The Hippo


Jun 3, 2020








John Gorka. Courtesy photo.

John Gorka

When: Thursday, March 12, 8 p.m.
Where: Flying Goose Brewpub, 40 Andover Road, New London
Tickets: $25 – call 526-6899

Buried treasure
John Gorka readies a 30-year old ‘new’ album

By Michael Witthaus

The best time to start a new record, jokes John Gorka, is when the trials and tribulations of making the last one are fully faded from memory. As a phone interview to promote a show in New London begins, Gorka said he’s nearing that point. 

“I’m messing with studio equipment, getting it all ready,” he said. “I’ve got several songs. … I’m going to see how they behave once they’re in recorded form — see if they will make friends.”
Gorka spent four years making Bright Side of Down. Released in spring 2014, the disc made plenty of folk Top 10 lists and is well received in concert. It still has traction; his appearances are routinely billed as release celebrations.
His next record will be arriving much sooner — though it’s not exactly new. 
In 1985, a then-unknown Gorka went to Nashville and recorded 10 songs in five days with producer Jim Rooney (Nanci Griffith, John Prine). Top-notch players contributed. Stuart Duncan played fiddle — one of his first sessions. Shawn Colvin and Lucy Kaplansky flew down from NYC on People’s Express to sing backup. 
But when Gorka heard the playback, he quickly decided to shelve the self-financed project. The songs felt rushed and sounded a bit twangy. 
“I thought it was good, but I didn’t know if it represented the way I wanted to be introduced to the world,” he said. “I don’t know exactly why.”
A more leisurely redo in a different studio eventually became his debut album, 1987’s I Know. 
The mothballed Nashville tapes changed hands frequently during the ensuing years, eventually ending up in Gorka’s garage. 
“They sat there for a couple of years and I finally decided I should get them transferred to a more modern digital form,” he recalled. “We started to listen … and it sounded really good.”
After a few days of mixing and tweaking, Gorka decided to finally release the album, three decades later. Tentatively titled Before the Beginning, it should be out by autumn. 
“There are some really good people on it, and I sound different,” he said. “I’ll never sound like that again, so it’s kind of fun.” 
Putting it out gives Gorka room to work on his new songs, or perhaps more correctly, watch them evolve. 
“I try to be open as the sparks start to come ... see how they hold up over time,” he said.
Gorka described a relationship with his music strangely akin to a bachelor and a houseplant.
“I will sometimes work on a song, then set it aside, neglect it intentionally, then come back to it later to see if it has a life to it,” he said. “Then I’ll pursue it some more see if it will hold up to being recorded and also be able to connect with others.”
His area appearance is part of the Flying Goose Concert Series; Gorka has been coming to the brewpub since early in his career. 
“It sounds different from other places that I play; it’s not a bar,” he said. “They have a separate listening room, so I have very much enjoyed playing there. I’m glad people seem to keep coming out.”
The father of two teenagers maintains a family-friendly concert schedule, mainly playing Thursday through Sunday while logging many frequent flier miles. A recent three-week stretch found him in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and the middle of Canada.
“I live near a hub with a lot of direct flights, so it’s not that difficult,” said Gorka. “It’s sometimes challenging if the weather starts to do strange things … but otherwise it works.”
As seen in the March 12, 2015 issue of the Hippo.  

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