Red House Records artist plays Muskegon, Lansing and Traverse City
this week. After a three-decade-long career, he says he enjoys performing
‘as much if not more’ than ever. See ticket, show details.
side of Down
Internationally renowned Red House Records artist John Gorka insists “the
people, the music and the stories were things that made me want be part
of this music world” and they still inspire him after a 30-year career.
Side of Down” But even as a celebrated veteran of the studio and the road,
Gorka never stops seeking ways to improve his musicianship, to change
the way he attacks another recording.
been trying to pay attention more to my guitar-playing,” the singer-songwriter
told Local Spins from his home in St. Paul, Minn. “I’ve always played
guitar, but I never considered myself a guitar player. I would like to
become more proficient and be able to provide a more complete accompaniment
to the songs.”
Consequently, his most recent album, 2014’s “Bright Side of Down,” boasts
“uncluttered” arrangements that “keep the focus on the vocal and guitar.”
And the songs were recorded “a little bit at a time” at his home and in
a Minneapolis recording studio, rather than in a single stretch.
AND HONING HIS SONGS OVER TIME
of trying to get it all done at once and getting all of the pressure
on a few days, I wanted it to reflect how I sound when I play live,
which is mostly solo,” says the singer, who’s released a dozen solo
albums since 1987 as well as a collaborative project with Red Horse,
featuring label-mates Lucy Kaplansky and Eliza Gilkyson. (Grand
Rapids singer-songwriter Drew Nelson is also on the Red House label.)
wanted the arrangements to be built around my vocal and guitar performances
(and) I wanted to see if the performances held up for me if I could
listen to it over time. Sometimes there would be changes and a verse
would bother me, and I’d rewrite it or re-sing it or cut it out.
I thought if I could listen to these performances probably more
times than anybody else would and if I still liked them, then maybe
they would hold up for other people as well.”
The approach paid off: AllMusic.com praised “Bright Side of Down”
for Gorka’s “attention to the details in his craft – rhyme, musical
economy, tight melodies” with songs that should resonate with fans
“of modern American folk music.
Playing As Much As He Can: John Gorka is “still learning” after a
fruitful and illustrious career.
thing hasn’t changed: Gorka continues to tour the country year-round,
frequently going out “for a few shows grouped around a weekend,” then
returning home to his family. “I enjoy playing for people so I try to
play as much as I can but not become a stranger at home,” says Gorka,
who has a 17-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter.
MICHIGAN SHOW SCHEDULE AND TICKET INFORMATION
As part of a weekend swing into Michigan with fellow Minnesota singer-songwriter
Trina Hamlin, Gorka plays:
8 p.m. Friday at Ten Pound Fiddle (Unitarian Universalist Church), 855
Grove St., East Lansing (Tickets, $18 adults, $5 students, available online
8 p.m. Saturday at InsideOut Gallery, 229 Garland St., Traverse City (Tickets,
$20 in advance, $25 day of show. Details online here or
• 2 p.m. Sunday at The Block, 360
W. Western Ave., Muskegon (Tickets, $20, available at the door or online
“I’ve always enjoyed playing Michigan. I always look forward to coming
back,” Gorka says. He notes that while the music business has changed
dramatically since he began due to the Internet and restructuring of record
labels, live shows are still vital. “I’m grateful I’ve gotten to do this
for a long time and it doesn’t seem that long at all. I still enjoy playing
as much if not more than I ever did.”
BY THE NEW FOLK RESURGENCE
his travels, Gorka also is re-mixing an album he recorded “with some really
good musicians” in Nashville back in 1985 but never released. He hopes
to finally release that project in November, 30 years after it was recorded.
enthusiasm for his craft is buoyed by the resurgence of folk, Americana
and bluegrass music, with younger musicians and audiences embracing
acoustic instrumentation and upfront vocals.
so much talent in the world. It’s really mind-boggling,” he says.
“I feel like I’m seeing evolution right before my eyes. I feel like
people are getting better, younger. I’m starting to feel like ‘folk’
is less of a negative word than it used to be. … That’s encouraging
and I feel like the music I like best will keep on going."
2015, Spins on Music LLC
JOHN GORKA, “BRIGHT SIDE OF DOWN” (Oct. 23, 2014)
A veteran journalist and former music writer for The Grand Rapids
Press, John Sinkevics is editor and publisher of LocalSpins.com, profiling
regional artists and commenting on West Michigan's music scene. He
hosts "Local Spins Live" on News Talk 1340 AM in Grand Rapids at 11
a.m. Wednesdays, and the hour-long "Local Spins on WYCE" at 11 a.m.
Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1), both spotlighting regional artists.