An interview with
Published June 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.

Do 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.

What 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.

What 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.

You 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.

Do 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 more?
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 palette.

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