The Simple Philosophy of John Gorka

By Rick Coates
may 4, 2009

Folk troubadour John Gorka has enjoyed international success as a singer/songwriter and returns to Northern Michigan this week. He will appear at the Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay on May 7, continuing his lengthy tour.

“I started this tour 25 years ago and it just keeps going,” chuckles Gorka. “I feel very fortunate to have come into the music industry when I did.”

Gorka won the coveted Kerrville Folk Festivals “New Folk Award” in 1984. He was immediately signed with Minnesota’s up-and-coming Red House Records before landing with Windham Hill a few years later. Gorka has since returned to his roots and is back on Red House with a new CD coming out later this year.

He has toured relentlessly over the past 25 years, averaging 150 shows annually and building a fan following across the country, as well as in Europe, where his tours led him through Italy, Belgium, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland and Germany.


“My music is very lyrically intense so it works best in countries that have an understanding of the English language,” said Gorka. “I am heading to Ireland and Holland in a few weeks. Life is very good for me and I am in a good place right now.

” So exactly what does Gorka mean that “he got in the business at the right time?” “The music industry has changed so much; it is so different and I really believe it’s more difficult today in so many ways. When I got in, there was label support and all of that has changed,” said Gorka. “The ability to record and a make CD in your home has brought so many more to the table. I really think this is a good thing to have more music out there; it is just harder for this younger generation to get established and recognized.”

Gorka is quick to add that he feels that folk music is healthy and in good hands. “While this next generation coming up has it harder than myself and my peers, I feel in many ways they may be more talented than me and others,” said Gorka. “I am very excited by what I hear and amazed that these young players have this connectivity to the roots of folk. There is some great talent out there -- people like Antje Duvekot, Anais Mitchell, and there is Drew Nelson from Michigan -- he is a very talented songwriter as his songs sound like the rest of us feel. His characters are anything but defeated. They are dazed, angry, amazed and climbing”.


So for Gorka, who has built his reputation for creating songs by poetically blending wordplay and perceptiveness of life’s most trivial and complicated moments, he has a simple philosophy when writing songs.

“I get out of their way,” said Gorka. “Songs have their own life. They are like children; you nurture them and see what happens when they grow up.” Gorka turned 50 last year and likes to think his best years are ahead of him.

“I like to think that I am at midlife right now, but you really don’t know until your last breath, and once that happens you go back from there and figure out when you were in midlife,” said Gorka. “I am in a good place now in my life personally and professionally. I am enjoying this more now than I did when I started. I think my fans are enjoying it as well. What I like is that we are both at the shows for the same reason; we meet at these songs that I have written. I like that feeling.”

John Gorka brings a storied career to the Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay on Thursday May 7. Tickets are available at Bahle’s in Suttons Bay, Oryana Food Cooperative in Traverse City, Cedar City Market in Cedar and Kejara’s Bridge in Lake Leelanau and at the door prior to the 8 p.m. concert.

For a sampling of his music and his family’s secret pierogi recipe, check out


This site © 2008 and is the property of The Northern Express and Express Publications.