Inspiration can strike at any time. For Gordon Burke, lead singer and songwriter for the Australian band Josh Orange, the band’s latest single was inspired by a waitress who served him at the Miss America Diner in Jersey City.
In 2018, Burke was a tour manager for Thomas Keating, an up-and-coming Australian artist. They were in the states for a tour that included shows in Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York City. They stayed in Jersey City ahead of the show in Manhattan so they could easily take the train and be there in a half hour. The Miss America Diner was on the corner of the street they stayed on and they had breakfast both mornings at the diner.
“It’s the real 50’s kinda diner and we wanted to check it out,” recalled Burke. “When it came to writing lyrics for the song ‘Little Miss America,’ I found myself being reminded of the lady in the diner and the way she interacted with the customers. I couldn’t help feeling like what I was seeing was very important, and that it could have been New York or Dublin, it was the same thing. It was a connection that had very little to do with food or money. I was inspired by her; she was genuine and she was making a small difference to the folks who popped in there everyday.”
“They could have eaten anywhere, but they came to Miss America to see her, to chat with her, to connect with her. The song was inspired by the connection, and the difference we can all make in our daily lives. I finished the lyric in New York after having breakfast in the Jersey City diner. The waitress in the diner very much inspired the lyric. I never got to ask her name.”
Burke began writing the song in Nashville while spending a night in Kris Kristofferson’s old apartment. He had met a friend at Australia Music Week, which features Aussie artists in Nashville, who said the guy that owns the apartment now sometimes rents it out when he is touring.
“It just so happened he was about to go out on a tour and I was able to rent the place for one night,” said Burke. “It’s very close to the main strip. It’s a tiny one bedroom apartment on the third floor of a three story building. The owner has kept it very close to the original style and there are guitars on the wall. I was able to pull one down and just hang out and take it all in. I was going through the lyrics of ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down,’ and looking around the place. I swear Kris wrote that song in the same room I was in while writing ‘Little Miss America.’”
Originally from Dublin, Burke moved to Sydney in 1997 on a one year working holiday visa. He ended up getting a job, then a sponsorship visa, and then joined a band called Oblivia. They signed a worldwide deal with RCA Records, which was then owned by BMG Group.
“We worked very hard for a few years touring Australia, which is a huge country to tour,” explained Burke. “You can sometimes drive nine hours to the next show. I’ve been in a band or involved in music ever since in Sydney.”
Josh Orange released their first album in 2006 and the original lineup is still in place. The band includes Burke (vocals/acoustics/keys) along with Andrew Wass (guitars/vocals), Blaine Munnings (bass), Alex Miller (drums), and Shane McLaughlin (guitars). With the exception of Burke, all of the band members are from Australia.
“We have made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot along the way,” continued Burke. “We have managed to stick together through thick and thin, and we feel we have finally reached the point where it shows completely in our new album. We have matured together, learned to accept each other’s opinions, and we share all credits equally as a band should. We have also learned how to record and get out of the way of a song, something that we are very proud of with the release of the first single, ‘Little Miss America.’”
The band’s fourth album, Midnight Lights, is scheduled for release in August. Josh Orange is hoping to be able to play some shows in America in the future.
Burke describes the essence the band tried to capture with the song and its video. “It’s about the importance of lives and work of everyday people. It might be the guy that serves you coffee in the morning, the truck driver that delivers your parcel, the front-liners who put their lives at risk everyday, or the lady in the diner that takes the time to ask how you are. The song is inspired by the integrity and importance of the small gestures we receive every day from ordinary people who are doing the best they can. The small gestures that make a difference, a simple smile can go a long way on an ordinary day. They very much do make a difference. There are stars all around us. We dedicate this video clip to you, and you know who you are. Thank you.”
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at email@example.com.