Justin Trawick is a local singer-songwriter, band frontman, and musical entrepreneur. In addition to his exhaustive solo performance schedule he has created a series called The 9, that packages nine singer-songwriters into one show, joining their forces to create a theatrical and diverse night of entertainment. We Love DC’s Alexia Kauffman sat down with Justin to talk about his endeavors.
Alexia Kauffman: So first can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and what is on your plate right now?
Justin Trawick: I’m a musician in the area. I’ve been doing music full-time for about four years. I live in Arlington, and I play most of my shows in the Washington, DC area, and then I go out of town, a lot of east coast shows up and down from Boston down to Georgia. And I play in a lot of cities around the country via airplane- I go to Austin and L.A. a lot.
AK: Can you tell us a little bit about your music?
JT: The music, I feel like my genre is a mix of everything. One of my biggest influences growing up, well in college was this guy named Bob Schneider, who played a little bit of everything, which is what I do. I’m playing bluegrass into a rock and roll song, into a funk song, or like a folk-ish song or a waltz, into a down-right hip hop song, with, you know, DC rappers sitting in with my band. I would be bored to tears if I was in a group that played the same song the same way, the same set every time. The guys in my band have described what we do as kind of like a rock version of jazz. What we do a lot of times is I’ll have a different lead player playing one show than the previous show, and we’ll do a song differently than we did it the night before. Which makes it interesting for everyone. It makes it interesting for the people who are going to the show, it makes it interesting for the people that are playing- it makes it interesting for us. I don’t want to get bored being a musician and playing my songs, so we reinvent the songs all the time.
AK: Can you tell us about The 9 series? What is it, and how did it get started?
JT: I created The 9 back in 2008. The original venue was DC9, which is where the number of 9 came from. The 9 was created because Adrian(Krygowski) and myself and all of our peers around town, even in our prime drawing areas we may have a hard time of getting into clubs that we really want to get into. Because clubs like Iota, or even Galaxy Hut- the venue wants you to pack the place. It’s hard, especially as a singer-songwriter, it’s hard to pack places. The nice thing about bands is that you have a little bit more power behind you in regards to drawing. I’ve always been jealous of bands in that regard- I think they have an easier time drawing, from the beginning, because they have a lot more people that are helping. But The 9 was created as a way for us to get into better venues. By combining our small draws (we could) make these venue owners happy that their club was being filled. And it has really worked!
With 9 people on the bill it’s a very theatrical-based show. We can’t all play thirty-minute sets, or we’d be there for…whatever thirty times nine is. Instead we go through the group twice- there’s two sets. The first set is two songs. The rules are you show up solo- you don’t bring your band. But the other people in the lineup can sit in. So like, when I play, I may ask Adrian to come up and sing a song with me, or somebody else that plays some other instrument. So we go through the entire group once, everybody plays two songs, and then we go through the entire group one more time. It’s kind of like the encore set- you just get one more song. The reason why I split it up was I don’t want it to seem like a showcase, I don’t want it to seem like we’re trying to promote one person- we’re trying to promote the thing as a whole, and make people a fan of The 9, and the artists that do it, rather than the artists individually. It’s split up into two sets because there’ve been so many showcases before where like your friend has probably called you “Hey I’m gonna play this place” and you’re like “What time do you go on? I’m going to get there then.” You get there then, you see your friend play three songs, and then you split. By splitting it up into two sets, you can’t split, you have to stay, which is great, and it totally works. The other thing is, the night of the show we pick the lineup out of a hat. It really works. I’m really proud of it. I think it’s an excellent way for artists including myself to be seen in front of more people than would normally see them.
AK: So do you have a set group of people, or is it a rotating nine?
AK: So what is the future of The 9? What’s on the horizon?
JT: I just bought wearethe9.com. Rene (Moffatt) was telling me a couple days ago that he was seeing this, and I agree with him, as there being two versions of The 9. A local version that’s kind of helping the community, and then there’d be a touring version. Also, I just booked the first hip hop show. I think there’s a lot of potential in this. I have a lot of DC rapper friends, largely due to the fact that I have enjoyed encorporating rap into my music.
AK: So for this hip hop show what’s your role?
JT: I’m going to be the host. That’s at the Velvet Lounge on March 29th. And it’s going to feature Flex Mathews and eight other rappers. I’m excited about The 9 hip hop because I think that for the most part there’s not something this organized happening in the hip hop community in DC. I think also that the average rapper is not playing as many shows as the average singer-songwriter or rock band, so I feel like this might be taken a little bit more seriously on the hip hop side as a really cool event to go to, rather than just another show for a singer-songwriter. I think it’s a great event for singer-songwriters, but I think it’s a really original event for rappers. And lastly, I’m a very big comedy fan. I think a 9 comedy one would be fun too.