Gary Clark Jr. Gets Real: The Powerful Story Behind His New Album, 'This Land'

(Image credit: Frank Maddocks)

Like most overnight success stories, Gary Clark Jr. is anything but an overnight success. Born and bred in Austin, Texas, he performed for years in relative obscurity before local kingmaker Clifford Antone gave him a regular slot at the famed blues venue that bears his surname. A couple of self-financed and indie releases spread Clark’s name to the blues cognoscenti, but that big break into the mainstream proved elusive. And then in 2010, two seismic events swept the 26-year-old picker into the national spotlight: Eric Clapton asked him to perform at his Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden, and Warner Bros. signed him to a multi-album deal.

All at once, the hype machine cranked into overdrive. Even before the release of Clark’s major-label debut, The Bright Lights EP, critics churned out huzzahs and encomiums heralding the arrival of a new blues superstar, comparing the young guitarist to Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The hoopla could have overwhelmed him, but the laid-back Clark had other things on his mind — like per diems.

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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar World, Guitar Player, MusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.