Q&A with Greg Laswell

Beth Yeckley (TBI): You’re a California native, but recently moved to Brooklyn… how has the transition worked out for you?

Greg Laswell: I honestly haven’t felt any real transition.  Funny, I know.  It couldn’t be more different than southern California… I’ve also been gone more than I’ve been home since I moved, so that might be part of it.

TBI: In between releasing Three Flights from Alto Nido and Take a Bow, you produced an EP of covers, including songs like “This Woman’s Work” and “The Killing Moon.”  The EP was referenced as a way for you to clear your head and gain some new inspiration for your latest album.  Is it important to find ways to shake off your last album when creating a new one?

GL: I found it very helpful to escape into other artists’ music for a little bit.  I didn’t have to worry about the songs, they were already there obviously, and it freed me up to really dig into the production of them… which in turn helped my when it came time to produce my own songs for Take a Bow.

TBI: Every review and interview describes your music at some point with words like: sad, melancholy, or another adjective of a morose nature… Is it hard, years after you wrote those songs, to still sing those words night after night if you aren’t feeling those emotions?

GL: Not really.  Those emotions stay on the stage now.  It was a lot worse when I was still taking them home with me.

TBI: Do you think you could put out an album that weighs heavier in optimism and happiness and not feel, weird?

GL: Is it strange to think that my songs are optimistic? Because I do.  I think there is a certain amount of optimism that automatically exists the moment you chose to face something, in a song or otherwise.  It has a way of proving your desire and fight to move on.

TBI: I read that Take A Bow was inspired by the act of surviving something, making it through to the other side still standing.  How do you feel about life in general now that the album is done?

GL: I feel like 800,000 euros (a million US dollars).

TBI: You’re currently on tour in support of Sara Bareilles… how do you think your music has been received by her fans?  Has it been fun opening for her?

GL: This will be the third night of the tour but it has gone really well so far.  Last night in LA was a sort of homecoming show and it was very special.  Plus, my parents (who are cuter than your parents and your grandma combined) were there.

TBI: What, if any, are the major advantages and disadvantages of a supporting tour versus a headlining tour, which you’ll be starting later in October?

GL: I like having a shorter opening set.  It’s bite size and the weight of the night is off of my shoulders so it’s a bit more relaxing.  I like playing to people for the first time, too.  That being said, I also don’t like shorter sets.

TBI: Have you been writing over the course of the tour supporting Take a Bow, or has the writing taken a backseat for now?

GL: I have been writing, actually.  I wrote the piano part of the song “Come Clean” during sound checks on one of my tours last year.  There are some more songs that have crept up this year in the same way.  I usually write lyrics in the studio.

TBI: It seems pretty clear that your biggest breaks have come from the use of your songs on popular TV shows… most of the time, unless it’s for soundtracks, the songs used on shows and commercials are pre-existing on artists’ albums.  Was it difficult to write a song specifically for a TV show (“Off I Go” for a Grey’s Anatomy finale)?  Or is it easier to write on assignment than for your own album?

GL: It was actually easier.  I did that song in a day.  And it turned out to be one of my favorites.  Perhaps there is some sort of lesson to be learned there.   I wrote “Embrace Me” as an assignment as well, which is another one of my favorites.

TBI: What was the hardest song to write on Take A Bow?

GL: Ironically, I fought with “My Fight For You” quite a bit.  I couldn’t get it to click with what I wanted it to be in my head.  Finally, I just had to get out of its way and let it be.

Ok, random questions:

TBI: What’s up with the socks thing?  Do you buy a pair every time you stop at a gas station or just every tour?

GL: Wow.  How do you know about this?  Um.  I don’t like how socks ball up after you wash them.  I don’t like how they get hard either.  So yeah, I buy a lot of socks.

TBI: Your dog, Shep sounds like your BFF.  What does he do when you’re on tour?  Does he come with?

GL: He is.  That little guy has been through a lot with me.  He came on a few tours with me early on.  It just gets to be too difficult and it’s not fair to him.  He has an aunt that LOVES when I leave for tour.

TBI: What’s the best city you’ve played in?  And why?

GL: New York.  I sold out the Bowery Ballroom this year and it was the best show of my life.  New York is my favorite city.