..By
Ron Colone

RC: What is the relationship between the records and the live performance?

JG: The records are kind of like my children Ė I try to get them ready, you dress them up and let them get out into world and hopefully make some friends. But I know which ones are the best songs, itís like the audience completes the song. I donít know which ones Ö Going into it I kind of think I know which song is the best one, but then I go into the recording process and I find out the one I thought was going to be the best is the Ö the slow child. And other ones just sort of jump out at people, so I rely on the audience to finish or complete the Ö. art.

RC: Can you talk about "the role of the folksinger in the 21st Century?"

 

John Gorka (Feb. 13, 2013) photo by Jeremy Ball

JG: I feel like the folksingers now are kind of like a thread that connects peoplesí lives, because itís such a mobile society, so it connects people in their different times Ė maybe when they lived in Boston, or shortly after college, then they moved to North Carolina or wherever, and by traveling so much you kind of keep the connections of the web in place Ė so there can be some continuity in the thread of the narrative of their lives Ė and Iím part of that; thatís what I feel is my job as a modern Ė because I didnít learn from the oral tradition Ė I do what I do from that traditional music and also popular music and my own thing, so Iím just trying to make connections.

RC:You said it kind of keeps the web intact, letís talk about the other Web Ė the Internet Ė how does that play a role right now in you actually being involved in connecting with an audience, or growing your audience?

JG: Iím very slowly learning about it; Facebook kind of makes sense to me. Most of the people I connect with are on my personal page; I have a musicianís page, but Iím not sure how to connect the two. I recently learned last week, because my Facebook things go out as Twitter posts, I just found out last week that people can write back to me. So I have to figure out how to get it so that when people respond to me it comes into my email so I can respond to them in a timely manner. I love that because I love being able to talk to people because Iím grateful I get to do what I do. And the Web kind of makes sense to me that itís a way to keep in touch with people. Itís a very cool thing, but Iím real slow, I kind of learn sideways. As with music, I kind of headed vaguely towards music and away from everything else, and I kind of lurch sideways into knowledge and to getting a little bit better about stuff.

RC: Since you said that what youíre about, really, rests on the live experience, does much of that come out through the Web?

JG: I donít know, I just think itís a different avenue Ė just to express my general approach to things. My general approach to things is Ė if I write about my own life in a song itís not because I think my life is special, itís because I have more in common with everyone else than more differences; thereís only so many experiences we can have Ė of the big stuff. So theyíre just individual examples of the larger truth.

RC: When you said that part of your job is to become a local favorite all over the country, part of our job, too, is to make you guys feel comfortable, so that we are now friends, and so that weíve now removed a lot of the in-between steps when itís time for you to come back.

JG: Oh yeah, thatís the greatest thing. Thatís what I feel and I love that because I feel like Iím a stranger in a place unless or until thereís one friend Ė in a city or a town Ė and I may not be real close but I feel like thereís a kindred spirit there then itís like Ė OK, this is a good place. And itís not about the place; every place may be great but you may not find the person you can make the connection with. Iím very grateful I get to do this, itís fun Ė itís more fun now than it was in the early parts. So Iím tremendously grateful.

RC: Is there some ambition Ė like, I have to do this, or I have to accomplish this Ö

JG: Well, Iíd like to be able to get my kids through college Ö and pay the health insurance. If I can do those two things Iíll be a happy camper.

RC: What about artistically?

JG: Well for me, I never figured that I was going to be a mainstream person Ö I call myself a folksinger because I love the folk world, I donít know if Iím a folk singer or not but I feel like Iím part of the folk world. Somebody asked me Ė why do you call yourself a folk singer, and I thought Ė well whatís the hardest way to make it in music Ė oh I got it (laughter). But it seems like, I felt like in folk music the songs can be about whatever part of a personís life; it didnít have to fit into any kind of a certain box or any kind of format. Itís possible to do that with other forms of music, Iím sure, but folk music was the first place I found that you could write about your whole life but also whatís inside of you. Like, for instance, I have that ďFlying Red HorseĒ song; people say write about what you know, and I think Ė what you know is just the starting point; itís the place you jump off from. Thatís what I Ö for music, thatís what songwriting is all about; itís about whatís coming in, whatís the next song going to be, whatís that knocking at the door.

RC: You said something in the introduction to that song Ė you said, ďwe didnít include it on the record because of our marketing genius,Ē and I yelled out from the back Ė join the crowd ( he laughs hard) because I feel like thatís a common thing that runs through pretty much everyone who comes to Tales from the Tavern. Itís because the goal is not Ö

JG: If you read Suze Rottoloís book about Greenwich Village in the Ď50s and Ď60s, ďFreewheeliníĒ, itís a great book. One of the things she said was Ė we had something to say, not something to sell. And that sums it up for me. If you donít have something to say you should not have something to sell.

© 2013 Tales from the Tavern


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