Music has always been flowing through Chris Hartwell’s veins. Now, the GW senior is getting the chance to show it off.
The singer/songwriter celebrated the release of his debut album, All I Fear, for an intimate audience of friends and soon-to-be fans Saturday night in the GW Music Department.
“I’m really excited but kind of nervous,” he said before the performance, “My soul is on the CD. I’m bearing my life to everybody.”
Hartwell has been playing music ever since he was a child, from the day he began taking piano lessons at age seven. But he never was truly into songwriting until he got to GW.
“I really started liking it when I got here and started playing for enjoyment, and not lessons,” Hartwell said. He began working on writing original tracks and focusing on perfecting his piano and vocals skills through classes within the music department.
Hartwell’s musical influences include, among others, Billy Joel and Ben Folds. The young songwriter describes his music as “pretty folky,” and the songs he performs range from mellow ballads to up-tempo jazz melodies.
His songs speak of his personal experiences in relationships and life in general, and Hartwell says that writing music serves as a way of expressing his emotional side.
“It’s how I release some of my sadness,” Hartwell said.
Hartwell has performed several times on campus, including at GW Unplugged and with the Generic Theater Company. He sings in acapella group The Troubadours and also performs in the University Singers. Hartwell has also had open-mic performances at Staccato in Adams Morgan. With his new album set for release, Hartwell plans to play many more shows in the D.C. area.
The album was recorded with the help of fellow GW musician Adam Richman, recorded in their one-bedroom apartment in Foggy Bottom. It features eleven original piano/vocal tracks written and performed by Hartwell himself. Richman is more than just a friend and assistant, he’s also one of Hartwell’s main influences.
“Adam [Richman] is a big influence for me,” he said. “The song `Never Look Back’, the quintessential song on the CD, I wrote about Adam.”
Chris Hartwell is hoping to use his album as a stepping-stone to a career in music. The senior, who will be graduating in December, plans to ship his album off for mass publication and exposure. He also plans to settle in the D.C. area after graduation and hopefully become a staple of its music scene.
The performance Saturday night began with opening act Sonya Harway, a senior music major who also took the photographs for Hartwell’s album. Her soft melodies and captivating voice set the mood for the night’s performances.
Hartwell proves himself quite capable and talented at the piano. The songwriter opened his performance with an original track, “Other Than Me,” a song about the troubles of seeing oneself for who they really are. He continued his set by playing several more originals, as well as covers by artists such as Nelly Furtado.
It is obvious that Hartwell feels completely at home with his music. The audience had a great time as well, whether they were enjoying his seemingly impromptu Gorillaz cover to helping him out with the vocals to Train’s “Drops of Jupiter.”
For Chris Hartwell, Saturday night was only the beginning of what could be a long career in music. Hartwell just hopes that people will connect with his music the way he does.
“I hope the songs on (All I Fear) are good, and people will relate to them,” the artist says.
For more information, visit www.chrishartwell.com.