Tom Petty Slams Modern Country As “Bad Rock with a Fiddle”

August 5, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  124 Comments



(UPDATE: Florida Georgia Line’s Response to Tom Petty: “U Think We Care?”)

If it seems like Saving Country Music is running a story every other day about an artist speaking out on the state of country music, it is because we are, and it’s because they are more and more frequently as modern pop country strives to set a lower standard for itself seemingly every day.

Tom Petty is the latest, fielding a slow lob right over the plate in an interview from Rolling Stone reporter Patrick Doyle posted today, and hitting it out of the park. Following up on an anti modern country rant Petty delivered from the stage of the Beacon Theater in New York City, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer said in a story whose subtitle is “Singer also discusses songwriting and criticizes modern country music…”

Well, yeah I mean, I hate to generalize on a whole genre of music, but it does seem to be missing that magic element that it used to have. I’m sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but they’re just not getting the attention that the shittier stuff gets. But that’s the way it always is, isn’t it?

But I hope that kind of swings around back to where it should be. But I don’t really see a George Jones or a Buck Owens or any anything that fresh coming up. I’m sure there must be somebody doing it, but most of that music reminds me of rock in the middle Eighties where it became incredibly generic and relied on videos. I don’t want to rail on about country because I don’t really know much about it, but that’s what it seems like to me.

Petty, whose music has always carried country influences despite being labeled as rock, spent a portion of his set at New York’s Beacon theater explaining his country roots after polishing off a version of The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.” Petty said the country music he listened to was “not like it is today, like bad rock with a fiddle.” Then Petty and The Heartbreakers played Conway Twitty’s “The Image of Me.” It is a song he plays somewhat regularly live, and is included on his Live Anthology Box Set.

***UPDATE (8-10-13)

Along with Florida Georgia Line blowing off Tom Petty’s comments on Twitter, country songwriter and performer Chris Stapleton has also chimed in, penning an open letter to Petty. Stapleton is the former lead singer for the SteelDrivers, and a #1 hit songwriter for artists like Kenny Chesney, George Strait, and Darius Rucker.

Dear Tom Petty,

I think it’s safe to say most modern country artists, including me, would list you as an influence. Your recent comments lead me to believe you see room for improvement in modern country music. I, for one, would like to see you put you money where your mouth is in a tangible way. So, in the interest of making Country music less “s–tty” (your words), I suggest a collaboration. I’m extending an open invitation to you to write songs with me, produce recordings on or with me, or otherwise participate in whatever way you see fit in my little corner of music. In the event that you actually read this and are interested, look me up.

Chris Stapleton

124 Comments to “Tom Petty Slams Modern Country As “Bad Rock with a Fiddle””

  • Hey Tom, I have a title for your new “not-yet-named” album. . . “On-sale: $5.00″, found in the cut-out bin. I used to like ya, Tom, but ya had to open your big mouth. Modern country has more going for it than practically any of the rock music coming out lately . . . and I am a rocker. BTW, I’ve heard several “modern” country bands playing your songs in concert. I guess the royalties aren’t good enough for ya, huh? Perhaps now that you’ve made your opinion known those bands won’t be playing YOUR songs any more.

    • Tom Petty is more country than about anything you’ll hear on modern country radio. To defend pop country against Tom Petty (or, well, anybody) boggles the mind.

      To each his own, I reckon.

      • I am guessing Dave Dudd’s is no more a genuine rock artist thatn Jason Aldean is a country artist, especially if he thinks Petty is irrelevant as a rock artist. Move along and play your Maroon 5 covers, Mr Dudd, I will listen to Petty’s new album.

    • The part about several modern day country acts playing Tom Petty’s songs pretty much makes the whole point. If they were really country bands they wouldn’t be playing rock covers. I watched part of Tim McGraw’s two hour special recently. It was a full half hour before an acoustic guitar found it’s way on stage. And guests like Flo Rida ? (he might not have been there but acts from hip-hop were) Really, what the hell is a rap act doing with a country artist? The line between country and rock has become not only blurred but almost non-existent. Just like Justin Beiber is not rock, some of these people are not country. They are simply what is being packaged and sold as country. They aren’t country.

