Up until now, somehow Greg Laswell has stayed under my radar. The San Diego songwriter/musician/producer released an album in 2004, titled Good Movie, which received plenty of acclaim in his hometown. Laswell made his NYC debut last night at the Living Room, where a handful of industry-types got to sample his intelligent alt-pop for the very first time.
For starters, Greg is a down to earth, all around nice guy. He was mingling prior to his set, making sure he greeted everybody in the room. The stage setup was very simple, with Greg on piano, accompanied by a friend on acoustic guitar on a few of the tunes. He breezed through material off his debut solo album, as well as from his forthcoming sophomore effort, which is due out later this year.
Greg’s voice is a versatile instrument in itself, with a great range that brings his storytelling tunes to life. At times his vocals are slightly reminiscent to Matt Hales (aka Aqualung), which hit me during his song “Bright Eyes”. Musically Lawell draws from intelligent alt-pop sources, such as Mutations-era Beck, building his songs around personal stories and fantastic melodies.
He is a natural on stage, flawlessly performing while alternating between piano and guitar. Greg’s stage presence is very welcoming to the audience, adding in plenty of stories between his songs to add a personal touch to the performance. The inspiration behind “Through Toledo” gave us an insight to the origins of the song, while the anecdote involving his use of the phrase “God damn” during “Sing Theresa Says” and his mother’s reaction made us all feel like a member of his extended family.
The set was not nearly long enough, leaving those of us new to his music hungry for more. Last night I walked into the Living Room with no expectations, and left as a brand new fan. Keep an eye out for Greg Laswell and the release of his new album later this year. With music this impressive, big things should be in store for him in ’06.