"Writing songs when you aren’t heartbroken or self-destructive requires a little more work," observes Greg Laswell of his own personal, positive "reboot of sorts". The pain of relationships gone bad and the various emotional fodder that fed his own creative struggle have pretty much been happily on the wane recently for the performer known for his way with a smart melody and distinctively weary hang-dog vocals. Married now to fellow performing songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and relocated to New York City, Laswell completed his new fourth album in record time (for him), lugging his portable "studio" to his in-laws' small, seaside town in Maine -- inspiring the album's title from lack of cell phone reception -- and laying down most of the album in under three weeks. Landline (May 8 CD, out now @ iTunes, Vanguard), he says, is "larger". It's also brighter, sharper and more collaborative as he shares the mic with a few of his "favorite female singers": Michaelson, Sara Bareilles (on the album's first single "Come Back Down"), Elizabeth Ziman (of Elizabeth and the Catapult) and Sia Furler.
When all is said and sung, Landline emerges as definitive Laswell: strong, keyboard-centric melodies, wry lyricism, a few sad songs (which he says "I will forever embrace) and that, you know, voice. Laswell's head may be in a better place now -- he says "I’ve never had more fun writing and recording a record" -- but his skills at penning a memorable, hook-laden song remain as effective and bracing as ever. Tracks like the wonderful ballad "Back to You" (a duet with Ziman) and the frisky, fun "Come Back Down" (who else would put "it's getting pathetic" in a song's chorus?) don't so much reinvent the Laswell songwriting method as much as they do simultaneously expand and re-focus his style. Sometimes change -- geographical, psychological, emotional -- will do that. "Turns out," reflects Laswell, "there’s a whole lot to say once one’s head is up".
Greg Laswell - "Back to You" (w/ Elizabeth Ziman) (from Landline)
Greg Laswell - "Come Back Down" (w/ Sara Bareilles) (from Landline)