John Common Superheart Is Taking it One Song at a Time

Veteran songwriter John Common has been treating Denverites to well-crafted, imaginative songwriting since his days in alt-country band Rainville. Having worked with a handful of bands and projects since then, Common has demonstrated remarkable flexibility in both sound and performance. His collaborators over the years have included a number of talented musicians and visual artists. His current musical incarnation, John Common Superheart, is releasing a two-sided single of the songs “The River Is Moving” and “I Had a Dream About a River.” The single is the first in a series, and this approach (releasing a couple of songs at a time) is new for Common, who in the past has mostly written complete albums. The format suits him, though, allowing his many songs to have outlets of their own without the pressure of fitting in together with a set.

“When you make a record, there’s this feeling that you have to have this big idea and all the pieces have to fit together to make this grand creative statement, but the reality is that maybe you put out music you don’t like but it fits,” says Common. “The idea [here] is, what if we release singles or smaller works like EPs and take away all that pressure? You can do whatever you want; it’s just got to be fun and it has to be satisfying.”

Listening to the two songs on this release, it’s obvious that Common truly is expanding beyond expectation. “The River Is Moving” seems at first listen to be similar to what we’ve heard from him in the past, but further inspection reveals some unexpected new sounds. “I Had a Dream About a River,” meanwhile, is a spoken-word piece that gives listeners the sense of a dream with disorienting and hypnotic layers of atmosphere.

“I truly do not give a shit about genre anymore,” says Common about the contrast in style between the two songs. “I’ve got stuff lined up for the next releases that are very different from everything I’ve ever put out. It’s scary to think about putting it out, but that tells me that’s exactly what I should do.”

The cover for the current single is a classic Scott McCormick photo showing Common in mirror image but bearing different facial expressions suggesting a troubled spirit.

“Those songs and that art capture a moment where someone is in a state of pre-redemption,” explains Common. “You haven’t turned your life around, but you have a glimmer of a moment where you can see it and you think you can get your shit together. I can feel it, but it has so not happened yet. There’s something attractive in that moment — like you’re in the gutter, but looking up.” 

John Common Superheart, with Anthony Ruptak & His Midnight Friends and Cowhause, 7 p.m. Friday, April 24, Walnut Room, $12, 303-295-1868.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.