Gary Clark Jr. exploded onto the music scene with incredible force and impact when he delivered an incendiary debut performance of his song "Bright Lights" at Eric Clapton's 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival in June 2010. Boasting a distinguished sound that fuses deep blues influences with classic hip-hop and contemporary soul, Clark is a rocking soul man for a new generation. We caught up with him this week:
We were listening to "Bright Lights" and were wondering if you love New York City, or do you find certain aspects of it cautionary or both? Tell us more about the song.
Both. The song came to me from the overwhelming experience I had in New York for the first couple of times I came up from Texas. There is not much more to say about the song other than bright lights, big city went to my head once or twice while visiting... in good ways and in bad.
How would you describe the past 10 years? From getting a day named after you in Texas to playing with legendary greats like Eric Clapton and Etta James to recently meeting Paul McCartney and Jon Bon Jovi--what has been the most surprising or revelatory about the ride so far?
The past 10 years have been very interesting. It’s strange to describe the feeling but I feel like this has all been something I've thought and dreamed about since I was really young -- I remember being about five years old and thinking I wanted to be a musician. I used to answer "artist or singer or musician" when asked what I wanted to be when I grow up.
In the last 10 years, I have been fortunate enough to do what I wrote on that paper. There have been these great moments but it hasn't always been a breeze. Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival really was a moment last year where I said to myself "Well, I guess I'm doing this guitar playing stuff for real now... you asked for it... breathe... OK... let's do this... go." Meanwhile, earlier that day I got a call from the electric company telling me they were at my house shutting my lights off. Things didn't always work out the way I planned or expected but I guess I've just never wanted to do anything else so I just roll with it, good and bad simultaneously or separately. That being said, over the years I've learned to be very patient and count my blessings. I realized that it takes a great team working with you in this business and I have great people around me. It's been a cool ride and I'm very grateful.
Your Austin friends (the Electric Touch guys in particular) describe you as very chill, very real and very down to earth. They're definitely cheering you on. What excites you most about creating and playing at this juncture of your career?
Cool, I love the Electric Touch guys. I feel the same about them. Well, something that excites me at this point is going out on tour to places we've never been and feeling the love and support from the people. But there's nothing like coming home and getting the nod from the people at home that I love, respect and kick it with. Creatively I'm feeding off of this energy. I'm excited to see what comes from it.
What do you want our viewers and readers to take away from your music?
I want people to take what they want and need from my music. It's all yours. From me to you... really... keep it.
What are some of your other interests outside of music and film?
Outside of music and film, I'm not interested in much. I like to take photos, and if I wasn't a musician, I'm interested in being a camera guy for Cops or National Geographic or something... seriously.
What is something about you people might surprised to know?
Something people might not know about me is that when I'm at home by myself I put on Miles Davis records, pull out my trumpet and play along. I'm terrible, but I love it. I'm pretty sure my neighbors know. So does that still count?
If I were not a musician, I would be a _____________.
guy hanging out with musicians.
What is your favorite thing between two buns?
Where do you like to hang out in New York City when you're not performing?
I like to set up camp downtown. It's easy to move around from there. Lots of interesting things to get into.
Tell us about some of your charitable works.
I've been involved with Clifford Helps Kids which helps to keep music an important part in young peoples’ lives. Recently I was involved in an event benefitting Keep A Child Alive in New York that work to save the lives of children with HIV and AIDS. Great causes to keep young people
Music Unites and Rolling Stone Magazine present the next installment of their ongoing In Tune series, featuring Warner Bros. recording artist Gary Clark Jr., on Wednesday, Dec. 14th at 7PM. The concert is part of Rolling Stone's RS Fest, a new pop-up and event series at New York City's Openhouse Gallery located at 201 Mulberry Street in SoHo.
Check out "Bright Lights" below!