Born in rural Virginia to an opera singer and a folk music lover, John Gardner, aka Common Jack, grew up with his parents’ eclectic musical tastes shaping his sound and imagination. It was this musical foundation, and his training as an actor at Ithaca College, which prepared for the role of a lifetime, in the Broadway show, ‘Once’.
Gardner took on the “Common Jack” pseudonym during his two and a half years touring with ‘Once’, performing in theatres across the US, Canada, and Japan. He worked directly with originator Glen Hansard, as well as the rest of the Oscar, Grammy, and Tony award winning creative team behind the film. John played a principle character in the musical, and juggled seven instruments throughout the show, whilst at the same time acting as “on-site music director” – the youngest to wear that title during the history of ‘Once’.
With all that in mind, it’s somewhat miraculous that John managed to find time to write his own material. He says,
“I always wanted to start my own band but never made it past recording in my bedroom until the Once tour.”
He found however, that being surrounded by such talented and inspiring musicians was the encouragement he needed to bring his solo material to the public, and he formed Common Jack, and began performing his songs with members of ‘Once’, in the cities they visited.
The cast members were also used in the recording sessions for his first album, Bowl, Holland, which was released in 2015. The debut drew comparisons to Shakey Graves, The Head & The Heart, and Wilco and forged the way for John’s second LP, Strange New State, which was recorded with Harper James, one of the founders of breakout indie pop band EIGHTY-NINETY, at Brooklyn’s Degraw Sound. Released in 2016, Strange New State gained heavy airplay on radio stations across the US and Europe and solidified John’s relationship with James, who handled production duties on his newest single ‘Restless’.
‘Restless’ strikes a precise balance between the anthemic nature of the songs of ‘Once’, and the more road-trip friendly folk rock of Gardner’s debut, ‘Bowl, Holland’. He says of the track,
“Using everyday language to reach a deeper meaning, connecting us together in unexpected ways.”
‘Restless’ is out now.