When Gary Clark Jr. returns to Austin on Sunday for a three-night run of intimate solo performances at the Paramount, odds are good, his oldest musical homie Eve Monsees will be in the house at least one night.
Childhood friends, Clark and Monsees came up in Austin music scene together, mentored by our city’s godfather of blues, Clifford Antone, who invited them to play his club as Gary and Eve when they were teenagers.
“Any time I get a chance to play back at home I always hit her up and see if she wants to come out,” Clark said on Wednesday.
Now he’s gone one step further. On Thursday, Jameson Irish Whiskey, announced a partnership with Clark centered around the launch of Jameson Music, a new initiative from the Irish whiskey maker. The program will provide ten artists music distribution, live performance opportunities, financial resources and access to established musicians to help develop their careers. Clark is the first national artist to partner with Jameson and he hand-selected artists in New York, L.A. and Austin to support.
Choosing Monsees and her band Eve and the Exiles as the Austin artist was a “no-brainer.”
Artistically, Clark says, Monsees is defined by her authenticity. “She really knows the music. Knows the history of blues, rock ‘n’ roll and kind of educated me when we were growing up,” he said. “She really sticks to it.”
These days Monsees and her husband Mike Buck (who also plays in her band) run Antone’s Records, while Clark is a partner in the new Antone’s nightclub where Eve and the Exiles are a regular act. Earlier this year, Clark found himself standing outside the club on Fifth Street, marveling at the musical paths that unfolded for Gary and Eve, “that two kids, 15 or 16 years ago standing in the front row, just excited to be there, would still be so heavily involved in that scene.”
For the Paramount show, Clark plans to dig into his “low down blues stuff,” unearthing old songs that have fallen out of regular rotation in his live set. “I’m going to do a little throwback set for the Austin folks who have been there from day one,” he said.
Next year, he’ll hit the road for a string of dates with Eric Clapton, who announced a limited 2017 tour in late November. Some fans were surprised to hear Clapton, who’s talked a lot about retirement over the past couple years, would be playing live again, but not Clark. “Nah…I knew he couldn’t sit still,” he said with a laugh.
The Clapton shows are currently only scheduled for New York and L.A. and even if the tour does expand it seems unlikely to hit Austin, but Clark promises “a few shows here and there” next year. Beyond that, he’s “in creative mode.”
“That’s what’s happening for me,” he said. “I’m a mad scientist right now.”