Gary Clark Jr.: “When I got my guitar, school went out the window. I was practicing all day long, all night long”

Gary Clark Jr.
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Since bursting onto the six-string scene with his trademark blend of blues, soul, funk and R&B, Gary Clark Jr. has gone on to release five albums, win four Grammy awards and cement himself as one of the most formidable electric guitar stars in the industry today. 

Such is the caliber of his playing, it's easy to forget that, once upon a time, Clark Jr. was just like the rest of us – a young, keen guitarist, learning by listening to his favorite records and assimilating the tricks of his heroes into a style of playing that would one day emerge into the fierce sonic force it is today.

It is this backstory that forms the focus of Deep Soul Lowdown. Released today as part of Audible’s Words + Music series, Clark Jr.’s self-narrated audio production recounts his journey from a teenage phenomenon to the genre-bending torchbearer of the blues he is today.

In a Guitar World-exclusive clip taken from the Audible Original, the Grammy-winning titan goes back to where it all began, recalling how he discovered his love for the guitar.

“The guitar for me was something for me that, when I get my hands on it, I’m all in. I don’t know why I felt that way," recalls Clark Jr.

“I would hear these records, like the Van Halen solo on Beat It, you hear something like that, and then hear a Wes Montgomery song, and it’s like, ‘That’s the same instrument? You can express yourself like that? What?!’”

Of his early years as a young aspiring guitar player, Clark Jr. continued, “When I got my guitar, school went out the window. I was practicing all day long, all night long. I mean, I would do my homework in the morning, while I’m eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, in the car.

“I was that kind of student because I was up all night learning how to play Little Wing. I want to learn how to play Born Under A Bad Sign, I want to dial my tone in to sound like Albert King,” he continued. 

“I want to bend my notes like Albert King because I feel that expression. It makes me feel something, so I want to be able to feel that myself.”

Gary Clarke Jr.’s Deep Soul Lowdown is available now.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.