A few weeks ago, I tuned into a Sunday evening live acoustic stream on Instagram from Brooklyn indie-folk singer-songwriter Common Jack (a.k.a. John Gardner). It was during that live stream that John introduced his then forthcoming single, "Still Awake," and treated listeners to a charming live acoustic performance of the song. I was captivated by the graceful tempo, charming melody and clever lyrics that represent a collection of late-night thoughts documenting trouble sleeping. I was also taken by the ease with which he performed this heartfelt song - John can really deliver a spot-on performance with nothing more than his voice and a guitar!
Fast forward to the other day and the release of the incredible-sounding studio version of "Still Awake." Alongside the steady-paced, fingerstyle acoustic guitar that drives the track, the addition of gentle, dreamy keyboards and lush layers of breezy backing vocals in the production elevate this already gorgeous track to another sonic plane. John's expressive vocals effortlessly glide across the ultra-smooth acoustic tapestry of "Still Awake."
"I was bored out of my mind one night, unable to sleep and mindlessly fiddling around on my guitar," John says about the song's origins. "The first lyric came about because I just started narrating my boredom to myself. That line, 'I can’t sleep again so I am ordering some food // scrolling through the movies, coming up empty on Hulu' was so fun to me. It's so plain yet something about it struck me as really evocative and relatable."
Along with the sleeplessness origins of the "Still Awake", a parallel theme of turning the page is present throughout the song. "I was writing it right before I proposed to my now fiancé, so I was feeling like I was at the beginning of a huge new chapter in my life," John comments. "She sits at the center of the song as fleeting ideas float by. Lyrics such as 'Our friends are packing up and moving far away / That's alright with me as long as they're doing okay' are followed by a recurring line, 'It's you and me / as far as I can see,' which becomes a testament to foundational relationships and how they can keep us grounded in moments of doubt and uncertainty. Ironically -- and unintentionally -- the song has a sort of 'pacing the room' vibe that pairs well with quarantine in a time of pandemic."
Regarding the easy-flowing, breezy vibe of the track, John comments that he and co-producer Harper James (of Eighty Ninety) wanted "Still Awake" to have a huge build. "We wanted a realistic, minimal soundscape in the beginning to slowly give way to a lush, surrealistic dream world. Almost like the narrator is willing himself to sleep in real time."
With that, I leave you with the single's accompanying lyric video. Definitely give this infectious track a listen, sing along and spread the word. "Still Awake" might just become the well-needed dose of musical medicine you need to ride out the restless wave of social distancing.