Thursday, January 29, 2009


Prospectus for the Common Box Project

A few boxy thoughts:

Do you remember? - all good things came in boxes ... and still do. The box is the conveyor of our needs, our triumphs, our creativity, our ability to produce, our follies, our hang-ups, our memorabilia and finally that which we have reduced to refuse.

The box is part of our everyday language and thinking. .. our involvement with and obsession for boxes is incessant and seemingly quite inescapable. From the moment we first open our eyes to the very instant we close them for the last time, the box - as an intriguing and exciting physical form, design or concept - is ever present.

Some boxy links:

The Nitty Gritty
A limited number of boxes have been designed & built to house John’s new CD (in the back of the box) and sold as part of a limited edition art/music box collection.
If you accept this invitation you will receive an Art Kit. The art kit will contain, among other things, a raw wood box (approximately 7x7x5 inches) that can be covered and filled with any variety of objects, paintings, words, and anything else you see fit, project guidelines, lyrics, inspirational material, access to audio from the new record which is currently being recorded and access to John Common for discussions, inspiration, questions about songs/lyrics etc. After receiving this kit, we ask that you make a wonderful creation inspired in some way by what you receive in your kit.

Completed boxes will be returned to the Bailey/Common team where they will be prepared for
exhibition/sale. All boxes will be exhibited from July 9 -17 at Abecedarian Gallery. Base prices for each artwork will be mutually agreed on by the artist and Bailey/Common team. Once sold each artist receives 35% of the sale price, along with a copy of the new CD.

Important dates
June 27, 2009 - Boxes must be completed and returned to Abecedarian Gallery
July 9 - Exhibit of boxes opens to the public.
July 14 - Abecedarian Gallery hosts July Action Figures with John Common
July 18, 2009 - Exhibition closes. Artist reception and listening party (sneak peak at the new record by John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light) at Abecedarian Gallery from 7:00 to 10pm

The general idea is that the boxes will be kept in gallery inventory until sold or for 12 months following the exhibition. At the end of 12 months, unsold boxes will be returned to the artists at artists’ expense, along with John’s CD. Details/consignment agreement available soon.

To participate please print and fill out the following form. Send it, along with payment of $10 (+ $7 if you need the box shipped) to cover the cost of the Art Kit and send to:

Abecedarian Gallery
910 Santa Fe
Denver, CO 80204

If you are unable to pick up your Art Kit from the gallery, please enclose an additional $7 to cover the cost of shipping the box to you.

You can pay via credit card and fax your form in 303.479.9556 if you wish

Name on credit card__________________________________
Amount authorized____________
Visa/Mastercard number________________________________
Exp. ______
CCV(3 digit code) _______
Zip code of address card is billed to____________
Cardholders signature_________________________________________

Just a couple more things
This is a first come, first serve project.

Although the deadline isn’t until late June for box delivery, early delivery and/or hi-res images of your box will help us promote events more effectively. It is understood that images of your piece will be used for both print and online publicity.

Please, please, please - if you have questions or concerns, be in touch with either or both of us.


Thoughts from John Common about the Box Project

This box project brings together a bunch of things that I love… To wit:

First of all, I have a thing for boxes. I always have. I realize now that I inadvertently collect them. They’re tucked in and out of plain view all over my house. But then it dawned on me—I think everyone has a thing for boxes to some extent. I bet everyone has at least one box tucked away somewhere in their house that they fill with strange little objects… a stone… a bottle cap… an old love letter… a silver ring.. a piece of metal. I love the unspoken process we use to decide what goes inside the box and what stays outside. It’s a big decision.

Music has a lot of boxes… or maybe it’s like boxes inside of boxes. A box of related notes is a melody. A box of words are lyrics. A box of sounds and words is a song. A box of related songs is a record. A box of musician/artists is a band. This new record we’re working on is boxes inside of boxes inside of boxes.

