Gary Clark Jr. on why being dubbed “the new Hendrix” was “devastating” for him — “you’re not even giving me a chance”

“My records have been presented as blues, but I’ve never made a traditional blues album.”

Jimi Hendrix and Gary Clark Jr.

Image: Graphic House / Scott Dudelson / Getty Images

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Gary Clark Jr. has opened up about why comparisons to the late Jimi Hendrix early on in his career were “devastating” for him.

The guitarist, whose fourth studio album JPEG RAW arrived last month, tells Guitar Player that being dubbed a “blues guy or a rock-star guitar player” right from the get-go meant that he wasn’t given a chance to be his own person.

“I remember my first tour of Australia and seeing my posters plastered everywhere,” Clark recalls. “It was cool but also devastating, because it was like ‘Gary Clark Jr. – the new Hendrix.’

“I was like, Fuck, man. You’re not even giving me a chance to be anything but a blues guy or a rock-star guitar player. My records have been presented as blues, but I’ve never made a traditional blues album.”

“I’ve always had hip-hop influences and made beats. I’ve always had rock influences. I’ve played all kinds of music since I was a kid,” he adds. “I’ve had trumpets and saxophones and violins and bagpipes, just because I’m interested in music. I don’t care about genre. I like how music makes me feel.”

In related news, Clark has recently spoken about the need for blues to continue evolving as a genre, and the importance of musicians looking forward instead of looking back.

“All the guys that came before me were pioneers in terms of moving it forward,” he told Total Guitar. “Robert Johnson. Muddy Waters. Son House. All these guys put their own flavour into this music and evolved it.”

“We sometimes look at it as this thing to preserve, but the guys who were making it weren’t preserving it. They were trying to push the boundaries,” Clark said. “If you’re trying to do Muddy Waters, that’s some big shoes to fill, and I don’t really want to spend my time trying to be that guy.”

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