    • dudd you like this garbage they call country music because as you say your a rocker. You would not know good country music if it ran you over.

    • Wildflowers usually sells for about $300 on vinyl. USED if you can even find it because nobody wants to let go of it if they have it.

      Into the Great Wide Open- $287 on eBay, only copy I can find.

      These are albums recorded by Petty later on in the 90′s! Nearly 20 years into his career. Solo albums. Almost concept albums.

      I found a copy of Damn the Torpedoes with a few pops and a worn out cover for $25 and I was ecstatic. I would have paid $50

      I’m talking about vinyl BTW, it doesn’t seem like you know the difference.

      Chris Stapleton and all the crap artists that record those awful songs, cant press to vinyl because NO ONE WILL BUY IT.

      Because everybody that buys that music, buys the HIT for $1.29 on Itunes and lets the rest of the album, which might have some good songs on it. Drift away into cyberspace.

      So in retrospect, one ticket on the floor of a Heartbreakers show (thats Tom Petty’s band btw, one of the best ever) would cost the same for one person to buy, as 300 or so people to buy one mp3 of Pontoon.

      Do the math and if you find any $5 Petty records PLEASE email me!!

      • “Well, yeah I mean, I hate to generalize on a whole genre of music, but it does seem to be missing that magic element that it used to have. I’m sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but they’re just not getting the attention that the shittier stuff gets. But that’s the way it always is, isn’t it?”. Yep, sorry to say, TOM! Big Buisness chases the BIG DOLLAR…and it seems the “BIG DOLLAR” these days are being spent by kids that think KID ROCK is the George Jones of country music. Anybody who thinks that Tom’s qoute aint 100% true nedds to hurry out to wallyworld and buy Taylor Swifts new Christmas Album. DAMN, I’m glad I didn’t see this post until now…I mighta went on one of those “incoherent thoughts”.

    • Dudd, this might surprise you but REAL artists, country or not, care about more than money.
      Besides, I doubt the royalties from these boy bands make any difference to Tom’s bank account.

    • Why should the royalties play a role in whether he states the truth or not? Most genre’s of music are going through a rough time right now, don’t be so butt-hurt just because you currently pray to the alter of pop-country mediocrity that no longer has that strong element of rhythm and soul. You should be happy he had the stones to say this and hopefully the industry pays some attention to it and stops being lazy with it’s American Idol pop country stars.

    • I don’t agree music is dying. It is mainstream music that is dying. Red dirt country is great. It has dimension and soul, reminds me of the 90′s alternative sound in certain songs. The problem is the modern radio. I had the privilege of being a DJ on a station that would let me play anything, as long as it was censored. I realized the plethora of amazingly good songs that were and still are being made. The radio industry feeds people the idea that they should want to hear the same crap over and over. Honestly, does anybody even like that? The best songs become insanely boring with overexposure. Ever heard of Pavlov? If anyone dissents with me in my opinion of music, you tell me the genre and I will find you something with heart. You just simply assumed that because you didn’t hear it on the radio they don’t make it. Which is entirely not the modern person’s fault. Finally, music as an art form is one of the last viable forms left in modern society.

      How often is original art sold in a big box store? How many people could honestly find a hand-crafted stained glass window in the city they live in? And if they did, how accessible would it be to the average american?

      Music is accessible almost instantly, and in many cases free. It is universally accepted in society, and in most cases encouraged. Good music fills people with intense feelings and happiness and sediments memories and times and places.

      All of us argue about music genres and quality. To each their own. I philosophically feel that humans are the only thing in this universe that can create art. That means something to me about music, does it to you?