I even like the word: B-O-X.

box 1 |bäks|
1) a container with a flat base and sides, typically square or rectangular and having a lid: a hat box.
• the contents of such a container : she ate a whole box of chocolates that night.
• short for boom box.
• informal a casing containing a computer.
• ( the box) informal chiefly Brit. television or a television set : light entertainment shows on the box.
• informal a coffin : I always thought I'd be in a box when I finally left here.
• historical a coachman's seat.
• vulgar slang a woman's vagina.
2) an area or space enclosed within straight lines, in particular
• an area on a printed page that is to be filled in or that is set off by a border : a picture of Sandy was in the upper right-hand box.
• an area on a computer screen for user input or displaying information.
• ( the box) (also the batter's box) Baseball the rectangular area occupied by the batter.
• Baseball the rectangular area behind home plate for the catcher ( catcher’s box), or those near first and third bases, in foul territory, for each base coach ( coach’s box).
• ( the box) Soccer the penalty area : he curled in a shot from the edge of the box.
3) a small structure or building for a specific purpose, in particular
• a separate section or enclosed area within a larger building, esp. one reserved for a group of people in a theater or sports ground or for witnesses or the jury in a law court : a box at the opera | the jury was now in the box.
• Brit. a small country house for use when hunting or fishing.
4) a protective casing for a piece of a mechanism.
• informal short for gearbox .
5) a mailbox at a post office, newspaper office, or other facility where a person may arrange to receive correspondence : write to me care of PO Box 112.

Secondly, I’ve always been drawn to art that takes place in boxes. Assemblage is a term that I just learned to describe this kind of art. I love how an artist can create a little world inside a box—beautiful, fragile, impossibly fascinating. Why is it that when we put something in a box, it automatically becomes a little more precious? It’s magic, probably. Box magic.

Thirdly, I am more and more fed by collaboration. I love seeing how a work can evolve and deepen through collaboration. I hope that is evident in my band: John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light, as well as in our new record. But I also want to collaborate across the fences of medium and genre. Painters, sculptors, film makers, musicians, writers – we should do more things together!

So when I saw a recent assemblage work by Alicia Bailey, it all clicked. A box project collaboration between artists of all kinds, inspired or informed, hopefully, by some aspect of my new record. All of this, of course, is just an excuse to rub elbows with more creative people… to make more art… to be inspired by your work… to maybe play a role in your creative process…

So I’m hoping you’ll want to do this. Think of it as an art vacation—a chance to get away from whatever it is that you’re doing for a short while, to collaborate and create a little world in a box.

About the New Record...

The New Record

As I sit here writing this today, January 28, 2009, my new record is in process. I haven’t even named it yet. It’s a collection of 24 or so songs that we are in various stages of recording. Some songs are very big sounding. Some are very small. These songs were written, for the most part, since my last record (Why Bird Fly, released in 2007). I’ve learned that I never fully know what a song or a record is about until after it’s finished, so I hesitate to go too deeply into that… plus, I tend to get a little superstitious. I’d rather let you decide for yourself.

If you decide to participate, we’ll be sending you an “artist kit” that will contain audio from the new record, lyrics, images and other materials intended to give you a sense of what the record is all about and where it’s coming from.

But here is a loose description:

It's going to be one of those records that has plenty of space. Plenty of room. Live and loose but still purposeful. It’s the kind of record you can put on and just let it breathe in the background as you do your thing, because it’s not screaming for your attention. Lots of feel and tone. The sound of 6 musicians having an unhurried conversation with each other. But then you can dig in and start peeling it back and the lyrics, emotions, ideas, images, themes will emerge and keep feeding you.

Some themes: hope in the face of loss, loneliness versus solitude, love that works, love that doesn’t work, late night honesty, scars that make us stronger, age versus wisdom, staying open when things are dark and strange, and the existence / nonexistence of god.

You know… the light stuff. ☺

I dunno. I never really know how a record is going to turn out. There’s a lot of faith and hope and blind luck involved. But this record and this band are the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.


Inspiration: Others' Box Art

above Robert Rauschenberg Untitled, © 1954

above Leo Kaplan, Miscellany

About John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light


JOHN COMMON sometimes wishes he were a filmmaker or a painter, but due to a run-in with his brother's record collection at an impressionable age, he ended up with a bad case of the rock and an obsession for making music instead. He's constantly writing songs... they range from raucous and snarly, to beautiful and introspective. He grew up in Pensacola, Florida -- hotbed for every strain of rabidly fundamentalist, evangelical Christian sect known to man (action) and a surprisingly vibrant indie music scene (reaction). When he was thirteen, he found his older brother's Epiphone acoustic guitar covered in dust in the back of a closet and a light bulb went on. "Writing songs, recording and playing music helps me make sense of things… it’s a habit that won’t go away,"" he says.

