I did an online interview and chat with Roch Parisien from Galaxy Radio last night from 6-8 Central Time. He asked very informed and interesting questions. I had fun doing it. It is a facebook and internet first for me.

John Gorka in his newsletter (april 22, 2010)






  Thanks everyone, for coming out for this evening's FB Interview with John Gorka! We're ready to start...)
  Hello there
  So John, yesterday on your Facebook profile, you expressed some concern with tackling an interview in this online chat format for the first time...And your info box states: "I've got one foot in the old world and one foot in the new... I'm an immigrant living in the digital world and I don't yet speak the language." So how has it been going so far for you, navigating within the new digital forms of communication; what kinds of surprises and disconnects are you encountering, and surely there must be a new song in there somewhere? ;-)
  I like technology and I love music. Sometimes the first can help with the second and sometimes it gets in the way
  In what way can it get in the way?
  I've been interested in recording at home for quite some time but only recently have I been able to do what I have wanted to do. The problem with modern recording technology is that there are too many choices.
  John, let's take best advantage of our time this evening and jump right into your latest album, "So Dark You See". You've built up such a substantial body of work now...do you tend to always see the latest project as your "best and most interesting" work? Where do place/consider "So Dark You See" in context of what's come before it?
  I try to translate what I'm feeling and what I'm thinking about into sounds and words. Most of the time I just try to get out of the way of the songs. I try to take my cues from where the sparks are coming from. The songs seem to come from a wiser place that way.
  The passage of time appears to be a major theme of this album, across many of the songs. Have you been in a particularly contemplative mood lately on aging and the passage of the years?
  I guess I am at an age where quite a few of my heroes and champions have passed on and now also some of my friends too.
  We're both the same age and so therefore turned 50 not all that long ago...did this hold any kind of major personal significance for you?
  No, I didn't make a big deal of it. I was out playing music at The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and celebrating with friends there. They had a tornado in my honor.
  Nice touch! "Diminishing Winds" is interesting, because it's and older, unfinished song that you completed for the latest album...and yet it's right in there thematically with the rest of it...
  Yes, it's a lot more real to me now than when I started it.
  "Where No Monuments Stand" appears to be a central song on this album for you...?
  I have so many songs now about service people and war. I'm glad to have Mr. Stafford's poem about a place where war did not break out and where no soldier had to go. Maybe if we listened to what the poets and pacifists have to say, maybe we could avoid the next unnecessary war.
  John, you've built a lot of your reputation on contemplative relationship character sketches, but most of your albums feature one song in particular where you vent your spleen, so to speak, and slip the shiv between the ribs of a specific issue of social concern. Would it be fair to say that "Live By the Sword" is this album's "Where the Bottles Break"?
  Yes sir. It's about a latter day example of the darker side of human nature..
  Community with your peers has always seemed important to you John. You've done excellent covers of other people's songs, and many of your peers have covered yours. You always have a coterie of fine guests dropping in on every album...on this latest, the excellent Eliza Gilkyson and Lucy Kaplansky, for example...
  One of my all time favorite things about playing music has been the people I have gotten to meet and sing and record with. I'm working on a record with Lucy and Eliza called "Red Horse". We're doing each others' songs, one of our own and an outside cover.
  Excellent! What's the projection for completing that and having it out?
  We are hoping to have it all mixed and mastered next month and out sometime in the summer.
  Do you find that these kind of collaborations help keep the creative juices flowing for you? And can we ask what the outside cover is?
  What I mean by an outside cover is that we will each record a song that none of us has written. I will do an Eliza song, a Lucy song, one of mine and a song Archie Fisher recorded "Coshieville" by Stewart MacGregor. I'm hoping I spelled SM's name correctly.

Speaking of covers, "The Dutchman", originally by Michael Smith and made popular by Steve Goodman, is the central cover version on your last album... Was it different tacking a song this well known, any concern about bringing something new to it?

