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INTERVIEW: Indie-Folk Singer/Songwriter John Goraj

Hi John, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. I have been good, but busy.

Can you talk to us about your song “Birds of Paradise”?

Sure. Birds of Paradise is partially about me getting sober from drug and alcohol issues, and partially about meeting my wife, falling in love and the joy and depth of marriage. A lot of people think that marriage is just a piece of paper, which I don’t agree with all. The first verse describes a person coming home to a whole new environment after being gone for several weeks. “Everything re-arranged, all my bedspreads were changed, the walls painted green…” The verses are literal and metaphorical at the same time because while I was at treatment for drugs and alcohol my mother actually completely re-decorated my room while I was gone for 45 days. She thought an aesthetic change would be good for me. I thought it was kind of crazy that she did that but also endearing. The verses about this also served well metaphorically because spiritually, mentally and emotionally everything was “re-arranged” internally by the time I came back home from treatment.

The second verse imagines what was going in my wife’s life at the same time I was getting sober, before I knew her. It sort of reflects on what kind of internal changes that she may have going through because she also got sober from drugs and alcohol around the same time I did, although we didn’t know that until we met in Los Angeles many years later. That verse is really a celebration of her and the dynamic, beautiful person she is. “ You were new and ripening before I knew you…  oh the lavender blooms, the colors of your heart….”

The final verse is simply us coming together and getting married, and sharing our live with each other in this deep way. I mention the idea of physical human birth and the frailty of it with the lines “We were born from things that tear, we were born in the blink of eyelash..”

“Birds of Paradise” refers to a beautiful South African plant that grows all over in Los Angeles, the plant reminds me of her..

Any plans to release a video for the track?

Yes! There is a lyric video I made with a friend here in Los Angeles. The video features wonderful videography of my dear friend, Matt Burns, who is an actor and artist. The footage is stunning imagery he recorded while he was in Antarctica a few years ago. He was literally on a boat in the Arctic Ocean filming these enormous glaciers, icebergs and sea ice. It’s really incredible and it ended up being perfect for the song. The film will be up in the next couple weeks on Youtube and Vimeo.

The single comes off your new album The Patience of Glaciers – what’s the story behind the title?

The Patience of Glaciers is a line removed from the closing song, “Adventheart.” This song is filled with religious imagery surrounding the Christian seasons of advent and lent- which are both traditionally about waiting for a spiritual culmination, waiting for a God-like figure to change realities with love and joy. But, at the heart of the song is my wife and I’s intense struggle to have a child. That’s what the line about glaciers refers to- via the personification of glaciers. The movement of glaciers takes a long time and we felt like our process was taking forever too. Thankfully, the story ends with huge amounts of joy- we adopted a beautiful boy at birth. He is almost 4 years old now.

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing process was spread over 2 or 3 years. I wasn’t writing much music for awhile after my second album came out. So, it was really just a small handful of songs I wrote over the course of an extended period of time. It was pretty stress-free and not forced or anything likethat. Plus, once our son was born I stayed home with for a long time and wasn’t writing a bunch then either. By the time we moved in California two years ago, I knew I was ready to record. We rented this place that had a really cool studio in the backyard separate from the house. I set up my recording equipment shortly after that and would work on the songs late at night. I would typically record the acoustic guitar parts first, then doubled vocal takes and harmony parts after that. After a few months, my good friend Pete Chalmers came over and played some really special electric guitar on tracks 1, 2, and 3. Then, he also played banjo on “Gitchie,” and pedal steel and mandolin on “White Horse Lake.” His parts brought a whole new depth and beauty to the songs. Lastly, my friend Aaron Frankl played bass guitar on “Birds of Paradise” which was wonderful as well.

What role does LA play in your writing?

I think it plays a pretty big one. I mean, two of the tracks were written in Los Angeles and I have a deep love for the landscape of Southern California and the insanity and beauty of LA. So, I think creative spirit which is so pervasive in LA definitely plays a part in that as well.

What aspects of philosophy and ecology did you get to explore on this record?

Ecologically, there is all sorts of references to the natural world and natural processes on the EP. The birds of paradise plant in “Birds of Paradise” and my love of forest ecosystems talked about in “White Horse Lake,”… “just to capture these mystics shrouded in the conifers.” Also there are mentions of geology in “White Horse Lake,”… “Beneath the escarpment” and “I was in the hinterlands.” Lastly, the line and EP title “The patience of glaciers” refers indirectly to the effects of climate change in our lifetime.

From a philosophy perspective, there are subtle references in the album to my love and appreciation for Kierkegaard, Rilke, and Richard Rohr. All of whom I think devoted their life’s work as being searchers not only for answers but questions too. There is a sense of existentialism on the record without a question and and a growing awareness that life can be lived as with our head in the clouds, as well as deeply rooted in the power of reality.

Any plans to hit the road?

No definitive plans yet. But there are some shows in works. I hope to do some mini-tours this winter and spring throughout the Southwest.

What is happening next in John Goraj’s world?

The biggest thing for me right now is to follow up on the microcosmic vision expressed on The Patience of Glaciers with a fuller, more actualized full-length album. I would love to get to work on this soon and release it a year or so from now.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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