After traveling around the country, writing, being in bands, playing shows, and just soaking it all in, he eventually made his way to Colorado. As the singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Denver-based band RAINVILLE, he built a reputation for writing gritty, honest songs and then playing and singing the hell out of them live. Rainville released two albums (COLLECTING EMPTIES in 1999 and THE LONGEST STREET IN AMERICA in 2002) to critical acclaim nationally and in Europe, and toured from 1999 to 2004.

In late 2004 John began exploring different territory. That desire to experiment led him to begin writing and recording a body of music unlike anything he had ever done before. You can hear it on GOOD TO BE BORN (2006) and WHY BIRDS FLY (2007). Both records have earned rave reviews from music press and fans alike, being named best local releases by numerous regional publications and websites. Denver’s Westword called Good To Be Born "A brilliant, extremely ambitious disc... Denver's finest rock recording of the past decade." A year later, Westword said “Why Birds Fly is even more uncommon than its acclaimed 2006 predecessor... it rewards repeated listens even as it confounds expectations.” The Onion described his music as “Raw yet sophisticated pop.”

John Common’s music is difficult to classify and he’s pretty happy about that. He and his new band are working on a new record right now that will be released in 20009. You can listen to and read about John’s entire catalog online at Visit for updated show dates, photos, movies, press resources and his personal blog.


John plays with an incredibly talented group of musicians, artists and friends, drawn from Colorado’s indie music scene. “BLINDING FLASHES OF LIGHT kind of stretches the definition of what a band is… It’s more like a group of friends who make records and play shows together. ” The group includes: Jimmy Stofer (bass), Jess De Nicola Mefford (vocals, keys), Carl Sorensen (drums), Jon Wirtz (keys), Matt Gilliam (trumpet, fleugal), and Wes Michaels (Cello).

The sound they create integrates smart lyrics with layered, artfully arranged music that can pin you to the wall, break your heart, or just send you off thinking for a while. Regardless of the configuration, these artists have an unmistakable chemistry. They are that unique kind of band where each player is a genuinely talented artist in their own right, but when they play together something extra happens. Something larger. "I feel incredibly fortunate to be playing with people who are not only ridiculously good at their instruments, but amazingly creative. The music wouldn’t be the same without the thing each of us brings to the group. I think you can tell we love playing together, " says Common.

Websites & Contact Info

web |
blog |
myspace |

Press Quotes

2008 Telluride Troubadour Finalist
2008 Westword Nominated Best Singer/Songwriter
2007 Lyons Folks Festival Finalist
2007 Mover and Shaker / Best Local Release -- Westword
2007 Best Local Release -- The Denver Post
2006 Most Intriguing Discs - The Onion
2006 Westword Nominated Best Singer/Songwriter
2006 Mover and Shaker / Best Local Release -- Westword

"John's clever lyrics and perfectly crafted songs are outdone only by his huge and prolific body of work. This guy puts out a solid album twice a year. No wonder his songs are good. He also has a killer band." -- Denver Music Scene, Top Ten Singer-Songwriters

"A brilliant, extremely ambitious disc... Denver's finest rock recording of the past decade." -- WESTWORD MAGAZINE (Good To Be Born)

"Why Birds Fly is even more uncommon than its acclaimed 2006 predecessor...the aural environment Common creates is so sumptuous that it rewards repeated listens even as it confounds expectations." -- WESTWORD MAGAZINE (Why Birds Fly)

"It may seem difficult to imagine a guy named John Common living a highly individual life, but believe it... his creative curiosity and detail-oriented aesthetic distinguish him from the drooling pack of earnest singer-songwriters." -- DENVER POST

"Raw, yet sophisticated pop." -- THE ONION

"Is something really going on in Denver’s music scene? If we need any more evidence that speaks to the vitality of our expanding catalog of acts, John Common’s new album, “Good to be Born” is that kind of prescription...It’s out. And not to be forgotten. " -- SYNTAX

