Tom Rawson at Traditions Café

by Nora Kovacs for OLY ARTS

Northwest favorite Tom Rawson is part folksinger, part storyteller and all about bringing people together. Rawson got his start as a peace activist, and that positivity still shines through in his work. Whether he’s singing a classic folk tune, recounting an old story or simply cracking a joke, Rawson is sure to put smiles on his audience’s faces. Rawson was kind enough to chat with OLY ARTS about his music and upcoming show at Traditions Café and World Folk Art.

OLY ARTS: Tell us about your work as both a folksinger and storyteller. How do these media converge for you? Which artists have inspired you the most?

Rawson: I’m a child of the ’60s, so I grew up on the folk revival. When I became a peace activist in my early 20s I saw the power of music as a tool for bringing people together, so I started to learn all of these peace songs. I would say my music is most heavily influenced by Pete Seeger, Bill Staines and Utah Phillips.

OLY ARTS: Has activism continued to be a prevalent factor in your work?

Rawson: I got started as a performer by leading groups in song and then started doing coffeehouses, festivals and things like that. It does continue. I mean that is the main focus. My music is what I offer to the peace movement.

OLY ARTS: Why is positivity in music so important to you?

Rawson: For me, the act of singing together in a group is even more important than the actual message of the song. It’s about bringing people together and singing together. Not every song I have has a strong message. Some of them are just silly, but it’s about the community. My message is one of affirmation of the people, of everybody’s humanity, so I try to stay away from songs that are negative.

OLY ARTS: What can visitors expect to see at your upcoming show in Olympia?

Rawson: It’ll be me and banjo. I’ll be singing a lot of those previous folk-peace songs and I’ll probably tell a few silly stories to go along. It will be a night of humorous stories, user-friendly songs, and acoustic folk philosophy that’s guaranteed to leave you smiling!

What: Tom Rawson

Where: Traditions Café and World Folk Art,
300 Fifth Ave. SW, Olympia

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, March 18

How much: $10-$20

Learn more: 360-705-2819 | Tom Rawson

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