Gary Clark Jr. Explains True Stories That Inspired "This Land"

Whether it's fear, rage, sadness, joy or love, Gary Clark Jr. doesn't hold anything back on his new album, This Land.

The new record encompasses Clark's life experiences around a variety of musical influences, none of which are more poignant than the album's searing title track that deals unabashedly with the issues around race in America.

As a lifelong resident of Austin, Texas, Clark tells Q104.3's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke that he was, from a very early age, exposed to both the beauty and the ugliness of American culture. Now, to Gary's dismay, his young son has some of the same ugly memories.

"It's a great town; I love it," Gary tells the show of his hometown. "But there were some instances where I found out the hard, rude way about life and race relations in the past."

He continues: "I had a situation in my adult life that came up in front of my kid and I had a confrontation with somebody. At the end of it, my son was asking me, 'What's wrong? Why is he so angry?' I didn't want to explain to him what it was, and why he said things to me that made me feel a certain way. ... I didn't want to have to explain what happened, so I just said, 'Oh, he's angry; he's having a bad day.' I felt insulted and disrespected and threatened in front of my kid."

Gary says that, unfortunately, his experiences aren't unique to African Americans, particularly those living in the South.

People often say they want to get away from the ugly politics of this country, but "This Land" is an explicit statement regarding how politics are too often foisted on minorities. The devolution in political discourse over the past few years has made it hard for Gary to forgive and forget.

So one day in the studio, Gary was in a dower mood with politics on his mind. He was contemplating lyrics for the menacing instrumental that became "This Land," he thought about the incident with his son and then about how much it resembled a scary experience from his own childhood.

"When I was a young guy, maybe 9 years old, I remember these kids pulling up in a truck with a Confederate Flag, screaming the N-word at me. And I'm just a kid."

While the album didn't have to be named after the visceral track, Gary explains that he felt it was too important a statement and too important a time to not embrace it.

"I have the right and the freedom to speak up because of the ones that came before me," he says. "If I don't take this opportunity to shout it out — I'm pissed, I'm angry, we're here; we're not going anywhere. You have to deal with us and everybody else. There are no segregated grave yards that I've ever seen in my life, so what are you going to do? Let's go. It's time to go, people."

Check out the full interview in the video above!

Get all Gary Clark Jr.'s tour dates here.

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Check out the music video for "This Land":

Here's Gary's performance of "Pearl Cadillac" on Saturday Night Live:

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