    • Hey Dave Dudd (appropriate last name). Tom Petty has more talent in his little finger than any of the so-called country artists of today. Mainstream “country” is and has been for the last 25 years, poorly written, cheaply made, over-produced garbage that panders to the uneducated and revels in it. You won’t find real, quality country music in Nashville anymore. Gotta look elsewhere, like Omaha, Austin, Tucson, etc… The fact that you state that modern “country” music has more going for it shows your ignorance and frankly, your poor taste in music. It’s people like you that will continue to buy and keep trash music like your fabled pop country around. Too bad we can’t outlaw stupid people from buying bad music.

    • Tom is right. Most of it is wannabe hip hop. Most of the guys spend more time on there hair than my mom. It sounds like shit. Its all about marketing and making money. Sorry to all you who like it but I dont see another hank Williams Jr. being popular in the next 10 years.

    • I think these bro country acts have turned Nashville into a big septic tank.

    • Your statement “I am a rocker” explains your affinity for modern country music. Tom Petty is a “musician” that plays rock and has an appreciation for the unmistakably country music of the past that influenced him and many other great music makers of many genres. It’s obvious you have never been a fan of country music. Additionally, I think you don’t quite understand the definition of “rocker”. I believe you, like my 12 YO niece, are a fan of popular music. A “popper” maybe?

  • tom petty has a song about this very topic:

    • well played.

    • Lol! I love this song. It speaks the truth.

    • Before I clicked the link, I was certain what song I was being sent to hear as the example, and by golly, I was right. “Joe” the song that very likely started phones ringing throughout the industry within hours. The day Tom submitted the 2” Masters for his opus Last DJ to his label boss’s for their final approval.
      They no doubt recognized that the actual Shitheel Toms’ voice was portraying were each and every one of the execs sitting around that table. Feet that began tapping as the intro grabbed their attention, swiftly became less evident as the vibrating floor quickly stopped it’s rhythmic vibrating, as one by one their faces began reddening, and ties became constricting about their fake-tan necks!

      While calm as a cucumber, a Cheshire catlike sly grinning face held unblinking, unwavering, eye contact with each and every one of them. There alone, in absolute confidence, because he knows how the game is played, and he was no knee-pad wearing wannabe, he knew his complete creative artistic control within his platinum contract, sat the one amongst very few peers, Mr. Tom Petty.

  • *thumbs up*

    Most modern country singers don’t seem to study what they should know by the time they get on stage. They apparently have never seen ‘Pure Country’ either, for that matter. If they have, they don’t get the point.

    In the past 7-8 years, I’ve actually read and studied more about country music/singers on my own, and I can’t believe how much my tastes have changed. I’ll say though, I at least always had some sort of conscious about how “country” certain songs/singers were. I also don’t have any interest in anything outside of the country world, like most singers do nowadays.

  • Wonder what Petty has to say about Tim McGraw name-dropping him (and countless others) in his previous hit “Southern Voice”? ;)

    • I doubt he has any knowledge of the little shit that buys his shirts and pre-molded cowboy hats in the boys department .

  • Tom Petty gets it. The man knows his music.

  • It is a sad state of affairs when a mainstream rock artist understands and respects the roots of country music better than the so-called country musicians. It’s too bad he hasn’t been exposed to more of the good stuff that’s coming out rather than the generic crap he’s run across, but he’s smart and understands the music business well enough that he said that it’s probably out there and he just hasn’t found it.

    I don’t always like his music, but he strikes me as a sincere guy with a deep love of music and a lot of knowledge about it.

    • “I don’t always like his music, but he strikes me as a sincere guy with a deep love of music and a lot of knowledge about it.”

      Well put.

      Judging by what’s happening in mainstream country now, much of it barely qualifies as music, let alone country (I recall that popular country from 20 years ago sounded largely influenced by artists like the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt; today’s stuff, by comparison, seems to have been rooted in late-’80s pop-metal more than anything). So it doesn’t surprise me that a classic-rock craftsman like Mr. Petty would be so appalled by this stuff.

