AUSTIN DAZE: How did you get involved with music and why did you start?
GARY CLARK JR.: Basically as a youngster my parents had a ton of records and would play music all the time so I just came up with the Motown stuff, the Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five. I think actually, deep down I wanted to be Tito Jackson. Then I saw a BB King video. I grew up being really involved in music in school and a friend of mine Eve Monsees actually had a guitar around ’95, I think. She lived right down the street from me and I could hear her jamming so that was a big influence. My folks got me a guitar in 96 around Christmas time and from then on me and Eve started going out to blues jams and just kind of just fell into it that way. We started picking up gigs and shows and it kind of just happened from there.
AD: Tell us about your songwriting process.
GC: It’s pretty random. Sometimes I’ll just sit down with a guitar and come up with some sort of little chord structure thing and build the lyrics from that. And sometimes a little poem or something will come to me. It’s pretty simple. I wouldn’t call it songwriting — it’s just little poems or stories, I guess.
AD: What has the journey been like getting your sound out there and what have you found most challenging with the process?
GC: Well, I kind of started off playing straight ahead blues stuff — so I was kind of doing that for awhile. I realized that was not all that I wanted to do. A lot of stuff that I was writing or sitting around playing wasn’t blues stuff. Trying to incorporate that into the foundation of the blues has been the most challenging part — having that go over well. That’s the most challenging thing but it works out, I guess.
I guess I don’t really approach it like trying to get my sound out there. I just kind of do shows and put out records and put them out there and hope people will pick up on them. I haven’t really gotten into the go for it and go make a name for it and jump into — that whole thing. I’m just kind of writing and figuring it out and growing up a little bit and getting that together.
AD: You are young. How old are you?
AD: I’m wondering does it hurt or help to have a regular gig in this town.
GC: Actually that’s been a pretty big deal because we play free shows at the Continental Club every Wednesday and it is a constant and a paycheck, like you said. And I’ve had people come to me — you know, we will have a show somewhere else and there will be a small cover — and they will be like, “I was going to come see you on Friday but I figured I would just come see you for free at the Continental Club on Wednesday”. So that’s kind of an interesting deal — trying to work that one out.
AD: Some folks we know who watch you play on a regular basis told us that you were on fire at the Chuck Berry show last year. What was different or special about that show to you?
GC: What was different and what was special was that the pressure was on to share the stage with Chuck Berry. It was: bring it or go home. So I was really nervous before that show and got out there and started feeling good. The crowd was into it and that was a driving thing — it was inspiring the whole way through. That was the fire. It was insanity. That was one of the most energetic, fun shows ever.
It’s when everything clicks. The guys are grooving and the people are feeling it — it doesn’t get much better than that.
AD: What advice would you give other young musicians just starting out in the business?
GC: I would say don’t rush. Make sure you are doing things for you and your vision and not what other people have in sight for you.
AD: On that note, what is your vision?
GC: It’s pretty broad: to be able to be in this field of music and art and be able to create; to hopefully have people appreciate it and be able to make a living off of it or whatever that may be.
AD: What are your thoughts on Clifford? When we interviewed him three years ago, he told us to watch out for you.
GC: When me and Eve first got into this thing he was like, “Come on. The doors wide open”. We grew up listening to all these people that we admired and he gave us the opportunity to share the stage with these people and talk and share stories. He basically made our dreams come true. We were young kids and here was this guy who was like, “Whatever you want to do. I support you 100%”. He was always, always there supporting us — every single time. I can’t say enough good about him and how much I appreciated him.
AD: Tell us about your new recordings.
GC: It’s kind of a nonstop process. I’m working on a lot of stuff: Solo stuff and kind of soul things–just writing all over the place basically. Just making music. Sitting back and doing a little reflecting on myself and the things that I see and drawing from that. So hopefully with that maybe a record will come in the next year — maybe a couple of them.
AD: How is your reception in other parts of the country?
GC: We haven’t really gone anywhere on our own. We’ve been lucky enough to be Jimmie Vaughan’s support band on a couple of trips on the East Coast and West Coast but that’s about all the traveling that we’ve done. But when we were out there it was a trip as to how people reacted — it wasn’t what we were expecting. People received us really well. Trying to just get the package together and then just go back out there.
AD: What’s next for Gary Clark Jr.?
GC: I’m pretty excited about this October. I’m going to be in an acting gig — a movie — and I’m pretty excited about that. I’m going to be in a John Sayles film. So that’s what I have going. I kind of accidentally fell into this acting thing so I’m going to try and go see if I can hold my own on that for awhile. Besides that, just keep writing music and hopefully get a record out there pretty soon.
AD: I remember reading about you doing a soundtrack for a movie. Did that ever happen?
GC: Oh yeah. I did a soundtrack for a movie called, “Lenexa, 1 mile”. Director Jason Wiles wrote it and it’s a story loosely based on his life. He’s a blues lover and he asked somebody in New York about finding somebody to do a film and this guy said my name and asked if I wanted to do it. I said, “Sure I’ll do it”. I didn’t know how much of a process it was. They are just now getting everything finished and I started doing it in January.
AD: Will you stay around here for the John Sayles thing?
GC: It will be in Alabama. It’s a piece based in the 50s.
AD: Who do you go see in town? What brings you out?
GC: I go check out Warren Hood pretty regularly. I’m a big fan of what he does. Ephraim Owens, Blaze. I like to go watch Barfield jump around and act crazy every now and then at Continental. Blue Monday band, Blue Tuesday band — Derek O’Brian and all those guys. I like to see what happens at Flamingo. I’m pretty much all over the place — I like to see what else is going on.
Also, there is this group I’ve been playing with called The Sophisticates. We’ve been at the Continental the past couple of weeks. Jay Moeller, who plays drums with me, kind of put this thing together. Ephraim Owens will show up every now and then. Anthony Farrell from the Greyhounds and Scott Nelson will play bass or Ronnie James will play bass. We’ll just kind of get together and play funk, soul and we all kind of bring things together from what we do. We kind of just jam out. **