  It was a song I'd loved and learned from Mr. Goodman's recording many years ago. It was one of those songs like Townes Van Zant's "Pancho & Lefty" that changed forever the idea of what a song could be. I played in Holland for the first time in 13 or 14 years in October of 2008 and was sitting around playing songs with Willem one of the people who brought me over. He knows a lot about American singer songwriters and I asked him if he knew the song "The Dutchman" by Michael Smith. He said he didn't. I downloaded the lyrics from the internet and played it for him. He was moved by the song and I was moved by him being moved, so I recorded it as soon as I got home and it made it on the record. Michael and I were born in the same hospital in New Jersey so I thought it might be okay if I put his song on a record once again.
  I next want to wind the time machine back a little, but first, lets take a couple of guest questions... P Bryn Benson asks: This music junkie wants to know: When (if ever) do you plan to record your Body Parts Medley? Oh Please?
  I have many live recordings here at home that I have not sorted through. It's possible that there is a good version of that song that could make it on some sort of recording. Thank you for asking about it Bryn.
  Leigh-Ann Pellerin asks: I have a little bit of a personal question for John... I was curious what song he and his wife chose to dance their first dance as a married couple on their wedding day and why? I have seen a still picture somewhere (maybe "the Artists Profile?) of that moment and began to wonder, "what song does someone who makes such beautiful and heartfelt music himself, select to capture the importance of that moment?"
  I think it was "Wild Thing".
  hmm, I think there's a wink that should go with that! ;-) Kathryn McCann asks: John, what song is it that you always come home to. Is there a song that when noodling, or doing a soundcheck that you always comes back to! :) (and who was it EXACTLY you gazed upon that inspired People My Age) LOL!
  How about "What a Wonderful World"? I sing this one too sometimes. My wife does "Wild Thing".