    • One of the things I like about Petty’s comments is that they represent what likely millions of music fans feel about modern country at the moment. They have a sense that something is wrong. They have a sense there must be something better out there. But they just don’t what it is, or where to look. That is why it is important for all of us to try as best we can to point people in the right direction, let them know that there’s a vibrant movement of artistically-minded performers out there who are trying to find a bigger audience. Petty’s viewpoint is not unique, it might be the majority viewpoint. There may be more people who think like Petty does than fans of modern country. We just have to figure out how to get them connected with the music they want to hear.

      Music is more enjoyable when you share it.

    • I don’t think that it’s that Modern Country artists don’t understand or respect it’s roots. It’s all about the Dollar. I would bet you that most of these artists would surprise you by what kind of Country they really like in private. Some may even play big selling crap with the idea that at some point their success will allow them to do the good stuff and be truly respected amougst their peers..

  • Scott Borchetta anyone?

    • the Scott reference was supposed to be a reply to matt’s TP link…

  • Petty’s been saying this for years , and isn’t piling-on by any means . Anybody wanting to listen to a solid country/country-rock album owes it to themselves to give his Mudcrutch effort a listen .

  • Wow, funny how some people just jump down his back without really listening to what he has to say. I don’t think he’s talking about every modern day country artist, but seriously so much of it has become generic. I grew up on good country music like Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Loretta Lynn, etc. And there are some good ones out there, but seriously, blame yourselves. At just about every country music award show you give Taylor Swift all the awards! This girl can write, but she can’t sing. And her music is generic at best. He’s correct about modern country music – mainstream anyway – the same way he is about 80′s rock. The thing he failed to mention is that it’s just not modern day country that sucks, it’s most current music. Everything is auto tuned and mass produced. And it’s all starting to sound the same. There are like ten bands that sound like Mumford and Sons. You cannot tell a Chris Brown song from a Beiber or Usher song or even Drake or Taio Cruz. And all the women sound the same too. Music is in a sad place and it needs a revolution soon. Maybe if we required our musical talent to actually have musical talent. That would be a good start. Seriously, talent wise, what do Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber and Chris Brown bring to the table? Nothing if you compare them to Joni Mitchell, Elton John and Marvin Gaye. And the latter three used to be the norm in music, but now that kind of talent is the exception.

    • Taylor isn’t winning country awards anymore though. I mean, she still attends the shows but doesn’t win. And that trend will continue unless she changes up her sound on her next record.

      • Don’t I wish “that” were true. Welcome to December, Grace. Country Awards Still Suck hind teet to “TALENT”!

      • Totally agree – and Taylor’s 1989 will show that she should thank the Country Music heavens for getting her where she is b/c the Pop singer isn’t very good…. Of course it will be a huge ‘market’ hit. GMA, all the talk shows for exposure, and probably a few grammys in the Pop category. Bees fans, Iggy’s fans, and Nikki’s fans will not be pleased ;)…

  • Hell, I don’t know where he even heard a fiddle.

  • In my opinion, and I have been listening and playing since the 1970s, modern commercial country music (since about 1980) has been atrocious.
    While some artists can sing and the songs are recorded well, other than Alan Jackson and Dwight Yoakum, I cannot think of a single authentic country artist that gets played on “hot country” radio.
    The writing is particularly vapid. And the production veers to rock’s bombast. Only below-the-radar forms like bluegrass and progressive country offer high quality songs currently. But those forms are scarce on the air waves and basically out of the money. Rockabilly,oldtimey, Cajun, honky tonk, etc., get even less exposure on mass media. It’s a cryin ‘ shame so I believe I’ll write a song about the situation (which will never get on radio). ;)

  • Yet again, the REAL American Badass Tom Petty offers up a nice warm plate of justice.

  • “We need a country Jesus to come and save us all.” Eric Church

    • When Eric Church said that, he was mocking viewpoints like Petty’s.

