I’ve kind of lost track of how many times I’ve chatted with John Gorka. We conversed quite often over the years about his career, and it’s always a great pleasure reconnecting. Seeing the last time was nearly five years ago (in May 2015 to be exact) it was only right that I should dial up his number in Minnesota to catch up on what’s been happening in his life since then. I caught him at home as he was tracking down the source of a hum in his home studio’s speaker system — ironically, just before calling him I, too, was having problems with my cassette recorder, which didn’t seem to be able to catch my voice as I tested the tape levels. When I ran out of time, I made the call hoping silently that it would work … it did, thankfully. I began by saying that his publicist had sent a link so I could listen to his latest album before our chat.

Q: I truly believe, John, that “True In Time” is the best album you’ve ever released.
Gorka: Wow.

Q: It struck me on many levels. A highly emotive album, I found myself moved on more than one occasion, and thank God for “The Body Parts Medley,” because that kind of lightened things up wonderfully.
Gorka: Yeah, you needed something like that in there … and it seemed appropriate for the first time in its silly life.

Q: It was that dry wit and left-of-center humor that really catches your attention, though you did spend a lot of time on the “butt,” I must admit (laughter).
Gorka: (Laughter) I know, it kind of got hijacked — it’s like a kids’ song gone horribly wrong.

Q: Well, I do hope that you end up doing that in your show at Johnson Hall.
Gorka: I’ll give it a go!

Q: Now, you have performed there before, correct?
Gorka: Yes.

Q: And it was probably for one of those shows that I last interviewed you. Now when did ”True In Time” come out, just out of curiosity?
Gorka: It came out in January of 2018 — almost two years ago.

Q: Are you working on something new?
Gorka: Yeah, I’m working on songs … and that’s why I’m cleaning the studio area so I can actually put some things down.

Q: Is your muse friendly, or do you have to throw in a choke hold to get results?
Gorka: Well, I’m going to take care of the songs that are already in existence and take care of myself so that I can actually write new things. That’s kind of been the priority: being more healthy and doing more shows. I have two kids in college, now so making new records is not as big a priority as it used to be. I still love writing songs and I’ve got things in the works — songs keep coming and that’s been a nice thing — but the songs from this record have kept calling me, too, so I don’t want to treat them badly (chuckle) if they’re still calling me to sing.

Q: Right. Do you find that they change over time?
Gorka: They evolve over time, yes. Sometimes there are little things that change, especially when I’m playing by myself, which is most of the time. This record was recorded mostly as an ensemble so that changes songs a little bit, tempos change a little bit, as well. I think of songs as living things and I try to be a good shepherd.

Q: Now, you will be coming to Johnson Hall as a solo act, correct?
Gorka: Yes.

Q: Do you do any touring with an ensemble?
Gorka: I’ve played some with Michael Manring, and I’ve also played with Russ Rentler from the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band (a group that Rentler, Doug Anderson and Gorka formed in 1976) — we’ve done some shows together — but most of the time is by myself.

Q: What can folks expect from your return to Gardiner?
Gorka: It’ll be a mixture of the old and new. I don’t go into the set list; I generally start off with some introductory songs for the people who haven’t seen me before — I’ve been doing that for a few years now. I asked, five or so years ago, how many people had not seen me play live before, and I was surprised at how many hands went up. … I don’t want to treat those people as if they’d been following me. They may have heard my name or heard or bought the records, but not seen a live show — and that’s kind of what I base everything on is the songs in the live show. So, I try to bring them in so that they feel as welcome as the people who’ve come to see me before — I call them ‘the returners,’ so it’s ‘the new people’ and ‘the returners.’

Q: Now, I know that you play guitar, but you also do keyboards, as well. Do you bring both on the road with you when you tour?
Gorka: I have my guitar, but I also ask that they have a piano at the venue where I’ll be performing.

Q: How long have you been doing this?
Gorka: My last job was in May of ’86, so it’s coming up on 34 years, I guess — longer than I hadn’t done it (chuckle), longer than I’ve done anything else.

Q: Did you ever think back then that this career choice would have that kind of legs?
Gorka: No, I didn’t know if it would be possible to do this, but I figured I’d give it a go. Fortunately, things worked out that I was able to do it and people still keep coming … that’s keeping me going.

Q: John, is there anything that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Gorka: Oh, that I’m looking forward to coming back to Maine. People have been so kind to me there. I don’t know if it’s because there are so many people from New Jersey who are living there now or what, but they’ve always make me feel right at home.

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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