Wesley Stace was born in Hastings, Sussex, in 1965, and educated at the King’s School, Canterbury, and Jesus College, Cambridge. He has released 17 albums under the stage name John Wesley Harding, inspired by the title of Bob Dylan’s 1967 album. “Wes,” as he’s known to friends and fans, is musically influenced both by classic folk artists such as Dylan and Joan Baez, and pop-rock bands like the Decemberists and R.E.M., members of which have recorded with him. His breakthrough album was 1990’s Here Comes the Groom, featuring such darkly humorous tunes as “The Devil in Me”. His latest album, Self-Titled, released in September 2013 on the Yep Roc label, is the first to feature his given name.
Over the course of his performing career, Stace/Harding has been joined onstage by such artists as Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, John Prine, and Bruce Springsteen (with whom he recorded a duet on his album Awake), among many others. He has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Late Show with David Letterman, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Locally, his records have been played extensively on 88.5 WXPN, and he has performed multiple times at that station’s annual XPoNential Festival. His songs have also been featured in films (including High Fidelity) and covered by other artists. Most recently, he co-wrote Eleanor Friedberger’s Personal Record album.
From the fall through the spring, Stace also hosts a monthly revue, Wesley Stace’s Cabinet of Wonders, at the prestigious City Winery club in NYC. NPR has broadcast several of episodes of the Cabinet, which has become a virtual who’s who of contemporary performers, writers, and comedians.
Under his given name, Stace has also published four novels, the most recent of which, Wonderkid (2014), has been described as “one of the very few novels about rock bands and the music business that doesn’t have a single false note or outsider/wannabe pretensions” (singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash) and as “one of the best books about fathers and sons since Turgenev” (Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story).
Stace has taught a course (“How To Write A Song”) at Princeton University with poet Paul Muldoon and has taught literature at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he curates the Words & Music Festival. He often emcees author events at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Stace has lived in America since 1991, and resides in Philadelphia with his wife Abbey, daughter Tilda, and son Wyn.