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LAist Interview: Greg Laswell

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As of late, Greg Laswell and his music have been everywhere—such as a recent stint across the United States and Europe during the Hotel Cafe Tour, a GarageBand feature on the Apple website, and his music being played on shows such as Grey's Anatomy, Smallville, One Tree Hill and Cold Case.

This year has already seen the release of one Laswell EP, How the Day Sounds, and his new full-length record, Three Flights from Alto Nido, will arrive on July 8. Those wanting to hear a preview of the new music can catch him (along with Ingrid Michaelson) tonight at the El Rey Theatre. LAist recently sat down with Laswell to learn about the new album, his great Cyndi Lauper cover song and LA restaurants.

LAist: You've said before that your 2006 record, Through Toledo, is about the loss of love. What's the theme of your EP, How the Day Sounds?

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Greg Laswell: It's about that first moment—after having gone through pain for a little while—when you get better. Sometimes you don't even realize it when you're in the moment. I liken it to the fact that, when you're sick, all you think about is getting better. It consumes everything you think about. Then when you're well, you don't really think about being sick. So I kind of wanted to capture that moment and make it a little bit longer than it actually is in real life. The title of the EP, How the Day Sounds. and the song itself are about getting to that point when you realize, "Oh, I'm OK."

Will your new album, Three Flights from Alto Nido, continue with that theme?

Somewhat. It's probably a marriage between the two.

Although you now live in LA, I know you're originally from San Diego and that you did something to help raise money after the San Diego fires last year. Can you tell me a little more about that?

A bunch of San Diego musicians were asked to contribute songs to a CD that benefits the victims of the fires. I gave them "Do What I Can." The disc also has Switchfoot, Jason Mraz and a bunch of others. You can buy it at Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Borders…places like that.

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As a multi-instrumentalist, do you have a favorite instrument?

I think it's probably the piano. That was my first one and the one I write with the most.

Which other multi-instrumentalists do you look up to?

Well, Prince is ridiculous because he's just a virtuoso in everything.

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From what I've read, you're a Mac guy. Have you been able to do any writing with GarageBand while you've been on tour?

Yeah. I'm a huge fan of GarageBand. It's the easiest way to record when you're on the road. I actually did a seminar with the Apple guys at the ASCAP convention recently, and they did this feature on the front page of Apple.com.

What's your songwriting process like—do you start with the music or the lyrics?

A little bit of both. I don't have one way to do it. Sometimes it'll just be music with gibberish words that don't mean anything and then when I find where it's at, I'll start writing real lyrics.

Your little niece is a big part of your life. What's her favorite song of yours?

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My sister just told me her favorite. I think it's track three off my new CD, "Days Go On." It's kind of bouncy. And my niece is very bouncy.

Your great cover of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" completely turns it on its head. Do you know if Cyndi Lauper has heard it yet?

I don't know if she has or not. Someone claiming to be Cyndi Lauper sent me a message on myspace, but I don't think it was her. The message said, "Thank you so much. You honor me with your cover," but I don't think she wrote it. (laughs)

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You just spent a couple months with the Hotel Cafe Tour. What is your favorite memory from the experience?

I think it was when we did House of Blues in Anaheim and my parents brought, like, 34 of their friends. I went outside to meet them and they were all at this enormous, long table—they must've put 10 tables together. They had told me earlier, "We're bringing some friends," but I had no idea they'd invite so many!

Do you have a hobby?

I like fishing, going to the movies, going out drinking with friends…that kind of stuff.

Do you have any favorite LA eateries?

I love Cafe Stella over on Sunset. I love Canter's and Mercado. I love food. Crustacean, that's delicious. That's one of the best things about LA—all the restaurants!

Tickets to see Laswell tonight at the El Rey may be purchased through Ticketmaster. Laswell's upcoming record, Three Flights from Alto Nido is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and other music retailers.

Greg Laswell - "Sing, Theresa Says"

Photos of Greg Laswell by Joseph Llanes