  • Modern country isn’t country at all, pop with a cowboy hat. If you’re a country fan then you’re aware of a tune called ” murder on music row” listen to that song and you’ll know what I mean.

  • “Perhaps now that you’ve made your opinion known those bands won’t be playing YOUR songs any more.”

    LOL, as if Tom would care.

    Fitting last name. Love it.

    • “…there was plenty of time to wonder at the impossible number of fucks that Petty does not give. You know all that dark matter scientists can’t find even though it makes up most of the mass of the universe? It’s nothing but those fucks.”

      -from a Village Voice article on TP & the Heartbreakers from back in May

  • Someone needs to bring to Tom’s attention the outstanding, authentic country music that is currently coming out of Austin. Nashville is where the problem lies with this modern pop country mess. The Big Machine Records of the world are doing all they can (and very successfully I might add) to destroy the genre in the mainstream.

    • I suspect he knows about Austin and similar scenes (it is not all Austin), but is talking about mainstream radio “country.” Petty strikes me as someone who pays attention. The problem is not Petty knowing, but those who are hungry for more but don’t know where to look.

      • In my opinion, Austin has reached the level of Nashville in terms of authentic country music.

        • Why do you say that?

          I see some faux Texas country music types/wannabees (e.g. Kevin Fowler), but I still hear a lot of great country and, for that matter, country rock, music coming from Austin.

          Not every new artist is necessarily going to be Gary P. Nunn or Jerry Jeff, but I think there is some fine, authentic talent in Austin.

          I am asking why you say this because I want to know what you see (perhaps from a better vantage point than I have here in Tn).

          I have regarded Austin as out last best hope for country music.

          But I will concede that Austin City Limits is a little too effete for me and seldom worth watching.

    • Amen and AAAAAmen! Texas and red-dirt music is where the real music is now days. There are a few sellouts and those with a pop sound but for my money it’s Austin not Vietnashville.

  • I’ve enjoyed Petty’s music since the refugee days. His points are well taken. Like many have said he needs some exposure to stuff coming out of Texas and the independent stuff coming out of Nashville.

    • Yessir – some of the indi Nashville artists have real talent. There are some fine songwriters there too. I think many are realizing Texas is the place to be. I know Chris Knight is from Kentucky and did a lot of work in Nashville but is considered by many to be part of the Texas music scene. There is some good new stuff out there. Unfortunately most modern / soulless Nashville country is written for kids / teens, Yankee city folk and uneducated, divorced house wives. Though I’m sure some are offended – no offense meant. Just calls it like I sees it.

  • i agree with Petty 100%. Most country today is generic pop with either a slide guitar or a fiddle to remind the listener “oh, hey…see, i am country…there’s a fiddle sound in the middle of the song”.

    By far the most annoying part of modern country is the over extension of the country twang in the voices…as if the song is more country if you sound like a warbling idiot. so sad.

    • I like twang in the voice, but only the real thing. No one seems to have the real, authentic southern drawl/Texas drawl/Appalachian accent anymore. Lifelong exposure to mass media began to eradicate it in at least their parents’ generarion, so now they can’t even pick it up a little from their parents, to counteract their own exposure to the fairly homogenous teevee accent.

      Can you imagine people these days having the strong accents of, for instance, George Jones (Texas), Hank Williams Sr (Alabama) Tammy Wynette (Mississippi), Loretta Lynn (Kentucky) even as recent as Tanya Tucker (Oklahoma)? Or the wonderful, interesting, and strong and distinctive accents of the bluegrass singers? There may be a few people living in rural isolation who still have the accents, but really, no one’s that isolated anymore, and if they are, they’re not in the country music business, assuming it would have them.

      I miss the accents, and the regional differences in experience that the country music founders brought to the music. And hardly any of them would have felt insincere or uncomfortable singing gospel-most of them did sing it, at least once or twice. No matter how messed up their personal lives, they could still truly believe.

      • Sounds like you need a heapin helpin of good Ol Texas music. Plenty of Southern Accents (wasn’t that a Tom Petty album and song?) and fun to be had by all!

