Wesley Stace / John Wesley Harding


Wesley Stace was born in Hastings, Sussex, in 1965, and educated at the King’s School, Canterbury, and Jesus College, Cambridge. Under the name John Wesley Harding, he has released 15 albums, ranging from traditional folk to full-on pop music. His most recent pop release, Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead (2009), recorded with the Minus Five, was a critical smash, garnering considerable airplay: the album is “terrifically catchy” (New Yorker), while Harding is “hyper-aware, expertly tweaking the lyricist’s game at every turn” (Los Angeles Times), with “lyrics that dazzle” (Wall Street Journal). “Typically wry and acerbic” (Billboard), the songs “reveal a greater maturity and lyrical polish…” making it “the most pleasing album Harding has made since his first studio effort, Here Comes the Groom” (All Music Guide). He will make his next album in Portland OR in November 2010.

John Wesley Harding has been joined onstage by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, John Prine, Bruce Springsteen (with whom he recorded a duet on his album Awake), Joan Baez, Peter Buck, Evan Dando, David Baddiel, Rick Moody, Tanya Donelly, Josh Ritter, Rosanne Cash, Colin Meloy, Scott MacCaughey and Robyn Hitchcock among others. He has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Late Show with David Letterman, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. His songs have been featured in films (including High Fidelity) and covered by other artists. His most recent releases have been two volumes of John Wesley Harding Sings To A Small Guitar, a collection of otherwise unknown and unreleased songs from throughout his career, in their original state as acoustic guitar and vocal demos.

His series of “Cabinet of Wonders” variety shows was inaugurated in spring 2009 in New York with appearances by Rosanne Cash, Graham Parker, Josh Ritter, Rick Moody, Colson Whitehead, and Jonathan Ames. It’s “a brilliant evening of laid-back fun” (Village Voice) and “one of the most whip-smart variety shows on the market” (Portland Tribune). Two further series in 2009/10 featured among others: A. C.Newman, Colin Meloy, Rhett Miller, Steven Page, Eugene Mirman, David Gates, John Roderick, Jon Auer, Tanya Donelly, Patrick McGrath, Todd Barry, Steve Almond, and Stephen Elliott. The Cabinet of Wonders, which, under the name “Wes & Eugene’s Cabinet of Wonders,” he took on the road with comedian Eugene Mirman, has now moved to City Winery in Manhattan.

His first novel, the international bestseller Misfortune, was published (under his real name) to great acclaim in 2004 by Little, Brown (USA) and Jonathan Cape (UK)—translations followed in Italy, France, Holland, Taiwan, Japan, Spain, and Israel. It was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, listed as one of the books of the year in the Washington Post and the Boston Phoenix, and was one of Amazon’s Top Ten Novels of the Year. His second novel, By George, was published in August 2007; it was one of the New York Public Library’s Books To Remember of 2007, and Booklist Editor’s Choice for books of the year. His third, Charles Jessold, Considered As A Murderer, was published in July 2010 by Jonathan Cape in the UK to excellent reviews: “The most confident musical fiction I have read in years” (New Statesman), “Stace’s artistry makes our language a continual surprise” (The Independent), “Inventive black comedy unfolding with Nabokovian precision” (Financial Times). It is to be published in the USA by Picador in February 2011.

Stace/Harding is currently artist-in-residence at Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ, where he curates the Words & Music Festival. On May 6, 2010, the second Festival ended with “Jersey Rain: Robert Pinsky and Bruce Springsteen in conversation with John Wesley Harding” at which the two NJ writers talked about their work. JWH and Springsteen performed a duet of “Wreck on the Highway.” The series also included a presentation by Harding and Paul Muldoon on their collaboration.

Stace reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Times. He has lived in America since 1991, and resides in Philadelphia with his wife Abbey, daughter Tilda, and son Wyn.