Washington, D.C. dance music trio Too Free — Awad Bilal, Carson Cox, and Don Godwin — are Rolling Stone‘s latest Artist You Need to Know. In a new video for the series, the group brings us inside their D.C. homes, their studio, and Bilal’s grandmother’s house, to give us a glimpse into how the streets and sidewalks of Washington, D.C. helped shape their sound.
“We intentionally wanted to make songs that just gave so much love back,” says Bilal, who played Too Free’s last show before COVID-19 shut down much of the country in February, at Trans Pecos in Queens, New York.
The singer brings us to his grandmother’s home in the black, working-class neighborhood of Petworth. She’s been living there since the 1950s. “This is the center of Northwest. This is the center of my D.C.,” explains Bilal, who spends a lot of his social time with friends and family at the house. Much of his family is musical as well, which he says had a big influence on him.
Cox recently moved to the neighborhood as well, and gives us a tour of his home, where he makes music in both a makeshift studio on the first floor, and in his room in the basement. The group started as just Cox and Bilal, before Cox eventually brought in Godwin, who works as an engineer at a recording studio nearby in Maryland.
“I was just like, mind-blown at what [Cox] put together out of our jams and our spontaneous creations, and then got into a pretty productive and inspiring workflow, creating these pieces that felt like these really wonderful, pure pop, maybe R&B, maybe indie pieces. But they all felt like exactly the kind of music I’ve always wanted to be making,” says Godwin.
According to Cox, the rest was history. “Everybody immediately just got excited about it,” he says. “You didn’t even have to ask anybody, ‘Should we take this project further? Do more with it?'”
Bilal discusses the musical language that he shares with Cox, before breaking into an impromptu acoustic jam of their track “Touch Upon Touch,” off of their debut LP, Love In High Demand.
The trio then link up for a walk around D.C.’s streets, stopping by Jackie Lee’s in Petworth, the venue where they played their first-ever show. They wrap up the day back at Bilal’s grandmother’s nearby house, with a conversation and DJ set on her front porch.
Gowdin says that being in Too Free “makes us forget capitalism for a fucking like, beautiful moment.”
“For 20 minutes,” agrees Bilal.
“Being on stage, you don’t have to think about anything,” says Cox. “We just get to connect.”