Music & Nightlife

From his divorce to his dad’s death, singer-songwriter Greg Laswell digs dark and deep

Greg Laswell will perform at Neighborhood Theatre on Saturday night.
Greg Laswell will perform at Neighborhood Theatre on Saturday night.

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Greg Laswell has never avoided bringing life’s darker moments to the surface in song. His 2016 album, “Everyone Thinks I Dodged a Bullet,” chronicled the demise of his marriage to fellow singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and the aftermath.

His latest, 2018’s “Next Time,” deals with some post-break-up revelations and self-acceptance. But it also drew inspiration from Laswell’s father’s battle with Alzheimer’s — a battle he lost a few weeks before the album was released. Laswell’s Charlotte date was originally scheduled to happen before the album was released, but was postponed; Laswell finally returns to play Neighborhood Theatre on Saturday.

“A big section of the record is either about that directly or indirectly,” Laswell says. “But it’s definitely the launching pad for a majority of the songs.”

Laswell had actually written a different album.

“My record was all but finished,” he says, “but I got home after being with my family over Christmas and pressed play on the record and realized that I had to start completely over. It wasn’t my record anymore. My perspective had changed.”

The opening track, “Royal Empress,” was inspired by the tree variety of the same name, which he discovered years ago when he Googled “fastest-growing trees” while formulating a plan to re-landscape his backyard.

“It casts a lot of shade and its roots kill everything around it,” he recalls. “I remember liking that word picture. I wrote it down in my phone memos and thought maybe I’d use it in a song.”

Laswell finished that song within a day, he says, and the song set the rest of the record in motion.

“I made it really simple. A lot of the songs are only three chords. Lots of times, I like busy time signatures, but for this I decided to pay more attention to simplicity, melody and words.”

While he admits life has been harder over the past few years than it’s ever been, he’s getting through partly thanks to his writing.

“It’s cathartic. I feel like I’m doing much better than I sounded on my last record,” says Laswell, whose songs have appeared in numerous films and TV shows like “The Blacklist” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” “(Songwriting) is where I let myself be absolutely open. Nothing is off the table. It’s a freeing expression to allow myself to say whatever the heck I want.”

He produced the record in isolation — as he did with “Everyone Thinks I Dodged a Bullet” — but doesn’t plan to again.

“I’m not sure it’s a very good idea for me personally. I got a good record out of it, but I’m introverted and there’s a difference between being alone and lonely,” he explains. “This record is very lonely.”

Greg Laswell

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.

Tickets: $20-$22.

Details: www.neighborhoodtheatre.com.

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