People My Age is a song I perform almost every night whether I want to or not. Sometimes you must sing the truth to the People, whether they want to hear your truth or not.
  Adam McIntyre: John, What is the story behind your latest song 'That was the year" ? my four year old loves it and I wonder what the inspiration was?
  It comes from that first line "That was the year he combed his hair". It popped into my head just like "Edgar the Party Man". It was there and I had to see where it would lead...
  So let's set the controls of our Time Tardis back some...and I apologize in advance for this long preamble: In the late 50s-early 60s, there was a folk boom where well-scrubbed folkies wearing College Letters broke through to the mainstream with their campfire songs. In the mid-late 60s, "The Great Folk Scare" brought acoustic protest music to the forefront. In the early '70s, a lot of West Coast soft rock was more-or-less mildly amplified folk and country. After which "folk music" seemed not to disturb the mainstream for many years/decades until the early 90s, when "The New Folk Movement" made waves, with you (I'm guessing, somewhat reluctantly) pushed to the forefront. What was your reaction to this at the time, and now, in retrospect?
  I wanted to be a part of the world that I discovered on record and live at Godfrey Daniels Coffeehouse. I don't know if what I do is folk music but I want to make music that people find useful. I want them to see themselves in the songs. I was glad that I had the chance to reach a pretty large bunch of people in that bygone time.
  Do you feel that this concentrated burst of attention ended up helping, or hindering your career over the long term? I always wondered if being touted a leader of the "new folk movement" was somewhat your generation's equivalent of "the new Dylan" kiss-of-death of the previous generation...
  I knew the reason I was called that was because I was the only one who didn't mind being called a folksinger. Everybody else who was doing essentially the same thing ran from the "f word".
  In the mid-90s, there seemed to be an attempt to toy with the mainstream country market...thoughts about that strategy in retrospect?
  I thought if I could make the kind of music that was in me, I didn't care about marketing strategy. The country music tv people were open to my music the radio people not so much.
  John, when you started hanging out at eastern Penn club Godfrey Daniels in the late 70s/early 80s, you paid your dues. You served as resident M.C., soundman, listened and learned, began to build relationships, eventually began to open for headlining artists. Do you think some young singer-songwriters today aren't always prepared to put in the work and time? That they expect things to happen too fast? That the easy means of production can make things almost too "easy" in a way?
  I felt very lucky to be able to hang around Godfrey's for so many years. When I was still in college, it was my favorite class. The world is so different now than when I started I can't comment about the new generations' work ethic. I think if people write good songs and do good shows, people will take notice and the world will open up. It also helps if you are not a sociopath. My focus has always been on the songs and the live show. If you can get that going you can maintain your independence from the whims of the marketplace.
  John Lowrance asks: John, can you share some tech stuff? What pickup do you use in your guitars? Is there a favored effect for your voice / guitar? Are you running thru a pre-amp/modeling device? In general how do you get that great sound for your live and recording performances?
  I play a Martin OM-28VR guitar with Highlander pickup system (internal mic and pickup). I play through a D-Tar Solstice pre-amp. For recording I have some very good mics, mic-pres and analog to digital converters. I also work with some very talented recording engineers and producers.
  Like all or at least most artists who have built up your kind of respected body of work, there are songs, often from much earlier in your career, that have become iconic audience favorites. Some artists have a love-hate relationship with these children of theirs. What's your relationship now with songs like "I'm From New Jersey", "I Saw a Stranger With Your Hair", "Houses in the Fields", etc....the songs that people would be disappointed if you didn't play them every concert?
  I'm glad I have those songs. People have told me what those particular songs have meant to them and their interpretations of the songs have made them larger in my imagination than the original idea. That has made them very easy to do every night.
  A "trademark" of yours is your rich, baritone singing voice. What strikes me is that it's quite a contrast from your speaking voice and stage "banter" voice. Did this singing voice come naturally to you, or what is something that you "developed" and honed like an instrument?
  I don't really like my speaking voice too much. The singing and the words to the songs seem to come from a wiser place. It's a place I'd like to live more of the time...
  Wry humor is another Gorka trademark. In the recordings, it can be very subtle and deadpan. Live you get to ham it up a little with facial expressions and whatnot. Fans also love your low-key, self-deprecating between-song banter. Again, does this humor come naturally to you, or was it/is it something that you cultivated and developed? I almost get the sense it might have started early on as a coping mechanism for someone who was basically shy on stage...?
  Yes, I was never all that comfortable being a performer especially early on, but I was drawn to it. I think I worked at the so-called humor to help balance out the seriousness of some of the songs. I like playing live now more than ever.
  Btw, my wife Sylvie has long dreamed of showing up at one of your concerts wearing a wig, and as you complete "Stranger with Your Hair", walk up to the stage and return the hair to you... ;-)
  In a Federal Express outfit.
  I'll remind her of that touch! You mentioned the "wiser place" that your singing and words come from...can you describe for us some of your songwriting process. Are there any consistent trends? Music or lyrics first? Flashes of rapid inspiration where stuff pours out from some mysterious well, this wiser place, or weeks/months of painful assembly and editing? Or all of the above at various times?
  Do you have Federal Express in Canada?
  (Yes to Federal Express!)
  My idea is that the songs can come from anywhere and I just try to open to the signals that a song is knocking at my door. My best time for lyrics is in the morning when I'm not fully awake and am monitoring the thoughts and images that are passing through my mind. Long car rides are also lyrically productive times. I get good musical ideas in the evening often right before a show when I should be thinking about what I'm about to play. I often find myself playing something that I've never played before. The songs can come easy and fast or hard and slow. I try to let them tell me what they are and where they want to do. Otherwise, I risk stunting their growth.
  You released "The Gypsy Life" DVD in 2007....did you view this as some kind of career summation to date? An encapsulation of John Gorka "to this point"?
  I was very glad Mark and the people at AIX were interested in doing that project. It is a bunch of my favorite songs from the first 20 years of recording and I got to do it with some of my favorite musicians and friends. I'm a lucky person...
  So the standard, nearing the end, "what's next for John Gorka?" question...You were just in the studio recording today! What's the inside scoop? What's coming up live and recording-wise for you?
  I was working on the "Red Horse" record this morning. I think you'll be hearing more fretless banjo on one of the songs.
  John Lowrance asks: John, I guess every songwriter likes a cover of his/her work by a big star...but always wondered how you feel when a little local group or some one on u-tube does your work?
  I am very flattered. I'm glad to have the songs out there and if they find a useful place, then I have done my job.
  John: where can people best go online to engage in that ancient ritual of exchanging $$ for John Gorka recordings?
  If they go to the johngorka.com website they can get signed copies of all the in print physical cds. I am also the guy who gets them to the post office, most of the time. They can sign up for my email list there too. I am not very prolific in the production of newsletters but I feel one coming on...
  Thanks to everyone who lurked and/or participated in tonight's Facebook Interview session with John! I've posted a thread at the top of the page where those of you who attended the interview can leave feedback. Remember as well that there are audio and video clips for you to check out further down the page if you'd like to linger a little longer...John, thanks again, and goodnight all!
  You can also go to Redhouserecords.com. They can help you out too and iTunes and Amazon and on...
Good Night and Thank You!