Greg Laswell always feels at home in San Diego.
The singer-songwriter hailing from Long Beach, Calif. and now living in Brooklyn with his wife, Ingrid Michaelson, played the first show of his current tour at Lestat’s in Normal Heights on Tuesday, Feb. 10.
“It’s bizarre because I haven’t been here for a long time,” Laswell said. “It’s more home than LA.”
Graduating from PLNU in 1996, Laswell’s first solo show was at Lestat’s in 2005. Returning to the coffee shop nine years later, Laswell wanted San Diego’s show to be smaller and in a “more intimate setting” to showcase his new album.
“I Was Going To Be An Astronaut” was released on Tuesday, Feb. 11. The album has had triple the pre-sale of 2012’s “Landline,” according to Laswell.
“I Was Going To Be An Astronaut” is different; it feels like Laswell is sitting 10 feet away, strumming his guitar or playing the piano, singing softly into the microphone. Almost all the songs on the album are remakes of Laswell’s own songs — except for his cover of Sparklehorse’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” — but much slower, more intimate, less instrumental.
For fans attending multiple shows, Laswell had been changing his songs for live concerts to have more variety. Fans began asking him for recorded versions of those songs, and, after the last tour, Laswell told his manager that he should do it.
“I’d been doing [the songs] for years, so I thought I’d go through them quickly,” Laswell said. “But it ended up being nerve-wracking because there wasn’t much to focus on except my voice and piano. It was more difficult to know when I was done.”
Travis Cook — PLNU worship ministries media coordinator and longtime friend of Laswell’s — appreciated the rawness of Laswell’s show on Tuesday.
“Greg’s voice can be both gentle and powerful,” Cook said. “That is what made this show special. With just a cello and Greg on acoustic guitar or piano, the re-imagined songs have a new life, even after hearing them all these years.”
Cook, also a PLNU alumnus, worked with Laswell early on by mixing live sound for his bands. He has witnessed the progression of Laswell’s music throughout the years.
“I always look forward to hearing a new track and will just consume a new album, listening to it non-stop for months,” Cook said.
“I Was Going To Be An Astronaut” is almost like a sampler of songs from previous albums. The track titled “December” might be unrecognizable to Greg Laswell fans because it never made it on the second album, “Through Toledo.” It is reminiscent of the piano-heavy, darker sound of that album. Laswell describes each song as a “time stamp” of things that have happened in his life.
Laswell’s connection to PLNU and his heartfelt and relatable lyrics have cultivated a following on campus.
“I heard about him my freshman year,” junior Kendra Pittam said. “I feel like all of his songs are effortless and clever. He’s a good song-writer.”
Upon returning to Lestat’s, Laswell appreciated the local embrace he received.
“I feel like the San Diego show was sweet,” Laswell said. “It was a smaller room full of people who knew all the songs. When you go back to a place where you played years ago, it becomes more obvious how much you’ve changed.”