“I dream of one day having my music played in Safeway,” Justin Trawick says. He’s only half-joking. After all, some of the acts that inspired the Northern Virginia-based singer-songwriter have become the soundtrack to shopping everywhere, from Safeway to CVS. “It always seems like it’s grocery stores and convenience stores that Tracy Chapman is now played at,” he says, bolstering his point.
Trawick’s musings on retail airplay come while discussing his latest release, Riverwash. The Americana-focused EP, from the four-piece band Justin Trawick and the Common Good, features guitar work from Adam Levy, who “was the guy that played the lead guitar part and electric guitar solo in ‘Give Me One Reason’ by Tracy Chapman.”
Trawick first met and performed with Levy in 2009 at a New York offshoot of the 9 Songwriter Series. Trawick developed the concept a decade ago as “The 9 at DC9,” a multi-artist show with nine different acts randomly performing twice. “As an individual, lesser-known performer or band, it’s hard to [get booked] at a respectable venue and fill it, because not as many people know you,” he says.
The 9:30 Club and the Kennedy Center are just two celebrated local venues that have repeatedly played host to the series, which has also featured Rachel Platten “back when no one really knew who she was,” well before “Fight Song” went double platinum in 2015. Trawick is diligently working to expand the 9 Songwriter Series into a national touring production akin to the Moth storytelling showcase, to make it “more of a movement, rather than just another live show that I play in.”
For now, he’s focused on a headlining gig and album release party at Pearl Street Warehouse, the intimate new venue on the D.C. Wharf. “It’s the first record that I’ve done that I feel really represents me as a musician and us as a band,” he says. Trawick is less rock-oriented now than when he made music his full-time pursuit over a decade ago, but however different in sound, the songs on Riverwash are every bit as personal as his prior output.
“The best part about this job is that you’re writing things that come from the heart, and oftentimes you’re connecting with people based on the emotions that you’ve conveyed in a song,” he says. “If you write something that people identify with, that’s when you make a fan forever. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Justin Trawick and the Common Good perform Friday, Jan. 26, with doors at 7 p.m., at Pearl Street Warehouse, 33 Pearl St. SW. Tickets are $12. Call 202-380-9620 or visit pearlstreetwarehouse.com.
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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.
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