The first song on Gary Clark Jr’s new album, “Ain’t Messin Round”, pretty much sets the tone for where he’s at right now. Gary Clark Jr is NOT messing around. He is a blues phenomenon at the ripe age of 28 and, to put it mildly, he is here to kick some serious ass.
It’s really hard to put how good he is into words. He seems like he was born to be a musician, born with a guitar in his hand. It’s in every fiber of his being and he wears it well. He can shred solos that will blow your mind and then play in a way that sounds as if he’s scratching a record on a turntable. Then he sings an R&B burner like “You Saved Me” and all you can think about is how great his voice is. And his lyrics.
Is there anything this man doesn’t do extremely well?
During the interview portion of the evening, which was taped in front of a live audience at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio, we found out that he actually started singing first.
His sister sang in the choir and would bring home all these trophies, which his parents put up in the house. And he wanted to get some trophies for himself. (He also mentioned a brief phase when he and two friends were determined to be the next Boyz II Men. If his career takes off the way we think it will, video of that could be very valuable!)
He fell in love with 90’s hip hop (Snoop and Tupac, specifically), recognizing the samples he heard in his parent’s record collection and bought turntables to be “that guy”. And, of course, there’s Austin. The beloved music city he calls home. He started playing out in blues clubs where he was just 14 years old.
All of these influences can be heard on his new album “Blak and Blu”, because he aimed to “introduce myself fully.”
For someone who puts it all out there on stage, he can come across as rather shy off stage, but rarely was he without a smile on his face. Host Anne Litt, KCRW’s own Southern belle, was able to coax out some charming moments during the interview and got the bluesman to talk about this whirlwind he’s in the middle of.
It’s been an overwhelming year – from performing at the White House with BB King for the President to the release of his major label debut. He seems to be taking it all in. But when he’s playing, he’s so in the moment it’s almost like a challenge to follow him there. Leave everything behind and just get lost in the music.
The session, engineered by the legendary Bob Clearmountain, will be airing on Morning Becomes Eclectic on December 4.
Fun fact: What inspired him to pick up a guitar? Tito’s buzz guitar on the Jackson 5’s cover of “Walk on By” from their album “Live at the Forum”.
Gary Clark Jr Live on KCRW Set List
When My Train Pulls In
Don’t Owe You A Thang
Ain’t Messin’ Round
You Saved Me
If You Love Me Like You Say/3rd Stone from the Sun
Things Are Changin’
If Trouble was Money (Albert Collins) – cover