Just before he was taking the stage at his own show in New York, and a couple of days away from performing with the legendary The Rolling Stones, Larry Heath caught up with a man who’s becoming a bit of a legend himself – Austin’s Gary Clark Jr., who’ll be returning to the country this January for the Big Day Out. They talk guitars, festivals, the Stones and much more…
You are about to perform a very special show in about 48 hours with the Rolling Stones, do you want to talk a little bit about that?
We are in rehearsals right now. I am really excited about it. You are just standing around looking at the rolling stones and they are actually going to let me get up there and play some guitar with them which is great. I really don’t know how to put it in words; I have literally just walked away from rehearsals so I am still fresh from that.
You have had the opportunity to play with so many great artists over the years, it’s great to hear that you still get excited when performing with people at this level. I wish I was there to see the show.
Yeah definitely it would be cool to just watch.
I can imagine you will have the best seat in the house.
Yeah it is going to be a terrific gig.
This year has been crazy for you, you popped down to Australia for three days, you have played every festival you could possibly play, you won the golden corndog award, how have you been keeping up with it all?
I just kept going. I have a had a few days to reflect about it all and this thought keeps coming to my mind where I am like “wow, this is incredible and it is really happening” it has been good. I wish I could tell you this civilised answer but it is real and like a dream come true. I never would have thought that this would happen. The last year has been very surreal for me. The past few days I have caught up on enough sleep not to feel all the way crazy and you kind of realise that this is actually happening.
I got to see you earlier this year at Austin City Limits, what’s it like to actually get to go home and play a show like that to a hometown crowd?
I love being home and it is special to me because you see faces that have been coming to your gigs for years and you see them there in a crowd of 40,000, it really is surreal. There is a lot of love there and they brought me up and accepted me and it just makes you want to get up there and play guitar and sing rock songs to them. It is really nice to be welcomed home and I know my family are there and it is really nice.
Are you going to get time to fly back home over the holiday season?
I have to otherwise my mum is going to kill me.
Obviously next year is going to be kicking off to touring Australia, are you going to Big Day Out?
I am. I keep hearing things about the Big Day Out and I am tired of people talking about it and I’m ready to go out and see it for myself.
You get more than a few days here this time so you might actually get to see something.
That’s what I am looking forward to. The last time I was out in Australia I really enjoyed it but I was kind of bummed that I didn’t get out to mingle and soak it up for what it is. Hopefully I get to meet cool people and see how they live.
Since you were last here you released your latest record Black and Blue and that has been the full length that has exposed you to the world, how have you found the reception to be?
For several months the reception has been really good and the stuff that hasn’t been so good has been funny. I have been trying to narrow myself to being a blues guitarist singer so I threw something’s on the album that aren’t that at all and people have been going “What’s this?” perfect, that’s what is supposed to be happening. I am just putting it all out there; I love to play music whatever it is. If I feel inspired or get an idea, I am going to put it down and put it out. I enjoy when stuff makes people raise their eyebrows a bit. But overall people have been really accepting of it. If people enjoy listening to it I am happy. I was a bit nervous when it first came out but I am in a place that couldn’t be any better.
You have certainly worked hard for it, you have been doing the rounds for such a long time so you couldn’t be more worthy of it.
Now one thing that I commented on when I saw you is how amazing your guitars are, how long have you been playing with the guitars you have been using today?
I have been on them for about 5-6 years now. I am not really easy on them so I play them out until they need work. I had to splurge, I have this 68 Gibson 330 – I had to do it. It was one of those things, I saw it in the store and I had always wanted one for like forever. I play one that when my Red Casino is being worked on, she has had a rough couple of years.
Will that guitar make it down to Australia?
That one will definitely, she is coming with me everywhere.
When you are in the room with the Rolling Stones or someone like that do you ever get a bit of guitar envy?
I have guitar envy all day. These guys have walls of guitars. I have seen these guitars for years and years and years and I come in with mine and I’m like “Yeah I like you but this one belongs to a Rolling Stone”
Gary Clark Jr is playing Big Day Out – http://www.bigdayout.com/
And some sideshows!
19 JAN – FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY
22 JAN – CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE (SOLD OUT!)
Photo Credit: Frank Maddocks