"With all the craft of a consummate songwriter, John Common builds songs that dig beneath thick skins and lazy thinking. He deconstructs them with the abandon of a mad scientist, resulting in a disc that's as rich in texture as it is drenched in tenderness." -- THE ONION

"Every aspect of Common's squirrely melodic sensibilities and unerringly tight playing and production are featured here." -- THE DENVER POST

"John Common has plenty of natural talent. But a more literal interpretation also applies to his latest recording, Why Birds Fly. Throughout tunes such as "Moonlight" and "Unseen Things," Common weaves traditional instrumentation with the sort of found sounds heard in forests at night: the ambient noises of creatures that creep, crawl or take wing. These subtle touches make his work seem natural in every sense of the word." -- BEST OF WESTWORD 2008

"He always seems to have the right words... with a repertoire that ranges from haunting to hopeful, pensive to provocative." -- COLORADO LOCAL LEGENDS

"Far too many performers settle for predictability — but Common constantly pushes himself, his songs and his arrangements onto paths that few travelers have trod. While his work can seem inconsistent at times, even the misses are intriguing — and the high points (like "Moonlight" and the preternatural "Not So Bad") truly take wing. — WESTWORD

"Denver's John Common has cracked the code of modern-day songwriting and delivered us something surprisingly refreshing... "Good To Be Born," is full of energy, passion, creativity, variety, personality and most importantly, sounds you've never heard before. He is a damn good songwriter. " -- KCSU MUSIC DIRECTOR / ROCKY MOUNTAIN COLLEGIAN

"This album portrays a band with the skills to embellish a writer who has a foot in the motherlode of great songs." -- AMERICANA UK

"Common has achieved the musical equivalent of picking up seven tiles in a game of Scrabble and being able to lay down “bezique” on the first turn. " -- FIVE MAGAZINE, TAOS, NEW MEXICO

"John Common has a keen melodic sense and the requisite ability to take the basic pop formula and turn it on its head. The mix of goodies on his new release, Good To Be Born, bring together a host of elements and styles that, although diverse, avoid the abrasion that many artists suffer when trying to blend too much The blossoming Denver scene should be plenty proud to have Common in its quiver of emerging artists." -- KAFFEINE BUZZ

"Common writes a great song just about every day... 'Good To Be Born' is a Matthew Sweet-meets-Queen rock opus filled with catchy songs and layers of clever vocals... Damn him." -- 5280 MAGAZINE

"Common is a gifted songwriter with a playfully weird sensibility." -- DENVER POST

"John Common refuses to cave to category." -- DENVER DAILY NEWS

"There are songs that make me want to drink till morning you see... Songs that make me wish I'd somehow gone home with that handsome stranger who smiled when I looked up from my book... Songs that make me want to be loud and messy and get into lots of trouble, when normally I am quiet and neat and only get into medium amounts of trouble... Songs I've caught myself putting on repeat when it's 2 am and I have to wake up at 6..."

Sending images for publicity

In an earlier email I sent instructions for sending me hi-res photos of your box when it is complete to be used for publicity. Unfortunately, the service I'm using has been having issues and I'm not receiving the issues. So, here are revised instructions for sending images:

Submissions should include:
2-3 jpeg images of your box - one overall view and 1-2 details (300dpi,
ca.4x5 inches).

Please send gallery quality images
without any background clutter or descriptive text. The images you send will be used for exhibition publicity. Include an info sheet (word/rtf/xcel doc) about your piece with a material list, title, and anything else you want to share about the project/process, a resume (pdf or word), artist’s statement and contact information (including website url if you have one).
Label each image file with artists’ last name, title of piece, with a letter or number as needed. Title text files
files with artists’ last name plus description, such as
lastname statement, lastname resume etc.

For environmental reasons, I prefer works be submitted via emailing It is easiest if
you send one compressed document containing all of your files. Send the files to this email address:
with subject line
It is helpful if you also send
me a separate email letting me know you’ve sent files.

I will accept CD’s sent to
Abecedarian, 910 Santa Fe #101, Denver, CO 80204
CD’s will not be returned - they will be recycled.