For Gary Clark Jr., racism was a part of everyday life growing up in Texas. It’s something he rarely spoke about as he became one of the world’s greatest living guitar players, championed by everyone from Eric Clapton to Barack Obama. But the 2016 election and the subsequent policies of President Donald Trump changed that.
Today, Clark releases “This Land,” a powerful, blues-soaked indictment of modern racism. Clark sings a true story about living on “50 acres with a Model A/Right in the middle of Trump country,” next to a neighbor who “can’t wait to call the police on me.” The chorus is something he’s heard before: “Nigga run, nigga run/Go back where you come from.”
In an upcoming Rolling Stone feature, Clark speaks about the very real experiences behind the song. “I think it’s only right at this point in time, if you have a microphone louder than others, to speak out about that anger,” he said in a conversation that ranged from Colin Kaepernick to the border wall being debated in his home state. “I haven’t been through shit compared to my people. But if I can do anything with my opportunity, and say thank you to Dr. Martin Luther King for sacrificing your life so that I can have a microphone … that’s the least I can do.”
The song is the title track from Clark’s third album, out March 1st, which is full of creative risks, proving he’s a lot more than a blues torchbearer. Clark worked alone with a co-producer and engineer at Austin’s Arlyn Studios studios for months, making an epic LP that spans stripped-down acoustic country blues, Prince-like epics, dub-reggae jams and more. “I wanted every note and lyric to mean something,” says Clark. “There was a lot of trial and error, a lot of experimentation.”
The video for “This Land” was directed by award-winning 25-year-old filmmaker Savanah Leaf, and filmed around Clark’s home in rural Texas, capturing a young boy grappling with haunting symbols of American racism such as the Confederate flag. “I basically just told her where I came from and she made a beautiful short film out of it,” Clark says. “Shout out to her, much love. I hope the video and the song together accomplish acceptance and moving forward — feed the babies, teach the babies to love.”
Clark hits the road on a massive tour beginning March 9th that includes multi-night theater stands in cities like New York, Nashville and Chicago.