Gary Clark Jr Q&A: “Saviour of the blues? That makes me uncomfortable”

Gary Clark Jr
Gary Clark Jr: kicking off his biggest UK tour yet

Classic Rock’s reviewer liked your current album, The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim, but felt it lacked the raw urgency of your major-label debut, Blak And Blu.

I wouldn’t say that at all. This record is less about wild guitar playing and more about soul music and expression. That’s the difference.

It has a song called Grinder with a lyric about someone who ‘might not be around too long’.

It’s about the fact that at any moment life can be taken away from us when we least expect it. But you do what you can to get along – keep grinding and provide for your folks and make your name proud.

You’re only thirty-two. Isn’t it a bit premature to be singing about death?

I wrote it as my child was about to be born. It made me consider the beginning and the end of life; what I’d leave behind for my boy.

Being relatively young, you’re not too fond of being referred to as ‘the saviour of the blues’.

It definitely makes me feel uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl and Barack Obama are fans of yours. Who are your own heroes?

Going back to the beginning, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan are from my home town [in Texas]. Mike Keller [the Fabulous Thunderbirds], Derek O’Brien, Alan Haynes and Tony Redman [all Austin-based guitarists] were the guys that taught me to play and introduced me to their heroes, who became my own.

Your last London gig was at the Electric Ballroom a few months ago. This time you’re playing Brixton Academy, which is more than five times bigger.

Yeah. And I’m thrilled that the venues continue to grow.

Not many blues artists play arenas. Is there a glass ceiling?

[Laughs] Well if there is one, then I’ll just blow it off.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.