Wesley Stace is a man with a dual creative personality. He earned an international following as a musician for his work under the stage name John Wesley Harding, while as Wesley Stace, he's published a handful of acclaimed novels, served as a reviewer for a number of respected newspapers and magazines, and also written and recorded music of his own. Wesley Stace was born in Hastings, East Sussex, England on October 22, 1965. In his teens, Stace learned to play guitar and became a devotee of singer/songwriters such as Phil Ochs, Loudon Wainwright III, John Prine, and particularly Bob Dylan, taking his stage name from the title of Dylan's celebrated 1967 release. Stace studied English literature and social and political science at Jesus College, Cambridge, but left before completing his Ph.D. to pursue a career in music. As John Wesley Harding, he played the folk circuit in the U.K., and a spot opening for John Hiatt brought him to the attention of the British independent label Demon Records, which released his debut album, a 1988 live set entitled It Happened One Night. Harding soon scored an American record deal with Sire Records, which in 1990 released his first studio set, Here Comes the Groom. Sire would release two more Harding albums, 1991's The Name Above the Title and 1992's Why We Fight, but despite critical praise and enthusiastic receptions for his live shows, the label was unable to break him to a larger audience (or shake frequent comparisons to Elvis Costello), and he returned to the independent label community with 1996's John Wesley Harding's New Deal. He continued to play live, and in 1995, when Bruce Springsteen played a series of solo acoustic shows at California's Berkeley Community Theater, he invited Harding to be his opening act, the first time Springsteen had used an opener in two decades.
In the 21st century, while John Wesley Harding continued to write and record, Stace began returning to his interest in the written word. In 2005, Stace published his first novel, Misfortune, which earned enthusiastic reviews and was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post. By George, his second novel, was published in 2007, and Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer followed in 2010. As his recognition as a novelist began to rival his following as a musician, Stace began contributing reviews and essays to The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Washington Post, as well as a number of leading music magazines and literary journals. At the same time, in 2009 he began putting new focus his musical career, releasing a new John Wesley Harding album, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, and launching a series of variety performances, John Wesley Harding's Cabinet of Wonders, in which he shared the stage with a revolving cast of musicians, comedians, and spoken word performers. In 2011, there was a new John Wesley Harding album, The Sound of His Own Voice, while in 2013, Stace announced he planned to release his future recordings as Wesley Stace, beginning with the album he brought out that year, Self-Titled. In 2014, Stace published his fourth novel, Wonderkid, and in 2017, Stace struck a compromise between his two public personae with the release of the album Wesley Stace's John Wesley Harding, a collaboration with alt-country heroes the Jayhawks. ~ Mark Deming