21, 2013...John Gorka
One week from today,
on June 28th, John Gorka will return to The Purple Crayon after playing
our first ever Live!@TPC show in 2011. We caught up with John to ask
him a few questions about songwriting, performing, and creativity.
Buy tickets for next week’s concert here.
When did you start writing music? Were you always musical as a child or
is it something that developed later in life?
I must have started writing songs when I was 14 or 15.
I knew I wanted to be a writer before I tried writing songs. With songs
I can express both what I can articulate with the lyrics, plus what I
cannot find words for, in the sounds and the music. I didn’t think I was
especially musical as a child but it is something that called to me as
a teenager and continues to call to me to this day.
you feel that songwriting and performing are a job for you? Do you treat
them as work, or are they integrated into who you are all the time?
Music has never been a job for me. Music was always something I did for
fun. I worked at it but it was never work.
inspires you to write?
The songs can come from anywhere, so I just try to pay attention and listen
for the little sparks that might indicate the beginnings of a song. It
could come from something I find myself playing on the guitar or keyboard.
It could come from something I read or overhear. The strongest songs tend
to come from the strongest feelings of love and loss.
is your favorite aspect of performing in front of a live audience? Any
memories of your first trip to The Purple Crayon?
I was always drawn to performing although I was never that comfortable
doing it. I enjoy performing more now than when I started because there
are a whole bunch of songs out there that might be a place to meet the
audience. I enjoyed playing at the Purple Crayon because it seems like
a natural place to make music. I also enjoyed the songwriter workshop
we did there.
are so funny on stage, and often in your songwriting. Is that deliberate?
How does that humor relate to your overall perspective and experience?
I’ve always enjoyed songwriters who displayed a sense of humor in their
songs and shows like John Prine and Steve Goodman. I remember Claudia
Schmidt after a show at Godfrey Daniels Coffeehouse saying, “you should
take your work seriously but don’t take yourself seriously”. My recordings
often lead people to believe I am more serious and somber than I am, so
the live show approach is unexpected. I think humor is vital to living
and our passage through this veil of tears.
you have words of advice for music lovers or musicians who feel they could
not create original music, or those who feel they would like to write
Jack Hardy was the first songwriter I met who wrote songs on a schedule,
finishing a song a week, when I met him. He said even if you throw out
3/4 of the songs you write, you will get better faster, by exercising
the writing muscles. Work at it but do it in a playful way. Find the best
time of day where you have a little unclaimed, unstructured time and see
what is in you. You can do it with an instrument or without. Keep in mind
that the song that is in you, trying to come out might not be the song
that you want to write. Most of my time and energy these days is spent
trying to get out of the way of the song. If you make an effort but come
up empty then do something that will feed the songwriting process: read,
listen and learn other people’s songs. Learning other people’s music will
instill templates for your own future original work that you can fill
with your own detail and perspective. It will put more colors on your