Greg Laswell: 'Through Toledo' Singer-songwriter Greg Laswell recently released a new CD called Through Toledo. Music critic Christian Bordal talks with Laswell about the painful events that inspired his songs.

Greg Laswell: 'Through Toledo'

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(Soundbite of song Sing, Theresa Says)

Mr. GREG LASWELL (Musician): (Singing) Go to sleep while gather all my things, and I will call you in a couple of days.


Greg Laswell is from sunny San Diego, but his new CD, Through Toledo, has a darker past. Here's music critic Christian Bordal.

(Soundbite of Sing, Theresa Says)

Mr. LASWELL: (Singing) In my dream. In my dream. In my dream.


About two years ago, the bottom unexpectedly dropped out of singer/songwriter Greg Laswell's life when his wife - he says quite out of the blue - told him she was leaving. Now one of the surprising side effects of his heartbreak was a burst of songwriting that resulted in his new album, Through Toledo.

Mr. Laswell: Somewhere, I can't remember - I can't pinpoint exactly where it happened where I thought oh, this might be an album - because it certainly didn't start out as, okay, this happened to me and I'm going to make an album from it. Mostly, it was just my way to really, just kind of get through it.

(Soundbite of song Sing, Theresa Says)

Mr. LASWELL: (Singing) Sing, Theresa says, sing happy things. Sing, Theresa says, if I do everything...

Mr. LASWELL: It's kind of bizarre, because it's not really an album about pain. I mean, there's a lot about that in it, but I almost view it more as an album about love and about the loss of love.

(Soundbite of song, High and Low)

Mr. LASWELL: (Singing) And just like that my fear of it disappeared like all of you, like of you. And I look high and low for yesterday, high and low for you and I, high and low...

Mr. LASWELL: You know, if it wasn't for this great love that I have - still, actually - for this person, this album would've been very different.

BORDAL: In what way?

Mr. LASWELL: Well, it just would've been perhaps more angry or more bitter.

(Soundbite of song, High and Low)

Mr. LASWELL: (Singing): What's left of you, what's left of you ...

BORDAL: But before you get the wrong idea, this is more than just a maudlin break-up record.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LASWELL: (Singing) Mary, do what you can...

BORDAL: Laswell has a gift for appealing melodies that float and meander, never quite cementing into consistent, repetitive lines. And since he plays almost all the instruments on the album himself, he had full control of exactly how his songs were presented.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LASWELL: (Singing) Your love. (unintelligible) all of your story...

BORDAL: One of his decisions was to present the new songs without revealing too much personal detail.

Mr. LASWELL: And there's a bunch of songs that, you know, I listened them to later and I'm like well, it's just too sensational and it's too selfish of me to put this on a record, you know.

BORDAL: Because they were too direct?

Mr. LASWELL: Yes, and maybe not for the public.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

BORDAL: One of the benefits of digital recording technology is how much you can do on your own. But this album definitely does not sound like a one-man band. With virtually unlimited tracks, you can record and record and record and then make a lot of decisions about a song's final arrangement when you're mixing down all those elements.

Mr. LASWELL: I really just record everything that I could possibly think of, and then when it came to mix, I would almost treat it like a block of stone and then, you know, cut things out of it to make it what it was.

BORDAL: In the old days of limited numbers of tracks and live players, you had to make all the arrangement choices on the front end. But these days, an artist like Laswell - who's also his own engineer - can take as long as he wants to mix and match and play with all kinds of wild and unusual combinations of the sounds he's recorded. The result in this case is that his arrangements have a real creative edge that make them one of the stand-out features of this CD.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LASWELL: (Singing) (unintelligible)

CHADWICK: Music Critic Christian Bordal from member station KCRW in Los Angeles. The singer is Greg Laswell. You can listen to entire songs from his new album Through Toledo at our Web site,

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LASWELL: (Singing) Daylight, (unintelligible) away, I never felt it now, up till now.

CHADWICK: And there's more to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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