Audible’s “Words + Music” initiative combines storytelling with some of the most impactful musicians of our time. And in its latest installment, Deep Soul Lowdown, Texas guitar hero Gary Clark Jr. displays his distinct authenticity as he recounts his journey from being a teenage musical prodigy to following in the footsteps of mentors like Eric Clapton and B.B. King—all while wading through the adversity (and uncertainty) that so many talented Black musicians face.
In Deep Soul Lowdown, written and performed by the Grammy Award-winning guitarist, Clark weaves an intricate tale about perseverance and carving your own path while infusing a musical element that features seven of his most powerful songs, including “When My Train Pulls In,” “Bright Lights,” and the critically-acclaimed “This Land.”
For those wondering if that also includes “The Life” from his 2010 self-titled EP, it sure as hell does. In fact, at one point he details the chaotic circumstances in which that song came to be.
“‘The Life’ was something that I was really going through,” he says, explaining why the lyrics are so vivid. “The partying every single day and every night and parties at the house, and, ‘Here, take this and do that.’ I was young, I was super young and I wanted to write songs. I wanted to express myself, but I can’t really say this over a 1-4-5 in E. But it was something that I really felt like I needed to get out because I also didn’t want to go tell my parents, like, ‘Hey, I think I’m going off the rails.’ Like, it’s too much. I was like, ‘I got this. I’m in control.’”
He continues, “But then every night, it was like, ‘I’m drinking too much Crown Royal and I’m smoking this and somebody gave me that.’ [...] I was really struggling with that and that was one of those things where I was like, ‘I can’t go on like this knowing that I’m just getting by.’”
The 37-year-old gives us another candid glimpse into his musical ascension when he revisits the time that guitar God Eric Clapton invited him to participate in the 2010 Crossroads Festival.
“A while later, I got this letter in the mail. It said, ‘Eric Clapton is officially inviting you to be a part of Crossroads Festival 2010—Toyota Park, Illinois’ and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. What?’” he says. “I realized later that Jimmy [Page] had been pushing for me as well. And, man, it changed my life. It changed everything.”
He then goes on to share how much of a nervous wreck that he was leading up to his performance, and it wasn’t until after he got some reassurance from a surprising source that he realized he was on the right path.
“I was a nervous wreck,” he says. “I was seeing everybody there—Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, just everybody who I looked up to and I was just this new kid, I was the new guy. At the end of the night, we were walking up to get on stage and we’re walking past everybody and B.B. [King] is sitting there. He just kind of grabs my hand and looks up at me, kind of pats me on my hand and I was just like, ‘Wow.’ This big bear claw is kind of like this, ‘Welcome kid.’ I’ll never forget that. It was like, ‘Whoa.’ I felt a part of something. It was really sweet.”
Deep Soul Lowdown is available exclusively on Audible.