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Vinyl is a standing room, General Admission venue

Almost 2 years ago to the day, I drove a moving truck cross-country from Los Angeles. I had been on I-40 for a day when I looked at my phone to see my mom calling. I realized I had forgotten to tell my parents I was moving to New York – and I am close with my family. Fact is, I hadn’t really told anyone. I had lived in southern California my whole life, and quite loudly those last few years. Leaving with any sound at all hadn’t crossed my mind. I realize that frames me as quite the mystery – I’m really not. And I wasn’t running, I had done that extremely well years before. I wasn’t angry or disillusioned, those tricks never completely caught on with me. It wasn’t conniving or vindictive, purposely curt or desperate. It really wasn’t anything that might be associated with such an exit. It was just a quiet and gentle finish to something that had run its course.

I also love moving. So there’s that. Perhaps the most tangible proof is that my “home recording studio” never ends up staying in my home once it’s time to make a record. It’s not a 48 channel API console or anything, but it still takes two days to uproot. Last time around (for my “Covers” EP and full-length album, “Take a Bow”), it was off to a cabin in Mountainaire just neighboring Flagstaff, AZ. This time I set sail for an old church-turned-house that belongs to my wife’s parents in a small lobstering town in down-east Maine. I’m well aware of how ridiculously eccentric that may sound. And admittedly, if I hear something like that from another artist, well, I’m usually nauseated by it. But, there is something about the laboriousness of packing up and driving somewhere remote that helps center my otherwise anxious and distracted existence.

So there I was, in a town that has fewer year-round residents than were at Disneyland today. I had my normal studio-dog Shep Proudfoot to keep me company and the faint chime from a fog horn every 15 seconds (a sound that peeks through a few of the slower songs if you’re listening on headphones). I had little-to-no cellphone reception, which gave way to naming the record after its title track: Landline.  Plus, it was a better title than Greg Laswell: Fog Horn. I taped two index cards just under my computer screen; one read, “Add now, take away later,” which kept me working quickly, and “Who cares?” If the answer to that question is “no one,” the song usually gets the boot. I managed to finish 80% of the record in just under three weeks, which was a welcomed change since I had struggled for almost a year about where to take this, now my fourth, full-length record. I had a reboot of sorts in my personal life towards the end of my last record and I struggled to find the songs that went along with it.  Writing songs when you aren’t heartbroken or self-destructive requires a little more work.

The record is larger than my previous; perhaps partially because I’m joined by some of my favorite female singers (Ingrid Michaelson, Sia, Sara Bareilles and Elizabeth Ziman from Elizabeth and the Catapult). I like how female singers are featured on hip-hop records, which I had been listening to a lot of during my writing hiatus. I didn’t want an album with a few pretty duets, I wanted something bigger. Sia and Elizabeth both came to my studio in Brooklyn. I had sent them the songs beforehand, but I wanted their individual approaches to take precedent – and they did. Ingrid and I co-wrote Landline in Maine when the power went out one night and then we recorded it once the lights came back on. Sara was the only one that couldn’t come to the studio, so I sent her “Come Back Down” and then sang a few parts to her over the phone, she then recorded a bunch of options in Garage Band and sent them over. Some of her parts gave way to a new arrangement and I had to re-sing a few of my parts to match her energy.

Quite frankly, I’m happy these days. And while this album is not void of a few sad songs (of which I will forever embrace), they don’t hang on me like before. I’ve never had more fun writing and recording a record. Turns out, there’s a whole lot to say once one’s head is up.

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