Gary Clark Jr. can command any stage he likes these days. The soulful, surging guitarist will be among the luminous performers taking the Grammy stage in just over two weeks to honor another innovative artist and ax-wielder, Prince, in a Grammy tribute concert, as reported by Jambands on January 9. Gary Clark Jr. has many opportunities to take the 62nd Grammy stage on January 26, and he may leave the stage with an armload of very precious hardware.

Gary Clark Jr. has four Grammy nominations this year for his honest, self-determined musical declaration, “This Land.” The title song has earned nods for Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, Best Music Video, and Best Contemporary Blues Album.

Like everything from this artist, the roots of this song are utterly authentic-- drawn from personal experience. What Clark prizes most as a musician, a performer, a son, a husband, and a father is from the heart and soul. The place where he finds renewal for his own heart and soul lies not far from the first stage he ever took. He described the power of his music and finding peace on January 12’s “CBS Sunday Morning.”

A calling to the stage

Long before winning his 2014 Grammy for “Please Come Home,” from “Blak and Blu,” Gary Clark Jr.

was at home on just about any stage near his Austin, Texas home. He got the guitar he wished for on his 12th birthday, and “from a couple of books,” recalled his mom, Sandy, and Gary Clark, Sr., a car salesman. The riffs from Gary quickly got better and better and developed into something that no book or tutor can teach.

“He's got a gift,” dad soon declared, and by the very next year, Gary Clark Jr.

was playing “school-night” gigs at Austin’s most noteworthy spots. Nonetheless, his mother was often burdened by her own internal questions of “Why do I have my 13-year-old son in a bar?” The answer came decisively—because “that's where he wants to be.”

Headlining festivals like Eric Clapton's Crossroads and Bonnaroo would come only a few years later. Not many 17-year-olds have their own day declared, but Gary Clark Jr.

Day was celebrated for this surging talent before he donned a graduation cap and gown.

Sandy Clark still does the books for her son, and his audience and acclaim keeps growing. His appreciation for his mother’s effort and sacrifice is reflected in the song and music video for “Pearl Cadillac,” which chronicles Clark's first trip on the road. “You put up with a lot-- a lot, a lot, reflects the six-string wonder,” seeing those sacrifices from a father's eyes, now 35.

Clark confesses that he more than cut corners on obedience, despite being raised with a prominent “fear of God” in his home. He earned the name “Hotwire” because he was so clever at waiting for his dad to fall asleep and then cruising in the car “wherever I wanted.” The guitarist can now have any car he wants but makes peace and family life in the country a priority.

Peace beyond property

This Land” powerfully conveys themes that could be conceived as representing the insurmountable and global divides separating humankind today. The language is certainly there, taken straight from any weekend news hour, but the encounter between Gary Clark Jr. and an incredulous neighbor inspired the unflinching anthem.

Shortly after Clark purchased his 50-acre ranch in Kyle, Texas, an unexpected question came from a rural neighbor.

“I’d like to speak to the owner of the house,” says Clark of the request he heard. He responded succinctly: “Dude, you’re talking to me.” The rest, as they say, is history, and perhaps headed for an entry in the Grammy annals.

His parents never shielded him from the expressions of discrimination and hatred which came to his childhood home, but they assured their son that no such slurs “speak to you as a person or to the kind of person you are.”

Music and its message speak every language and heal every hurting heart, and Gary Clark Jr. can attest that music has become “my religion.” “It calms me down, it hypes me up—it’s everything.”

There’s more to Clark’s “everything,” these days, and still the comfort of quiet, crickets, “nature and nothing,” which Clark contrasts with his concert life, one that is “so loud.” He calls his wife, model, Nicole Trunfio, his “backbone.” She was even more lavish in her affectionate labels for her husband in her New Year's social media post, calling him “my guy, my inspiration, my best friend, my love, my everything.

“ The birth of their third child is drawing near, and the new sibling will be welcomed by their son, Zion, and daughter, Gia, along with the exuberant parents.

Raising a family in these turbulent times takes a “peaceful zone” as Clark describes his Texas abode. As an artist, Gary Clark Jr. has already created a lasting legacy, one that his children take pride in and stand by for generations, from the guitarist of his generation. Eric Clapton praises that he hasn't seen “a flow” like Clark displays“ since Jimi (Hendrix). Clark gulps and says, “Pressure!”

“I'm not special,” Clark humbly deflects. Time, history, and his contemporaries may have other ideas.

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