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Wandered over to the KenCen, where the air was alive with the sound of JUSTIN TRAWICK. The Arlington singer/songwriter was heating up the Millennium Stage on a cold winter night with songs from his new CD, How to Build a Life With a Lemonade Stand. (Watch the show here.) The album was recorded live in the studio, with the same excellent folks who backed Justin onstage: Rick Netherton (upright bass), Will Reinhardt (drums), Aurelie Shapiro (cello), and Brian Lotter (piano). You can stream the tunes on Justin’s site, or listen on his MySpace page—better yet, catch Justin live Wednesday, Feb. 21, at the songwriter’s showcase he runs at Solly’s. As a special treat, Justin has booked Jimi Haha of the infamous Jimmie’s Chicken Shack.
What equipment do you use and what’s your favorite smoke?
JUSTIN: I use Taylor guitars. I like to say this as much as possible so that one day they may notice and give me several for free. I also do the whole Bob Dylan harmonica-head gear thing and forget to take it off every once in awhile. I also play with a bunch of musicians including: upright bass, drums, piano, cello, violin, mandolin, and a glass armonica. OK, not a glass armonica, but I want one, so if you play one, I’ve got a spot for you in my band!
Favorite smoke? It’s the half-smoke! That’s right—right from the mouth of a D.C.-area native (the cover of my CD is actually in the alley right next to Ben’s).
What kind of drums do you play and what pets do you own?
JUSTIN: My drummer, Will, plays, but I don’t know what kind they are. They’re shiny and sound good.
We don’t have any pets. Oh—my assistant Elli has a gecko named Gimpy.
What’s your favorite D.C. hangout and your favorite automobile?
JUSTIN: In Arlington, the favorite hangout would be IOTA. In D.C., it would probably be Tryst on a weekday when they’ve got jazz. In Maryland, it would be the Austin Grill in Silver Spring.
My bassist Rick usually drives the “band bus,” which is his huge black Suburban.
What’s the worst place you’ve crashed and your worst haircut?
JUSTIN: Worst? I don’t have a worst, but I did stay once at Tucker Max‘s apartment in Chinatown in New York. That was a really interesting experience.
Not sure about worst haircut, but when I was in the 8th grade and had a big mop of curly hair, I decided to put half a bottle of Sun-In in my hair while I was at the beach. Three hours later, my dark brown hair was bright orange and creating its own light. Find a copy of my 1996 yearbook, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Worst roommate and best audience?
JUSTIN: I lived with my friend Eddie for a year in college. He liked to think he was a vampire. He’s a cool guy though, and we’re still friends.
The best audience was a tie between three places: Antones in Austin, Texas, opening for Bob Schneider; Jammin Java in Vienna, Va., opening for Brett Dennen, or on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center with my full band.
Explain your band name and define your sound.
JUSTIN: My band name is my name, but when I play live with my friends we’re called the Justin Trawick Group. I like to call the music “urban folk rock” that ranges anywhere from bluegrass to hip hop. I even have a D.C. hip-hop duo, the Roll Wit Us Allstars, who sit in with us every once in awhile!
What clothes do you like to wear onstage and what do you eat on the road?
JUSTIN: Ripped jeans and a T-shirt is usually the onstage uniform, but at our Kennedy Show concert we actually all decided to wear suits.
On the road, it’s usually some type of diner. For Sheetz, or McDonald’s dollar menu—oh, and Starbucks.
What’s the worst stage you’ve played and your best payday?
JUSTIN: I played a place in Richmond once where I was sandwiched in between two metal bands. Kind of an interesting booking.
What are your influences and worst equipment experience?
JUSTIN: My biggest influence is Bob Schneider, a singer/songwriter from Austin, Texas.
The worst equipment experience: Once my cellist Aurelie was loading her cello onto a Greyhound bus in Manhattan and boarded, only to see someone grab her cello and start running off with it. She yelled for help, and two cops ran down the perpetrator. She calls that experience “Grand Theft Cello.”
What are your songs about and what’s your favorite drink?
JUSTIN: All my songs are about life, from mine to the person I see walking down the street. A lot of my writing comes from putting myself in someone else’s shoes.
My favorite drink is Diet Coke. If I want alcohol, I just take my Diet Coke and put rum in it. Oh, and if I want a beer, I’ll drink Magic Hat, Yuengling, or Guinness.
What’s your favorite tour memory and worst band squabble?
JUSTIN: When I opened for Bob Schneider at Antones in Austin, Texas, the green room had a special balcony where you could watch the show and look down at the huge crowd below.
What are your current projects and political thoughts?
JUSTIN: I just put out my debut self-released album entitled, How to Build a Life With a Lemonade Stand, which is a 13-song live studio album with my full band.
Go watch An Inconvenient Truth.
What’s the stupidest move your singer ever pulled?
JUSTIN: Well, being the independent musician, I’m the frontman, booking agent, and manager, and at times handle some jobs better than others. I remember once we played the Knitting Factory in New York, and I completely forgot to get paid when the night was over. Some things you just have to learn by doing them wrong the first time.
Wrong? Do-over? Grade the quiz.
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