Eugene Weekly : Music : 6.18.09

If TV is the New Radio…
Then Greg Laswell’s got it made
by Sara Brickner

Even if the whole café-poet persona isn’t your cup of tea, it’s hard to deny that California songwriter Greg Laswell writes melodic, perfectly palatable downtempo songs that ooze with mass appea, which is why his songs have been featured on popular TV shows from Grey’s Anatomy to True Blood. And yet Laswell manages to avoid the lyrical clichés and uninspired, generic melodies that trip up so many of his lesser contemporaries, forcing them to languish indefinitely in coffeeshops. Unlike most of the singer-songwriter tripe cluttering the airwaves and invading your favorite television shows, Laswell writes songs that are innocuous enough to appeal to the average American but innovative enough to please the average hypercritical music snob. Plus, he’s not just a guy with a guitar; he also plays piano and is as able in the studio (he’s worked as a recording engineer) as he is onstage. 

What’s best about Laswell is that he writes approachable music without sacrificing craft or dumbing it down for the masses — and considering the reality of the music industry now, that ability to walk between worlds is a breath of fresh air. Maybe if his marketing machine didn’t plaster the Grey’s Anatomy connection all over the ads for his latest record, Three Flights from Alto Nido, the hipsters would be less inclined to pre-judge. On second thought, how indie can you be when you’ve dated Mandy Moore? Or when your cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” made it on to the film soundtrack for Confessions of a Shopaholic? Romantic history and mainstream leanings aside, the well-worn sonic territory Laswell treads comes off like a neighborhood bar’s original twist on a classic cocktail. Sure, you’ve had a Manhattan before, but it never tasted quite like this. 

Greg Laswell, Pete and J. 8 pm Saturday, June 20. WOW Hall • $10 adv., $12 dos.