by Daryle Dickens
His name is Common. His music is anything but. Click here. Open the stand alone player, push play, listen while you read. Thank me later.
ZAF622: Your bio mentions a run-in with your brother's record collection. What records did that collection contain? Who did you first hear that got your desire to write music started?
John Common: I seriously used to sneak into my brothers' room (I have two older brothers) to play their vinyl records on their big ass stereo with the huge knobs for HOURS. Seriously, I would sit and flip through the stacks of records, open them all up, listen to every one, read the lyrics, look at the cover art... it was quite the ritual actually. The records in my personal heavy rotation at that time were: Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, James Taylor, The Cars, The Beatles and lots of Neil Young.
ZAF: It also mentions that you would be a filmmaker or a painter. If lets say you were a film maker what kind of movies would you be making?
JC: Oh man... I'd LOVE to be a film maker. I'd start out by making documentaries about those strange sub-cultures that lurk on the outskirts of our normal social circle. You know, the kind of groups of people you always hear about but don't quite understand. For example, I'd like to make a documentary about swingers. Not the fake, beautiful kind you see "on the internet", but the real, middle-aged, overweight, "coupla beers and a licorice g-string" kind. I just made that up. Or, I'd like to make a documentary about people who are fanatical about RVs. That's Recreational Vehicles. And I'd like to make one about people who collect ceramic figurines. What's up with that? After I fully explored documentaries, I'd shift to making corporate training videos WITH A TWIST. I'm gonna let your mind freely associate on that idea for a minute... Here are some example titles: Building Employee Morale: Missed Opportunities. Bloodborn Pathogens: Closer Than You Think. Presentation Skills: Nudity Can Help.
What age did you start writing songs?
JC: I started writing songs when I was 15 years old... Let's see if I can remember those humble beginnings... Ah yes... the first song I ever wrote was a little embarassing number named 'Cold Bed Blues'. Which is funny, because I'd never been in a hot bed, let alone a cold bed. You see, I was using the bed as a metaphor for a broken relationship, even at that tender age... When played live, I believe the song usually devolved into a downward spiraling refrain that involved the lead singer (me) singing "12 Ounce Beer!" at the top of my lungs. What the hell was I thinking? Songwriting hasn't really changed much for me since then, now that I think about it... Except that I write a lot of songs all the time and I'm constantly finding reasons to write more. Today's example: I'm trying to quit smoking (again). So I decided today that whenever I felt the urge to smoke, I'd write a song instead. I wrote two today. The first one is named "We All Die Of Something".
And when did you start performing in front of audiences?
JC: I've been playing shows since I was about 16 years old. Actually, my first gig was a piano recital when I was in 3rd grade. It was awful. I seriously almost freaked out and ran out of the Methodist church where it was being held. I think the only thing that kept me in the building was the fear that God would smite me. I'm fortunate that that was my first live performance experience. I think it's good to start any new endeavor at the absolute rock bottom -- it's all good news from there. I have A LOT of funny gig stories to tell you... like, my first band nearly beat my ass in the bathroom of this roadhouse once between our last song and the encore... I had a brawl with my drunken bass player on stage once... two strippers came to a show once and danced/stripped directly in front of me at a crowded gig once in Colorado Springs... multiple near-death experiences driving in the mountains... I've had guitar players and sound men steal my girlfriends... but we'd run out of room and you'd never publish this interview. Just come to a show and ask me.
What has been the biggest challenge as an artist? And what has the best experience been?
JC: Probably my biggest challange is staying focused on all of the stuff that has to happen after you write a song -- all the stuff it takes to actually get the music out there. I tend to like doing the stuff in my head... and once it leaves my head, I start getting bored. One of my best experiences has to be the time I played a solo acoustic gig in a packed club in Milan, Italy and when I looked out at the audience, I saw folks actually singing the lyrics of one of my songs ("Trains") with me. I thought I was dreaming it.
Where would you like to see your music take you?
JC: To a magic tour bus in the sky that only stops at packed theater shows, complete with beautiful and erudite roadies who place rose petals at our feet and fresh bottles of sparkling water atop our amps... WAIT. Sorry, I dozed off there for a second... Honestly, I'm probably not as "goal oriented" as maybe I should be with music... Then again, I really don't want music to ever feel like some sort of career track... Can you tell I'm a little ambivalent about the music business? Okay. Here's my answer: I want my music to take me to people who want to hear great music that's played with an enormous amount of passion. I think if I can do that, over and over again, everything else will take care of itself. That, and I want music to take me to a bar and pour me a double-tall, triple-fruit gin-and-tonic.
The magazine 5280 called your first solo CD "a Matthew Sweet meets Queen rock opus." Would you agree with that assessment?
JC: Well, I guess every music writer has their frame of reference that ties in with their personal music collection. I wouldn't have used the same names he used, but I think I understand his point... Matthew Sweet writes really strong, catchy songs and Queen were really into orchestrating their songs, building lots of interesting parts, messing around with counterpoint and harmony... I definitely hear those kinds of things happening on 'Good To Be Born' as well. Of course, I could have missed his point entirely... He might have meant that he imagines me in tights, sporting a handlebar mustache... all leathered up in biker-bondage gear singing "We will rock you". God, I hope not...
When does the album come out?
JC: The new record is available now at www.freeschoolrecords.com as well as in music stores in Colorado (Twist and Shout, Independent Records, Virgin, Tower) all over the country (Tower Records and other indie records stores). It will also be available digitally on iTunes and other places on the web in a few more weeks. Our CD release show is happening on Friday, August 11th in Denver at the Oriental Theater. It's a recently renovated old theater that is being run by some very cool people who are doing a great job with it. Much love.
So you grew up in Pensacola, Florida, do you know Emmitt Smith? Or ever flown with the Blue Angels?
JC: I've actually flown the lead plane of the Blue Angels... with Emmitt Smith. Roy Jones Jr. was in the back of the plane. It was incredible fun. I did a carrier landing -- that can be tricky. We all went to The Handlebar afterward (a Pensacola institution and I mean that in ALL senses of the word) and drank luke warm longneck Budweisers until Emmit and Roy got into a wicked fight... Emmit accused Roy of being less-than-honest at the pool table. It was ugly. Roy whipped his ass. I tried to break them up but then I realized I was a part of an historic event: a professional jackass watching a professional boxer fight a professional football player.
JC: Here are some fun facts about the new record. Memorize these and you're automatically entered to win a free ceramic figurine...
Get 'Good To Be Born' here: www.freeschoolrecords.com or here: www.johncommon.com