John Gorka Interview Singer/songwriter looks forward to returning to Slates in Hallowell on Jan. 26, 2009

By Lucky Clark

In the early 1980s, while a college student in Pennsylvania, John Gorka performed at open mic nights at a local coffee house and eventually formed his own group, the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band. The singer/songwriter then hit the road performing up and down the east coast before heading to Texas where he won the famed "New Folk Award" at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival in 1984. Since that time, he's released 10 albums and has received accolades from fans and critics alike for his warm and inviting baritone voice and keen eye for lyrical integrity.

He will be performing in Maine this coming Monday night, Jan. 26, at Slates Restaurant in Hallowell. To that end, he was reached for a phone interview from his home in northeastern Minnesota on Jan. 13.

As the chat began, Gorka was asked how things were going with him as this new year got underway. "Things are alright," he said. "Yeah, I just did a few shows this past weekend, so I'm getting back into performance mode and I'm working on a record. All that kinda stuff."

That's right, his last CD, "Writing in the Margins," was released in 2006, so he's definitely due for a new album. Did he have any idea when it will be coming out?

"I think Summertime," Gorka said. "I think Red House wanted to have it finished far enough in advance so they could get it out to people with all the promotional stuff together."

His contract is officially up with Red House Records, the singer/songwriter explained, but he really enjoys the label's commitment to the artists and their music and has decided to keep working with them for, at least, this next project. It was also learned that he cut his debut album, "I Know," with this acclaimed record company in 1987, did some CDs with Windham Hill Records before returning to the fold of his first label a few years back.

"I'm kinda concentrating on this new record," he said. "I've been working some at home and some in the studio in Minneapolis. I think the last two records were maybe more band-oriented because everybody was playing all at the same time; this (new album) is going to be a little more solo-oriented -- or more guitar centered -- so that's gonna be fun."

Well, seeing that's how he usually performs -- as a solo singer/songwriter/guitarist -- it should be easy to recreate the new material at his shows.

"Yeah," Gorka said. "And I think the songs kinda lend themselves to this (format), too; I still have some more to record and I've put some rough mixes together on a disc and am messing with the order and seeing which performances are actually there and which ones are not."

Doing it this way gives the singer/songwriter the opportunity to fine-tune the material, getting it down pat before doing the final recording.

"Yeah," he said. "And that's what I like about this process: We're not putting a whole lot of pressure on three or four days like the last time. I like the results and all, but a little bit of pressure is a good thing. A lotta pressure is not so good."

Talk turned from the new album to the tour upon which Gorka was about to embark -- the one that's bringing him to Maine this coming Monday night. One wondered if he's ever played at Slates in Hallowell before.

"I have, but this will be the first time since the fire," Gorka said. "And I'm really looking forward to that show." And seeing he's working on a new group of songs, is there any chance that folks coming to that show on Jan. 26 will hear some of that new material he was talking about earlier?

"There will be a coupla things, yeah," he said. "The way the world is now, I would like the record to be the first time they hear a lotta songs because if I do a show live now it's liable to end up on anywhere from YouTube to somewhere on the internet, so I would like to have some songs be new."

Gorka went on to explain about one time, a few years ago, when he tried out a new song at a show in Upper Michigan, a week later it popped up on YouTube. And unauthorized, at that.

"It was my very first time playing it in front of people so it's a little bit scary," the singer/songwriter said. "I guess I could ask somebody to take it down, but things end up everywhere. They get out there."

As the 14 minute chat wound down, one was curious to know if he had anything he wanted to get across to the readers of this "What's Happening" article.

"Well, just that I'm looking forward to coming to the warmer climate of Maine," he said. "I live in Minnesota and it was 22 below (zero degrees) this morning."

Lucky Clark is a music journalist celebrating his 40th year of writing this year. He can be reached at