When musician Gary Clark Jr. won his first ever Grammy in 2014 for Best Traditional R&B Performance, the first thing he did was thank his lifelong friend Eve Monsees (pronounced Mon-SAY).
“Eve Monsees, I wouldn’t be playing guitar, I wouldn’t be playing music, if it weren’t for her. She took me to my first gig, and it all started from there.” — Gary Clark Jr.
The short documentary Gary and Eve, by Rolling Stone Magazine, delves into their relationship growing up as kids in suburban Texas. Through interviews with both Gary and Eve, as well as Eve’s parents and other notable musical figures in their youth, it shows how Eve’s influence, through teaching Gary guitar and her insistence on immersing themselves in the history of the musical greats who came before them, led him to be more technically disciplined and creatively curious as a musician.
“You know, I really just liked playing, I was more of just…the wailing and all that…and [Eve] really just started to get into the history.” — Gary Clark Jr.
Growing up in Austin, Texas, Gary first met Eve when she showed up as the new kid in his third grade classroom. After discovering she lived just down the street from him, the two became fast friends, bonding in Eve’s parents’ garage over a shared obsession with old black and white reels of legendary blues musicians like T-Bone Walker.
“That was the thing that we shared, that none of our other friends shared, was the music,” says Eve in the documentary.
“He was the brother she never had, I guess you could say. For Gary, it was like she was another sister,” adds Eve’s father, Richard Monsees.
When Monsees received a guitar for her 11th birthday, she started teaching Clark how to play and he soon realized that this was all he wanted to do.
“People asked me, who was your musical influence, who do you look up to? That was her,” says Clark. “I thought it was cool that she could hear a record or whatever and translate it, figure out how to play it. I just was drawn in, I just wanted to be around it all the time. From my window sitting around doing my homework or whatever I’m doing, I’m hearing this, like, I want to go be a part of that. And she let me be a part of it.”
Tracing their rise as a musical duo from winning high school talent competitions to being the youngest performers playing on school nights at 21-and-over clubs, to advancing into separate but equally passionate musical careers, the doc showcases the various ways Eve’s influence continued to resonate in Gary’s life, long after they stopped playing together.
His guitar playing, which has seen him work with musical greats like Eric Clapton, pays tribute to the R&B he grew up listening to, but also works in heavy doses of blues and pure rock n’ roll.
“I thought I was going to be the next Boyz II Men, or something, I didn’t know what I was going to do. Being here in this garage kind of helped change my mind about what I wanted to do with my life. The guitar, the rock n’ roll, it was edgier, it was cooler, it was more rebellious. Like, yeah, I’m going to go do that.” — Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr.’s story shows the importance of mentors to success. A mentor doesn’t always have to be an older figure that has trodden a well-worn path, dispensing words of wisdom. They can be anyone who nurtures the passion within you, who encourages you to harness that energy to drive your dreams forward, and who is capable of bringing out the best in you.
“She understands more about what I’m doing than I do. If it hadn’t been for her mentorship, friendship and support, I don’t think I would be sitting here in this chair.” — Gary Clark Jr.
Whether they are older, younger, or your childhood best friend, the one thing that remains clear is that a mentor can be one of the most fundamental cornerstones to succeeding in life.
Image Credit: garyclarkjr.com
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