I.P Sean

  • Terry Ott

    I have been listening to nothing but Sean’s CD’s (and Susan Tedeschi’s when he played with her) for days now after learning of his death. I don’t know how much longer it will be “just Sean” on my speakers, but I am not close to be being tired of his work. I am tired of thinking of his death, and sick about it, but of his music? … never will I tire of IT. So very special.

    I first heard Sean when he was about 20. I wandered into a little club in Savannah, having heard the sound from outside. That was it. Since then, I’ve seen him a half dozen times — whenever our paths were reasonably close to intersecting somewhere.

    Never did I imagine that I would have all of his CD’s. Now in my 60’s, I expected my children and grandchildren would collect the rest after I died. There should have been 50, not 5.

    I can think of no other death outside my biological and marital family that has affected me like Sean’s. The way he wrote, and sang, and performed, it seemed like he was “inside his music” and that he took me with him. Selfishly, I wanted those “escapes” with Sean for the rest of my days.

    Though their talents led them in different directions, and though I never knew Sean, he seemingly resembles my youngest son in terms of his personality and how people feel about him when in his presence. And my son has fought some tough emotional battles that he didn’t deserve to go through. I have, too. It just happens. Maybe it happened to Sean, I don’t know that, but if so there is nothing “straightforward” about it that anyone else can really understand.

    I would encourage the moderator to simply remove the parts of this thread what have turned into a tasteless and insensitive confrontation. From what I know of Sean Costello, he would not want any of that associated with himself or his memory.

    As inquisitive humans, when something traumatic affects us in some way (as this has me, on an emotional level), we naturally try to understand “why?” As someone said earlier, it helps with the closure and is just part of grieving. But we’ll never REALLY know why, only that we wish it hadn’t.

  • I’ve always felt that music exists to enrich our lives and anyone who can deliver life-enriching music is of a special class of people.

    It’s so disheartening to learn of when such a person like Sean is no longer with us for whatever reason, especially when he had so much of his life ahead of him. It’s equally heartening to know of people he was able to make such a positive impact through his music before he died.

    Thanks to Terry, Marty, Bill and other like-minded posters on this thread for your comments.


    ATLANTA, GA – The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research will hold its first benefit concert Sunday, March 1, 2009 at the North Atlanta High Center for the Arts. Sean was a beloved blues musician from Atlanta, who was internationally acclaimed, and in his honor, fellow musicians Lurrie Bell [2008 Living Blues Awards for Blues Artist of the Year and Most Outstanding Guitarist], Jason Ricci [Muddy Waters Award for most promising new talent], The Wood Brothers, King Johnson, Felix and the Cats with Jon Liebman and the Soul Shakers will lend their time and talent to this cause. Doors will open at 4p.m. for review of silent auction items with entertainment to follow at 4:30p.m. Tickets are $30 and will be available online and at the door. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Donations are tax deductible.

    The benefit emerges as the first project of The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research, an organization founded by his mother, Debbie Costello Smith, upon Sean’s untimely passing. Sean was acclaimed for his musical prowess at a very early age. He was designated the Beale Street Blues Society Best Performer at age 15; was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award for his album Cuttin’ In in 2000; was voted Best Blues Band in Creative Loafing and Atlanta magazine; was featured on the cover of Blues Revue in February of 2002; and was named the Best New Act by the French Blues Feste in 2003. Most recently, Sean was nominated for two Blues Music Awards: Best Contemporary Blues Album and Best Contemporary Blues Male Artist of 2008.

    Sean resided in Atlanta, but was known throughout Europe and the U.S. as a talented, but humble musician who readily shared his talent with young and old. He played with musical greats BB King, Buddy Guy, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Hubert Sumlin, Elvis Costello, Etta James, Pinetop Perkins, Bo Diddley, Little Jimmy King, Nappy Brown, Bob Margolin, and many others. He formed special and lasting relationships with Felix Reyes, Donnie McCormick and Levon Helm. Sean had the honor of playing for James Cotton’s birthday, as he was Mr. Cotton’s favorite band.

    Sean passed away suddenly in April last year on the eve of his 29th birthday, after quietly battling depression and anxiety for more than 10 years. It was only a year before his passing that Sean was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. At the time of his passing, he was in treatment to overcome the debilitating symptoms of this mood disorder and the often associated self-medication.

    The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research is a non-profit organization that has attracted a dedicated Board of Directors and an Advisory Board of renowned clinical researchers as a direct result of Sean’s reputation as an artist, an exceptional person and friend. In creating the fund, the board hopes to increase research for treatment, develop and support education for early diagnosis and intervention, and eventually create a program for musicians and artists seeking holistic support in their effort to lead functional, healthy lives.

    For more information, please visit The Sean Costello Fund.