Last year, Eric Clapton found himself with two weeks to kill between a tour finale in L.A. and Jimmie Vaughan’s birthday party in Texas. So he took his band into the studio and began work on his 21st solo album, Old Sock, an amiable, laid-back grab bag of mostly covers, from the killer unreleased JJ Cale song “Angel” to “Goodnight Irene.” “I don’t see myself as a recording artist,” says Clapton, 67. “I’m more of a live guy. In the studio, I get overpressured, fearful, hesitant, all of that. It’s always best when you don’t particularly care if it works or not. You just go in and have fun.”
When you play a solo, you can’t say, “Hey, no one’s expecting Eric Clapton here.” How do you deal with living up to yourself?
Good question. My expectation of myself is greater than anybody’s – I have to live with me, and the work I’ve done is on my shoulder. But does it mean I’ve got to do something I’ve never done before, or play faster? It comes back to how it feels – whether it comes from the heart, or it’s almost channeled, where I get out of the way and let it come through. If I listen and say, “That’s not me, I couldn’t have thought like that,” that’s when I’m most proud.
Guys like B.B. King tour into their eighties – is that your plan?
The bit onstage, that’s easy. If I could do that around my neighborhood, that would be great. You have guys in Texas that play their circuit, and it keeps them alive. But for me, the struggle is the travel. And the only way you can beat that is by throwing so much money at it that you make a loss. So the idea is I’m taking a leaf out of JJ’s book: When I’m 70, I’ll stop. I won’t stop playing or doing one-offs, but I’ll stop touring, I think.
This is an extract. To read the full story, pick up a copy of Rolling Stone Middle East, available at over 200 outlets in the UAE and GCC.