  • Peter Cooper wrote a response to Petty here:

    “I’m not arguing that the latest hick-hop single that vainly attempts to rhyme “hottie” and “body” is equal to the best works of Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams or Kevin Bacon. I’m just saying that defining country music by whatever’s playing on the radio at the moment is both maddening and ridiculous.”

    • I love Peter Cooper, and love his writing. But on this point, I disagree.

      Music Row and the rest of the country music industry are doing everything they can to eliminate choice from the marketplace and blind consumers to the fact that they have an alternative. It is not the consumer’s fault if they don’t know country music beyond the radio, because why would they? Where are they offered a choice, a guidepost to let them know that there’s something better out there? I understand that Peter Cooper is wanting more distinction made in Petty’s comments, but even Petty said:

      “I’m sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but they’re just not getting the attention that the shittier stuff gets.”

      • Interesting comment to Cooper’s article

        “And Peter, not all of us have the time or the money to suss it out for ourselves, so we give up trying and listen to country music from 20 years ago. That’s a lose-lose situation for both fans and the industry.”

        I never really thought of it that way, but it takes some level of commitment to discover “underground” country acts, especially for older people who don’t like to go to dingy clubs or surf the web.

        • It is never fair to blame anyone for listening to popular music, because it is so hard to know where the alternatives are, or that there are any alternatives. You turn on the radio, you watch TV, you walk into a grocery store, and all you hear is popular music. You can’t escape it. And sometimes it takes a very personal one-on-one interaction for a consumer to understand there is a completely different world of music out there.

          At the same time, let’s not completely discount ALL mainstream music. There are some positive exceptions, and when it comes to some of the women artists in country music right now, you can make the case it is getting better. But those women are fighting an uphill battle.

    • I’m not sure what Cooper’s point is or why he’s taking exception with Petty’s comments. Petty said he’s sure there is better country music being played somewhere but it’s not mainstream. Cooper basically just agrees with him and says to to turn the radio off and seek out real country music somewhere else.

  • I remember him saying this in the ‘Running Down a Dream’ documentary. If you’ve never seen that, it’s terrific!

  • If you want decent country, you have to go to your Corb Lund or your Tim Hus. They are getting it done.

  • The point is, most new country music stinks. And, sadly, most new rock stinks as well. The music industry as a whole has a problem, that is why I rejoice when I finally find something worth listening to!

  • Petty tweeted a while back that he was a fan of Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern,” so I think he pays attention at least to Americana-type stuff. I think he’s just saying that the mainstream doesn’t offer much, which is hard to disagree with. Musgraves, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Gary Allan, Miranda Lambert and occasionally Eric Church are the only current mainstream country artists that I can think of who deserve any respect.

  • what’s ironic is that most of the music today doesn’t even have a fiddle in it…

  • Goose Creek Symphony

  • Tom Petty so eloquently stated what I have been feeling for years!

  • Tom has always been outspoken and honest and, once again, he is right on the money. I have a great chapter on him in my new book ‘It Rocked! (Recollections of a reclusive rock critic)’ on

  • I’m in agreement with Petty. In fact, I wrote something to similar effect just last night. Where are the Johnny Cashes, the Hank Williamses, the Buck Owenses? Thank God Willie’s still playing. There are very few new country artists who have that same rootsy feel. The lyrics are tired and predictable – almost laughable at times and the music is generic. But Tom Petty put it better than I ever could!

  • country music is just changing to find a new crowd, most people didnt like sad depressed cry in your beer music like old country is

    • Yeah. Most people didn’t like Hank Williams.

    • Most people didn’t like country music then. When you change your music to appeal to the masses, its called pop. There’s no difference between Eric Church and Jessica Simpson.

  • Hard to disagree with what he has to say, but by the same token, this is a very superficial comment by Petty. Agree with everyone that says he needs to delve a bit deeper into finding artists that are doing it right.

