Subtle but solid pop from Landon Pigg

The Baltimore Sun

It's not a sound I'm usually drawn to -- that guitar-driven, sensitive-guy pop-rock you hear during reflective moments on Scrubs or Grey's Anatomy.

You could toss the music of Landon Pigg into that category, but the Nashville, Tenn., singer-songwriter, who recently had a song featured on Grey's Anatomy, shows promise. LP, his 2006 debut on RCA, rippled with polished, if at times predictable, production: chunky guitars galore and big, big drums. But solid songs of love lost and found and his passionate delivery managed to rise above the sometimes pedestrian arrangements. Perhaps the best example is "Can't Let Go," LP's surging first single and the only pop-rock tune currently on my iPod.

But Pigg overhauls such musical trappings on his latest effort, an EP called Coffee Shop, which hit stores Tuesday. A stopgap release as he prepares the proper follow-up to LP, the new CD features reimagined cuts from the debut, plus "Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop," which was featured late last year in a TV commercial for A Diamond is Forever.

"We got the buzz on that one song, so we decided to ride the coattails," says Pigg, 24. "We basically ran a 100-yard dash to get it out by the time the tour started." Pigg, who last week was relaxing at home with his parents in Nashville, kicks off a 10-city tour this week with label mate Gavin DeGraw. They play Washington's 9:30 Club tomorrow night.

The artist's stage show will echo the stripped-down sound of the Coffee Shop EP. The new approach seems to be a natural fit and has been well-received by pop lovers. Soon after the hypnotic single was used in the TV ad, it became a hit on iTunes, where in the past two months or so it has been downloaded about 200,000 times. Sans the obtrusive commercial rock arrangements, Pigg's delicate melodies, witty lyrics and pleasant voice shine.

"The art of subtlety is what we were looking for," Pigg says. Still, he says the debut, whose production was overseen by the likes of teen-rock producer Clif Magness, was a good representation of who he is musically. "It revealed a lot of my influences," says Pigg, who comes off a little shy over the phone. "I didn't want to pick one, so it was a mix of bands and singer-songwriters I like."

Growing up in Nashville in the '90s, Pigg didn't really get into the country-pop for which his hometown is known. Instead, he absorbed many of the albums in his father's collection -- classics by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. He was later inspired by David Mead, Rufus Wainwright, even Ray Stevens. In fact, the first CD Pigg ever bought was one by the novelty singer.

In high school, Pigg decided to seriously pursue a career in music, a decision supported by his father, a veteran Nashville session singer, and his mother, a poetry lover who works in a floral shop. Eventually, Pigg landed a contract with RCA, which initially marketed him to the teen-pop crowd despite the fact that the artist was in his 20s. But I guess he has a look that teen girls and college-age women dig: dreamy dark eyes and strategically messy hair. When LP came out, several noted Pigg's resemblance to actor-model Ashton Kutcher.

"That seemed to be the first thing the radio guys would say when I was on the promo tour for the first album," Pigg says. "It became a big joke, I think. But I wouldn't mind if my bank statement looked more like Ashton Kutcher's."

As for his next proper album, Pigg says he will do more with less.

"I still like what I've done so far," he says. "But one of the things I learned is that the music doesn't have to be loud to be intense. I want people to come back and hear something different each time."

Landon Pigg and Gavin DeGraw play the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. N.W. in Washington, at 9 p.m. tomorrow. The show is sold out.

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