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  • Writer's pictureMary Ann

Thirsty Thursday Featuring John Dorsch

Thank you for chatting with us John! What’s the story behind your album’s title? Initially I wanted to put out an eight to ten song album. During the recording of the songs, I was inspired and continued writing. I settled on a longer album of fifteen original songs. All the songs are diverse and draw widely from different influences and styles. Looking for “the” best title, my wife and I read through all the lyrics for all the songs. We determined my songs were of joy, hope, inspiration and positivity. The theme of elevating spirit or “Elevation” seemed to be weaving its way through the music. The title track, “Elevation” displays instrumentally the dynamic rise and intensity of the melody as it builds then falls. I particularly like the, “Elevation” metaphor and looking at the idea from different perspectives or angles, such as elevating the mood. Other Elevation metaphors in the music are displayed in movement from acoustic to electric guitar. Other examples are slower to faster, softer to harder edge, relaxed to intense, sad to happy, low to high, elevating human spirit to hope and positivity. It is ironic that the theme was apparent after I wrote the songs and not before. The title track was named from an experience Dani has in Peru observing Condor flight in Colca Canyon. As she listens to my song “Elevation” she visualizes the experience in her mind.

Aside from singing do you play any instruments? Thank you for this question! I started out on accordion and trumpet in my high school big band. When I started playing guitar I also played drums in the Smiths Falls Lampliters Drum Corps marching band.

I play several instruments. I have several acoustic and electric guitars. I used all 6 of the guitars pictured on the cover of my new album, "Elevation" on the tracks. For stringed instruments, I used my Manouche Jazz acoustic, resonator acoustic, 2018 Maton 808 TE CGP acoustic, 2018 Gibson J45 acoustic, 1989 Gibson Les Paul Custom, 2013 Custom Fender Telecaster and Ibanez bass. I recorded all musical parts and tracks at home in JDM Studios. I also did the drum kit tracks. My wife Dani sings harmony vocals with me and plays djembe and percussion instruments on the album. My dear friend Paul Johnson performed on bouzouki and mandolin on Save Just One More Life track. I performed all other parts in the music.

Did you have a musical mentor? If so, who was it and how did they influence you?

I played lead guitar in several bar bands over the years. I found myself stagnating and needed to expand musically. I loved Jimmy Page’s acoustic playing and wanted to learn more fingerstyle playing and evolve as a guitarist. Songs like Kansas’ Dust in the Wind and Led Zeppelin’s Going to California, Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, Ramble On and White Summer were inspiring. Songs like these sparked my growth into fingerstyle playing. I started learning by ear and was mostly self-taught. Now guitar tablature and YouTube tutorials are widely available making lessons attainable and affordable.

In 2009, a dear friend Pat Primeau from Deep River, Ontario introduced me to the Great Tommy Emmanuel. I remember seeing a YouTube of Tommy playing his version of Classical Gas for the first time. It was unbelievable and I was riveted. I was completely blown away by his performance, technique and flamboyance. Watching him in other videos, he was by far the most intense and diverse acoustic guitarist I had ever seen. I was immediately drawn to him and further into fingerstyle guitar.

In 2012, I was playing lead guitar in a Gypsy Jazz Band called Gojango playing Django Reinhardt and jazz standards at the time. It was then that I saw Tommy Emmanuel live for the first time in a church in Old Quebec City, Quebec. He was accompanied by Frank Vignolo and Vinny Raniolo in an acoustic “Gypsy Jazz” band format. I was so inspired by Tommy Emmanuel’s playing and meeting him after the show for the first time. He was so humble and such a gentleman. I bought his instructional videos and delved deeply into his intense fingerstyle playing and I have performed many of his songs. His playing touches me on a spiritual level. I have attended two of his guitar camps and have had several conversations with him. His guidance and influence have shaped my playing.

When/Where do you do your best writing? I have learned to have my tools with me or ideas are lost. I use my cell phone frequently to jot down the lyrical ideas that come to me. I find that just about anything that inspires me causes a creation of lyrics or musical ideas. Ironically, my lyrics often have nothing to do with the activity that inspired them. For inspiration, it doesn’t have to be a great musical concert. Inspiration can come from something as simple as a nature walk, a hike on a mountain, a walk on a beach or travel.

My wife and I traveled to Thailand and the last two winters through Ecuador, Mexico and Guatemala. These experiences were life changing for me. Travel experiences are moving and generate a flow of ideas. I find I am waking up with ideas, marinating on them and recording them on the recorder. I am also texting myself lyrics while out and about then compiling them. When I travel, I always have an acoustic guitar with me and my Zoom Zn4 recorder. As soon as I get an idea, I can work through it and record the demo of the part. I end up with a catalogue of parts, melodies and lyrics that I work together when things settle and I return home to my studio.

Was there ever music playing in the kitchen growing up? There was music in my home as far back as I can remember. My mother was Ukrainian Canadian, and I remember her singing to me. My father liked classical music and my mother liked musicals and contemporary music. The home was filled with The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Pavarotti, Bach and Elvis. I remember being very young in the kitchen at my grandmother’s home in Kingston, Ontario. There would be a gathering of several women making homemade perogies, cabbage rolls and singing in Ukrainian listening to accordion music. Accordion was my first instrument.

What is an example of a menu you would prepare if I came over? For sure, I would want you to experience one of my favourites. I hope you would also be a Barbeque Lover like me. I would prepare homemade Mac and Cheese. I have an old fashioned recipe that uses lots of old cheddar, milk, butter, white pepper, flour and elbow macaroni. It is then baked in the oven, covered with a fine bread crumb and parmesan cheese mixture. I sprinkle in some sweet corn niblets for bursts of flavour.

For the main event: my smoked back ribs. I put a special rub on the ribs and smoke them in my smoker real slow for 6 hours. The last hour I slather the ribs with a homemade mop sauce that, I hope, would make any Texan proud. They are “fall off the bone” tender and mouth-watering. Hope you are hungry!

Most memorable meal while touring. Where were you and what did it involve? I was driving down to White Castle Louisiana near New Orleans for a guitar getaway. I stopped to get gas and food in Mobile, Alabama. I did not want to eat any fast food and I was trying to avoid it. I saw a strip of fast food restaurants, but one place stood out. It was not a fancy place. I do not recall the name but there was a parking lot full of cars and a line up out the door. It was small but outback of the diner was a large steel barbeque. A man was loading it with wood and chickens. The aroma of the smoked chicken was unbelievable. My mouth is watering remembering this. This was the first time I ate southern smoked chicken on a bun, coleslaw, corn, and fries. It was a flavour I will never forget.

Where do you shop and name three items that are always in your grocery cart. I love food and eating is one of the great joys of life. I like to go to T & T Asian Grocer. Their fresh vegetables are great, Bok Choy, spinach, fresh ginger and mangoes by the box. I like to make soups and they have everything I need to make a great bone broth soup.

What is your favourite family recipe? My favourite recipe is my mother’s perogy recipe. Perogies are the ultimate comfort food for me. I remember her dictating the recipe to me from memory over the phone while I wrote it down. Lots of old cheese, sautéed onion and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. Her secret recipe for the dough makes the texture of the perogy more noodle like. They are so good. When I make them, I make lots and freeze them. They are served with caramelized bacon bits and onion, melted butter, and of course sour cream.

At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs? I want people to feel my music. Hopefully the listener can relate the themes, moods and situations in my music to their own experiences. Music is moving and has the power to transport the listener to relive feelings instilled in their memories. I hope the listener gathers joy, hope and inspiration from my music and can relate to positivity through hardship.


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