Gerry Stanek started writing songs when he was eight, and except for a few breaks brought on by the detours of real life, he hasn’t stopped. He’s a product of Cambria County, Pennsylvania, a couple of different small towns and school districts there, thirty miles north of Johnstown—it’s coal mining country, which you might have guessed if you’ve read his books. Today he lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
It’s creative work that Gerry Stanek loves, and the struggles that come with it. That work is an effort that goes toward finding meaning and connection in this life, and it exists in the vast number of songs he’s written, and in the stories he writes about life in the Allegheny Mountains.
Yes, there are lots and lots of songs, and in a manner that’s long overdue, many of them are on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services. Some songs are new, and some are older, but all of them grasp at the larger thing that humans experience—the hurt and the anger, the joy and striving, and the confusion that can take hold of you sometimes, regardless of where you find yourself.
Gerry Stanek teaches writing at North Carolina A&T, and he says, “The real gravity of fiction comes from what happens on the inside of characters. The situations those characters find themselves in—the external conflict that life brings—are just avenues for a writer to find a way back inside, back to the interior, where the humanity lives and breathes and pulses. A writer must find the humanity,” he says, “because that’s what’s interesting.”
For Gerry Stanek, that search moves inward. He says, “Maybe the act of creating is really about self-awareness. It’s good to know yourself, all your worst flaws, the memories that make you happy or sad, and the things that lift you to a higher place. I always like to have a realistic assessment of where I sit in the world at any given moment. The thing I like best is when you use your gifts to connect with something larger than yourself. I’m looking for an answer to some unspoken question when I make up a story or a song, and that search is just the best damn place to be. I know I’m firing on all cylinders in that place, so I’m compelled to just keep going there, to sift through the stuff that lurks in my mind and get it down on paper, somehow.”
Gerry Stanek earned a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from Warren Wilson College in 2018. He’s played thousands of gigs over a lifetime: as a songwriter in New York City, as the bassist with two major label bands, and as the lead singer in Pennsylvania cover bands. He’s played music for five people, and for five thousand, in venues like The Bitter End in New York, and The American Legion in Barnesboro, Pennsylvania.
He is the author of three books.
The BP YouTube page.
Read Gerry Stanek’s blog, Notes from Plattsville.