Friday night: Greg Laswell, Jimmy Gnecco (of the band Ours), and Brian Wright perform at Rumba Cafe
Though he’s released 3 full length albums and a few EPs over the past couple of years, Greg Laswell’s music reached it’s largest audience when the San Diego native’s “Off I Go” was prominently featured in Grey’s Anatomy’s season 5 season finale last year. It’s not the first time he’s contributed a song to that show, in fact, he’s had six different songs featured on this show alone as well as countless others on shows like True Blood, CSI: Miami, and Three Rivers.
Laswell’s often been classified as a singer/songwriter and it’s a fair comparison though he’s not just a guy with an acoustic guitar playing coffee houses for tips. His writing style fits comfortably alongside peers such as Josh Ritter, Jakob Dylan, and Cary Brothers and his sound is rounded out by a full band.
Greg took a few minutes while on tour this week to answer some questions I sent his way.
As a child of the MTV generation, do you find it interesting that developing artists are getting exposure on TV in the form of soundtrack placements rather than in music videos?
I suppose. I liken it more to the role that radio used to have, back when they weren’t playing the same 10 artists on every station.
You’ve written specifically for Grey’s Anatomy. Were you given any guidance about the particular scene you were writing for or told to write music that fit a particular emotion?
Not much. They couldn’t tell me any details about the episode because it was the season finale and they did not want it to leak. So I just ended up writing another song for myself, hoping that it would fit their needs and it did.
Having lived on both coasts, which do you prefer? What about the west coast do you miss the most? And, if you were to move back west, what’s the one thing you’d miss most about New York?
New York. I miss the Mexican food in southern California. New York has just about everything, except really good Mexican food. You have to look for it more. I would miss the bagels in New York. I’m hungry now.
You seem to be a road warrior. For those of us who have never had the luxury (or the guts, I suppose) to go on a ‘working’ road trip, is it as romantic as one might be led to believe or do you consider it a necessary tool in order to expose people to your music?
It has its ups and downs. It is a lot of work…. and very exhausting. It was almost 2am before we got home last night and our lobby call was 7:30 this morning… That being said, it is still pretty damn romantic.
How much do you get into the vibe of a city and the club that you’ll be playing before the show starts?
Um, not much. We usually pull into the venue, sound check and leave after the show. Days off are usually driving days.
While these days you seem to be playing in front of good-sized crowds, early on in your career you must have played to fewer people. Did you ever think to yourself, “I can’t do this anymore. When I get home, I’m going to find a 9-to-5 that pays a salary and offers benefits”?
I think that about once a week. Even now I have moments of thinking that I will go home and start a dog walking business and release records on the internet or maybe score films. The shows themselves usually bring me back to my senses.
Can you describe what the recording conditions were like and why you chose Arizona to record the new album?
It was in a little mountain town called Mountainaire. Elevation was 7000 feet, green, cold and quiet. It was very nice. I spent a lot of time alone. In fact, more time alone than I ever have in my whole life. That got to me a few times. But I had my dog Shep with me so it wasn’t THAT dismal.
Would you say the tracks you recorded for the Covers EP give listeners a peek into your own personal record collection? How big is your music collection? What was the first CD you bought?
No, not at all. I chose those songs based on lyrics mostly… the first CD (tape, yikes!) I bought was U2 Joshua Tree.
If you could produce a covers EP comprised of other artists covering your songs, what 5 songs would be on the EP and who would perform them?
I’d like to hear Cyndi Lauper cover my cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. Just kidding (no I’m not). I think if I heard Tori Amos cover “Marquee”, I might quit playing that song altogether. Um, I’ve heard Ingrid Michaelson sing “Do What I Can”, which I liked a lot. Maybe Imogen Heap and Slipknot, both covering “High and Low”.
Finally, I read your blog about meeting a woman on a plane who asked if she should know who you are because you were carrying a guitar case and she assumed that you must be somebody famous. Two part question – 1) Has anybody ever recognized you some place that you didn’t think you’d be recognized? and 2) Have you ever been mistaken for somebody else?
I was recognized at Guitar Center just yesterday. And I often get recognized by people checking me into hotel rooms…. which is always kind of strange. I used to get mistaken by my friend Marko who owns Hotel Cafe, a music venue in Hollywood. People would often tell me that they loved what I did with the place….. I would just say thank you.