Singer/songwriter Jon McLaughlin has performed at the Academy Awards. He sang “So Close” in the hit Disney film “Enchanted,” which took in more than $300 million at the box office. His anthemic, infectiously melodic pop tunes have been used on TV shows like “Scrubs” and “The Ghost Whisperer” and in films like “Georgia Rule” and “Bridge to Terabithia.”
But even with all of that success, and after more than 15 years in the music business, one of McLaughlin’s favorite things is still to simply sit onstage by himself and play the piano.
Which is fortunate, because his current tour, which will bring him to the Radio Room in Greenville on Nov. 12, is called the Me & My Piano Tour.
McLaughlin has been making occasional solo jaunts around the country for years now, but he says this current tour is something special.
“It’s been the most enjoyable solo tour that I’ve ever done,” he says. “The great thing about playing solo is you can kind of control the room; the other night in Salt Lake City, I walked out on stage and even before I played a single note, I could tell I needed to change up the setlist. There was just an energy to the crowd; we needed to start it out with something more high energy than what I had planned.”
Had McLaughlin been out on the road with a band, he says, he wouldn’t have been able to change things on the fly as easily.
“When you’ve got a band, it’s a little bit harder to do things like that,” he says. “You’re not as able to react to the crowd as quickly. So that’s one of the things I love about playing solo, plus it’s just a really intimate show; I feel a real connection with the crowd, and it kind of feels like more of a hangout than a concert.”
It’s also a comfortable setting for McLaughlin because most, if not all, of the songs on his seven albums started out with just him at the piano.
“There’s not really a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to songwriting, but, you know, I’m a piano player,” he says with a laugh. “So most of the time I’m sitting at a piano and the idea might come from an actual piano lick, or I’ll have this one riff that I try to work into different songs. So sometimes it starts like that, sometimes it starts with the melody or whatever, but I’d say all my stuff pretty much starts on the piano.”
The tour also allows McLaughlin to dive into his catalog and revisit some old favorites, along with some songs that weren’t favorites the first time around.
“It’s like going through an old photo album,” he says. “And actually, one of the songs that I’ve been playing every night on this tour, I talk about my relationship with that song and how I used to hate it. I didn’t like it after I wrote it, but the label loved it, and they really wanted it on the record. I refused to play it for years and years. And now I love playing that song. I look forward to playing it every night.”
And no, he didn’t tell us which song it was.
But even if McLaughlin weren’t enjoying himself on this tour as a performer, he’d be having fun as a fan. After years of trying, he’s touring with Sawyer, an effervescent Nashville pop duo that combines pulsing electronic rhythms with blissful vocal harmonies.
“I’ve been a fan of theirs for years,” he says. “I’ve had a couple tours where I wanted them to come out and open for me, but this was the first time that the stars aligned, and we were able to make it work. The reaction has been great, and I’ve loved sitting back and watching them, and watching the crowd watch them. It’s such a great way to start the night, seeing these friends of mine and watching people being wowed by their talent.”
If you go
What: Jon McLaughlin, with Sawyer
Where: Radio Room, 110 Poinsett Highway, Greenville
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12
Tickets: $17 in advance; $20 at the door
Info: 864-609-4441; http://www.radioroomgreenville.com/