Petty: Being a person is a challenge


Alexandra Wolfe, Tom Petty Won’t Back Down:

…On the afternoon we meet, he’s sitting on the couch with his dog, Ryder, a golden lab with a red bandana tied around his neck. Alternating between drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, he talks about how he’s gearing up for a reunion tour and new album with his first real band, Mudcrutch. The musician, known for hit songs such as “American Girl” (1976) and “Free Fallin’” (1989), hasn’t been on tour in two years, and it’s a departure from his usual band, the Heartbreakers. But for Mr. Petty, 65, reuniting with Mudcrutch is a kind of homecoming…

“I can’t stand to be bored,” he says. “I don’t cope with it—I’m not the best me I can be when I’m bored.” Over the years, he has immersed himself in his work to get through troubled times in his life.

Since childhood, he has listened to music as a way to escape. Mr. Petty says that his father, an Air Force veteran who worked as an insurance salesman, used to beat and verbally harass him. (His father died in 1999, and they never reconciled.) Going to therapy in the 1990s, he says, helped him to get through the anger and depression from his childhood. “I could really get mad easily, and it wasn’t attractive, and [after therapy] that went away for the most part, and I became somebody different.”

…He says that while the musical side of his life has gone well, “being a person is a challenge, but I think I’m a better one than I used to be.” He suffered through depression in the mid-1990s after divorcing his first wife and then again around 2001 when his close friend George Harrison died.

…When he isn’t working, he likes to listen to music, but he’s finding less time for it. “These days life is really filled with so much information, shovels full of information being thrown at you every second, that you’ve got to kind of decide, ‘I’m going to put up a wall here.’” He has no interest in social media. “I have a life, so I don’t have to invent one on Facebook,” he says.

Mr. Petty prefers old recordings by artists like the late Merle Haggard and the Zombies, ideally on vinyl, to most contemporary music. “Young people’s music…sounds sort of like plastic, compressed, phony music to me,” he says…

At this stage, Mr. Petty says that he isn’t looking to further his career. He just wants to have a good time. “My hope is to carry on with some dignity,” he says. That includes refusing to allow his songs to be used in commercials. “I turn down millions every year,” he says. “I don’t want [the music] to be known for a beer or an orange juice,” he says.

Next month, he will go on tour with Mudcrutch. He isn’t a fan of touring; he doesn’t like having to be in a certain place every day. “I’ve really got other stuff I’d like to do before I’m dead,” he adds, like write and record more music. After a show, he says, he has so much adrenaline that he has to pace around his hotel room for hours to unwind.

Still, he knows he can’t complain. “If you’re not getting some kind of buzz from 20,000 people losing their minds, you’ve got a bad ‘tude,” he says. “Or else something’s just not hooked up.”


  1. One of my favorites musicians. Thanks. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an amazing photo that is…I’d never have guessed it to be him. ☺ Great article.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow. Made my dig deep in my playlist and listen to Don’t Come Around Here No More, Face In the Crowd, and Free Falling – three of my Petty faves! Cool pic. Good read. Thanks, Dave!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Joel. I, too, after seeing this article took a stroll down memory lane. His tunes, for me, are timeless.


      • Timeless, indeed. Just heard Here Comes My Girl – I refuse to call it a classic because I was only 12 when I first heard it. Which songs are some of your faves, Dave?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Free fallin’, Runnin’ Down a Dream, Don’t Back Down and Here Comes My Girl are on my sort list. I remember starting Free Fallin’ blasting out of dorm room windows during the beginning of the school year. Nostalgia drips.

          Liked by 1 person

          • WOW! Me too. I was one of those guys blasting Free Fallin’ out of my dorm window at Syracuse University. Loving this trip down memory lane. Thanks, Dave!!!!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Laughing. What an impact this man has had on those riding along in his era. Although I didn’t have this good fortune:

            “Mr. Petty says that fans often come up to him and tell him they met their spouse while listening to one of his songs. “Glad to be there” is his response. Others say, “Thank you for being the soundtrack to my life.” He’ll respond, “Well, hope it was good—it’s kind of been the soundtrack to my life.”

            Liked by 1 person

        • And add Learning to fly to that list. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. i’ve always loved his unique voice and style.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I didn’t know much about his life, but he sounds down to Earth. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One of my favorites too. Interesting, thanks for the share, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We saw Tom Petty before our first was born, my wife was pregnant at the time and we had to ask the “younger” person near us to smoke his joint “elsewhere”. As you would expect at a Tom Petty show, he graciously complied with the request. More importantly, though, the signature Tom Petty moment, for me, was the 9/11 show that was broadcast nationally where he DEFIANTLY sang “Won’t Back Down”, sending a message to those who would strive to oppress. Tom Petty. Living Legend.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hands down, the best concert I’ve ever been to, 1983? 84? in Gainesville, Florida, Petty’s home town (Go, Gators! 😁)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Gainesville Refugee as well – love Tom. Huge talent, class act, real musician.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m always intrigued by folks who can’t stand to be bored. It seems to say something about one’s relationship with self–being in one’s own, quiet company, being still.

    Liked by 1 person

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