John Gorka 1998 interview by Kate Rice
Photo Jim Mueller
(originally published in The Excuse #5)
me preface this little chat by saying two things. First, I finally took
a tape recorder to an interview. And second, BACKGROUND NOISE! Transcribing
this interview was kind of like playing connect-the-dots through shattered
lenses. After many painstaking hours,
I was finally able to make sense of one of my favorite moments from the
Lyons Folks Festival speaking with singer/songwriter John Gorka. In the
midst of a warm summer evening, perched on a fallen log, he was gracious
enough to share a few words with me, from the meaning behind some of his
songs to his fast food restaurant of choice. Enjoy.
First of all, where are you from, and where are you living?
E: As the song states.
Is this something you plan on coming back for as long as you're asked?
I know that you have a lot of people you hang with that are singing
here. I hear announcements like "John Gorka will be here with his friends
Cliff [Eberhardt] and Patty [Larkin]", so I won't ask you a favorite
songperson. What are some of your favorite songs of the people who are
Yeah, like, "Patty, play that song," or . . .?
Why is that?
Do you think there are any particular performers out there who are terribly
So if they could name a holiday after a singer, who would it have to
be? Who deserves their own holiday? Besides you, of course!
(Exclamation of surprise and admiration). Sorry! I don't mean to totally
fall in love with you -- I promised my boss I wouldn't embarrass him
and ask you to marry me, but, (J.G. laughs) that statement just about
put me over the edge! All the way up to Lyons we had Tom Waits playing,
so I'd have to agree on that! I'm pretty surprised, because Tom has
a very specific style that . . . (Struggles to state contrast) . . .
your music is mellow, and his is not! It's an odd contrast.
Now I'm flustered. What do I ask next? That was the big push over the
edge! I have to say, I am such a fan of yours.
I think the first song I heard was "I Saw A Stranger With Your Hair,"
and I was . . . wow. It was the whole thing -- the way the song was
written, your voice. Your voice is just . . . (Makes facial expression
So now in the article I'll have to write "interviewer rolls eyes and
makes fool of self!"
What is the most heartfelt song you think you've ever written? What
came to you and you put it out there . . .?
Another of my favorites.
I have not yet heard your new record, but I couldn't even pick a favorite
of your albums.
With other artists, I can say "listen to this," but with my friends
I just have to say whatever is out there (of J.G.), buy it!
Another song I wanted to ask you about is "Houses In The Fields." That
came to me one day. I was out driving with my family, and I decided
I don't want to build a house, I want to renovate! That song really
spoke to me. Was it like that for you writing it? Just driving along
and . . . ?
There's a place in Wyoming that is absolutely gorgeous, and they're
putting the hugest housing development with the most obnoxious golf
course! A "we're gonna be elbowing each other getting out of bed" kind
of place. Every time I drive out there, I think of your song.
Have you been to Wyoming touring?
I wish we could do something about that! Lyons has been an opportunity
for me I didn't really expect -- a kind of early Christmas present --
but if you came to play (in Wyoming) I would be the first in line!
(Looking through notebook of questions), "Here's a good one! What is
the strangest thing anyone has ever said to you as a compliment? Or
I guess it could be an insult. You could go either way on that.
(Laughing also), Should I even ask what you replied to that question?
Have you ever been in an interview, or any one on one kind of situation
where the person didn't have a sense of humor? You strike me as a guy,
from listening to your music, who has a sense of humor.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like everything was
just going over people's heads?
Here's a good one. Taco Bell or McDonald's?
You and my boss! That's all I've had to eat this entire trip! Fruit
and Taco Bell!
Let me ask you -- what's the favorite phrase you've ever heard in a
spoke a few more minutes with John, but at this point in our conversation
the Laura Love Band kicked into gear, and their fabulous music made
it impossible for me to lift any more direct quotes from the tape. I
can write, however, that my final question was designed to elicit any
words of wisdom he wanted to send to The Excuse's loyal readers. With
a retiring grin he replied, "I'm from New Jersey." Having come full
circle, I can only add: thanks, John.