    I suspect, however, that like most of us who are not impressed with the latest crop of so-called “country”, this is a visceral reaction.

    • I think Petty notated himself that it was superficial and he wasn’t an expert on country. At the same time he spoke from the heart, and touched on something many country fans who ARE very knowledgeable about what’s going on in the genre feel. His statement was real and honest, and this is rare coming from a celebrity.

      • True enough, I suppose. Petty’s one of those artists that can weigh in on things and not get dog piled on by the media, for the most part. He’s paid his dues, there’s no doubting that, and his opinion does carry some weight.

        The only way he could have topped this would be to say, “somewhere, Hank Sr. is weeping….in his beer!”.

  • Without a doubt, I miss country music of years ago. Thank goodness for my digital music. I can listen to Bob Wills, George Strait, Vern Gosdin and many others all day long with some Tom Petty and Led Zeppelin mixed in. I have no idea about mainstream county music these days. If I want to listen to up to date stuff, I listen to Texas Red Dirt music. Texas Red Dirt is not necessarily all traditional county music, there are definitely rock and blues influences. But, Texas Red Dirt is comprised of a group of artists that decided they wanted to do music their way and not the Nashville way. You will hear songs with subject matter other than riding on tractors and in pickup trucks or drinking at pasture parties.

  • I Tom Petty and Rodney Cromwell are both right. I’ve always mixed in Petty as well as Springsteen, Neil Young, etc into my country. I find myself listening to Americana, altcountry, bluegrass a lot these days. CMT Pure The Edge has some good stuff on it, SXM’s Outlaw Country and Bluegrass Junction are enjoyable as well. I don’t hate all the new mainstream music Kacey Musgraves is good, Ashley Monroe is good. I find the male vocalists lacking. I think it was Vince Gill once said ‘Good music is out there, but you have to work to find it.’

  • I agree Trigger! Considering the fact that these boys are probably (poorly) playing riffs of Tom Petty songs in their stuff, and I am sure subconsciously incorporating elements he pioneered, this is music blasphemy! At least be polite in your response to a music legend who paved the way for you . . . geez

  • If you want traditional country, look up James “Slim” Hand.

  • The music is just a reflection of society. An emotionless drive for money.

  • Mr. Petty could not have said it better. Mainstream Country music is in perhaps the worst rut it has ever been in. Beer + Truck + Girl + = a country song?? Hell No! match that with a market full of no talent preppy fruits with cowboy hats and half assed rock musicians and there is our problem! And thats just the tip of the iceberg, don’t get me started on the New Women of Country or the morons that think Aldean and company are the Outlaws of Country music. Perhaps radio should add some Dale Watson, Hank 3, Jamey Johnson, Wayne Hancock, Derailers, etc to the rotation and let the listeners decide what COUNTRY is.

    • I do as an internet broadcaster for over 5 years and listener 5 years before that.

    • Hank 3 on the radio? Most of the preppy teenage girls that make up a large portion of country listeners would flip their shit if that ever happened. I’d be ecstatic though…

  • Money is to Art as oil is to water. Back in the day, country music wasn’t targeted to “teenyboppers”, the songs were mostly life stories intended for an adult ear. When the bean counters decided they could make more by pandering to the youngsters, who buy more music than adults, roots, history, and soul went out the window. I personally haven’t minded a blending of styles ala Restless Heart, Foster and Lloyd, Earl Thomas Connally, Marshall Tucker, The Eagles, Etc. The difference to me is they actually wrote great songs, and recorded them with a sincerity that is lacking today. BTW, ever notice how similar Jimmie Rogers and Robert Johnson recordings sound? Food for thought….

  • When I’m looking for the latest country music, I always end up in one spot – 103.1 WIRK. I was even lucky enough to catch up with Keith Van Allen in the streets and got free ‘Rib Round Up’ tickets. Just one of the many events that keep me tuned into

  • If he wanted to make a good country song, why would he do it with Stapleton? That’s like trying to make a good rock song with Fall Out Boy.

