If Justin Trawick ’04 had written a song about his 36th birthday, he might have titled it, “A Tough Act to Follow.”
On Jan. 26, 2018, just a few days after he turned 36, the singer-songwriter was featured in a glowing story in the Washington Post.
That evening, he and his band, Justin Trawick and The Common Good, experienced their ﬁrst advance ticket sellout, and, to top it all off, they celebrated the release of their ﬁrst EP, The Riverwash EP.
“We sold 275 tickets to the Pearl Street Warehouse, which has a seating capacity of 200—the ﬁrst time we’ve ever sold out a show ahead of time,” said Trawick. “The Washington Post article was huge, both for that show and my career. It’s been like a great job reference.” Trawick plays acoustic guitar and is the band’s lead vocalist. With an upright bass, mandolin and ﬁddle also in the mix, the group is well-suited to the “Americana” genre.
'I’ve always liked putting poetry to music. I was never interested in playing covers of other people’s songs, which made me unpopular at parties.'JUSTIN TRAWICK ’04
Trawick has recently embraced, to positive reviews. The Post article said it “lets his personal storytelling and songwriting shine through.”
“Americana includes bluegrass, country, folk and old-time music. We use traditional Americana instrumentation and bend the genre to ﬁt a modern, unique sound that we’ve cultivated over the past 12 years,” he said.
A Leesburg native who lives in Arlington, Trawick usually performs with his full band "or some version of it”—though he occasionally goes solo. If you’re looking for a live show, you’ll ﬁnd them playing primarily in the D.C. area and the mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast.
He also hosts and runs “The 9” Songwriter Series, a touring show that features a shifting lineup of nine solo singer-songwriters. Founded by Trawick in 2008, “The 9” performs monthly around the D.C. area, including an annual holiday show at the Kennedy Center. “The goal is to get more songwriters in front of more people and into better venues,” he said.
Trawick, who cut his chops on the saxophone and piano, got hooked on guitar at 13 after discovering his dad’s old six-string in a closet. He quickly also fell in love with songwriting.
“I’ve always liked putting poetry to music. I was never interested in playing covers of other people’s songs, which made me unpopular at parties,” he said with a smile.
One of Trawick’s ﬁve original songs on Riverwash, “All The Places That I’ve Been,” won Song of the Year honors at the Washington Area Music Awards in 2014. The EP also includes the band’s version of the Oasis hit Wonderwall.” (For the uninitiated, an EP— or extended play CD/record—has more tracks than a single but not enough to qualify as an LP—long play.)
When he was at Longwood, Trawick formed a band, Woodburn Road, that performed mostly in Farmville, as well as in Richmond and Northern Virginia. After graduating, he began playing at open mics and formed the Justin Trawick Group. He has lived strictly on the income from his music since walking away from his last day job in 2008. (He was an account manager for SoundExchange, a company that collects and distributes digital performance royalties on behalf of recording artists and master rights owners.)
“I’m loving the life I’m living,” said Trawick. “I’m proud that I’m paying my rent on what I’ve created, but more important, I’m doing what I want, what I love. I’m not going to someone else’s job and living their dream; I’m living my own dream.”