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The Ringmaster

In an age of iPod mixes and genre sampling, Justin Trawick grows the perfect music show.

Justin Trawick’s The 9 Songwriter Series has now gone coast to coast with a local vibe.

Photographed at The Loews Madison Hotel; Custom suit by Brimble & Clark

Justin Trawick is the P.T. Barnum of DC music. In the past several years, he has reeled in genre-blending music and goodwill among club owners to create The 9 Songwriter Series. The concept is simple: Book nine area artists for a one-night show and have each play a couple of songs and return for a third tune later in the evening. It’s live music sampling at its most intimate, and the allure has been so strong that Trawick (a talented musician himself, fronting Justin Trawick and the Common Good) has taken the show on the road—not just to Philadelphia and Charlottesville, but now to New York City and Los Angeles, via national booking agents. His playbook:

Tout DC music. “I’m infatuated with the music scenes in New York and Los Angeles, but I first wanted to help boost our presence here,” says Trawick, who adores DC musicians like Louisa Hall and Paul Pfau. “DC was home to Duke Ellington and Fugazi, with great artists like Chuck Brown in between, but it’s important for people to talk about our music scene in 2014.”

Keep the intimacy. Smaller clubs like the swank Hamilton have taken chances on Trawick’s vision and watched its grassroots format flourish. “Selling out shows is now pretty common, even in New York,” says Trawick.

Maintain collaboration. “Most shows include several to many longtime regulars, but it’s never the same combination—we’ve had Grammy winners sit in,” he says.

Go digital. Trawick also recently created a weekly podcast of local alternative talent called The Circus Life, which regularly gets 1,500 downloads. “We broadcast great stories and music—it’s DC in your ears, and it’s a beautiful thing,” he says.

March 7, Ebenezers, 201 F St. NW, 202.558.6900; March 31, 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar and Gallery, Annapolis, Md., 410.626.9796