Breaking into the music business is hard for even the most talented songstress or six-fingered guitar slinger, but to operate as your own business manager as well as the musical engine for your band takes a special kind of dedication. That’s where Justin Trawick, front man for Justin Trawick and The Common Good, comes in. He told the News-Press how he developed his band’s sound that covers every angle of Americana and the key ingredient to the group’s success en route to the debut of their EP The Riverwash and their show at The Wharf in Washington, D.C. next week.
Born and raised in Leesburg, Trawick took to the guitar as a form of creative expression where he quickly learned it was better than a pen at storytelling. Fast forward to 2005 when he performed at a now closed venue in Silver Spring, Trawick left the club with a wad of cash and a realization that music has the potential to be more than a hobby for him.
The band got their foot in the door of the D.C. music scene thanks to their crafty covers that are an ode to all American music styles — mainly folk and bluegrass with dashes of hip-hop and funk mixed in. That’s why their own spin on songs like Whitney Houston’s “Dance with Somebody” or House of Pain’s “Jump Around” are so well-received publicly. But Trawick and the group have always been dead set on making original music that flaunts their artistic acumen and gets people tapping their feet to the beat as well.
“One thing we always really pride ourselves on is that we make original songs that are fun and upbeat,” Trawick said. “You don’t really see a lot of original bands like us playing in the summer festivals throughout the D.C. area — it’s typically cover bands — and that’s a testament to the original songs that we make are enjoyable in some auditory way.”
Trawick got his musical bearings in a church folk group and an informal bluegrass troupe that played at a Leesburg retirement home, which broadened his appreciation for different instruments and styles. And though not familiar with hip-hop outside of what he jokingly called “white boy rap,” he found the catchy rhythms of the genre to be replicable and a solid addition to covers. As a result, the Common Good was often an uncommon bunch. They played melodic, folksy songs followed by songs centered around everything from multiple horn players to electric guitars and percussionists.
Once Trawick and the group decided to slim down their eclectic style, it served to the band’s benefit. An upright bass player, a mandolinist, a fiddler and Trawick on acoustic guitar made the group’s core distinctly folk and bluegrass, but still gave them the flexibility to branch out if they felt inclined.
It also made Trawick and the Common Good easier to sell. The only hard part about that is they don’t have anyone to sell themselves other than, well, themselves, so Trawick pulls double duty as the manager of the band.
“Managing yourself, and being an artist in general, is just all about getting people’s attention and it’s hard work,” Trawick added. “It’s really easy to not write new material or not reach out venues or media outlets. If we just took what was offered to us and we didn’t keep trying to reinvent ourselves and evolve and change, we wouldn’t progress and get where we want to be.”
Justin Trawick and the Common Good will be performing at the Pearl Street Warehouse (33 Pearl St. SW, Washington, D.C.) on Friday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at pearlstreetwarehouse.com. The Riverwash EP will be released Monday, Jan, 22.