Armed with smooth vocals, an Epiphone Casino and the ability to move from smooth, soulful riffs to fiery, gritty lines on a dime, Gary Clark Jr. has solidified his place as blues' golden boy.
Most guitarists got their first taste of Clark's knack for stealing the show from his 2010 performance at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, where he joined Doyle Bramhall II and Sheryl Crow. By the time Crossroads 2013 rolled around, the buzz surrounding Gary Clark Jr. had grown deafening—and the band delivered, once again stealing the show with a high-energy, vibey performance that shone brightly on the festival's already-strong second night.
While selling out bigger venues on each tour and releasing the well-received Blak and Blu in 2012, Gary Clark Jr. has been riding a hype train of epic proportions: Gary Clark Jr., savior of the blues, the next Hendrix or SRV, the chosen one. And he backs it up every night, with the help of fellow Austin guitarist King Zapata, a monster player steeped in traditional blues who takes his own turn stealing the show with each tasteful solo. The group is set to turn heads once again for an even broader audience as the opening act for the red-hot Kings of Leon's 2014 arena tour.
But despite all of the hyperbole and hype, Gary is a soft-spoken guy who's just beginning his journey into tone-chasing, aided by experienced gearhead Zapata, who turned him on to both the Epiphone Casino and Fender Vibro-King that are the bedrock of his tone. I spoke with him after a fuzz-laden soundcheck to talk about his approach to tone, and helped him come to terms with his burgeoning addiction.
"[I need to] try to be a better guitar player before I start putting too many effects on things," he says humbly, then stops and considers his ever-growing pedalboard before adding, "It's so fun though." He talks about taking things backward, to his original pedalboard, but is hard-pressed to choose which new pedals he's willing to part with. "So you are kind of a gear guy, then?" I ask. He smiles, "I just realized that in this moment. Thank you."
Add another one to the ranks.