  • If farmers, ranchers, and legitimate country folk can’t relate to it, it’s not country. Just because you sing about a dirt road or a big green tractor doesn’t mean it’s a country song. These meatballs sing about country life, but anyone who’s lived that life knows they’re full of shit. Guys like corb Lund and Hayes karll need to be in heavy rotation on country radio. Maybe that can start to repair the damage.

  • Dear Chris Stapleton ,

    When you forget how to write a 1# Hit Walmart special , and learn to write a real god damn Country tune like say Sturgill Simpson who doesn`t have a 1# Hit (yet) …….then you can brag.

  • You can say what ya want about Stapleton’s writing for the Nashville crowd. I wasn’t a fan of Chesney’s “Never Wanted Nothing More, or Rucker’s “Comeback Song”, but the work he did with the Steeledrivers was great. From what I have heard from his new solo CD has been pretty good too, and hopefully a great soulful country album comes from it. Lets not forget that even everyone’s hero, Jamey Johnson, had a hand in Honky Tonk Badonkadonk. I think a collaborative effort between Petty and Stapleton would be pretty good.

  • Triggerman, It’s Funny how Tom Petty, Who i guess you could call a “classic Rocker” gets it. He has it partly right i think. Mainstream country does sound like bad rock with a fiddle but i think its also modern country taking in or claiming some old rock songs AS country simplly because x number of years has passed. Eagles, Skynyrd, etc. For example, Sweet home Alabama has been outright stolen and claimed as a country song. But it was performed by a southern rock band. If skynyrd is a “country” band, play “That Smell” or “Needle And The Spoon” but quit the picking and choosing. Is the artist country or no? If it is why not claim it at the time of its release and not wait for decades to pass? Some of the Eagles songs i can understand the reasoning . But others I can’t wrap my head around. Two or three months ago, my wife wanted to know who Danzig is. I did a search on Bing to find the video to “Mother” to show her.Among the usual search results was one that royally pissed me off. The video to “Mother ’93″ was on the TMC website! Ithink they’re so busy trying to reinvent the wheel they forgot what the damn thing is supposed to look like in the first place.

  • So let me get this straight, Chris Stapleton, who is from East Kentucky and grew up listening to the likes of Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, and Dwight Yoakam, for the first time just heard (via Tom Petty) that there are some folks out there that think Country music of today, sucks? Chris Stapleton thinks that songs such as, Pontoon, Cruise, Boys Round Here, hold up to the likes of, Difference Between Whiskey and You,and, If It Hadn’t Been For Love? Chris Stapleton who was the lead singer of one of the best Bluegrass bands in the last 10 years, doesn’t realize the reason he’s not recognized as one of the most powerful voices in Country music, is because radio panders to such acts as Jason Aldean, Lee Brice, Florida/Georgia Line? And, he thinks the way to improve Country music is for he and Tom Petty to co-write/co-produce a project of some sort? I’m a huge Stapleton fan, but he lost a few credibility points in my book.

  • Petty gets it! Today’s popular country lacks authenticity and he’s stating what’s on the minds of country music fans who know it. I played a club yesterday and stopped and talked with a couple who said they had seen my show before and drove there just to us play again. Our conversation was about how RADIO Country isn’t real country music and all the greats of country are gone. This coming from engaging country music fans who are looking for real musicians, singers that can sing with character in their voice without the need for pitch correction or Pro Tools to fix the bad spots. The same thing that happened to rock in the 80′s is happening to country today. The record machine aka Nashville, is in control. The same dozen players play on ALL Nashville hits and it’s done a certain way, their way. The goal is no longer to write well crafted lyrics, intelligent creative melody lines with interesting textures, it’s all about the dollar. This is what happens when you take the creative energy away from the people and put it in the hands of the elitist who provide it to the masses.

  • My only question is, why doesn’t Tom Petty know who the artists are that are doing country well? Pokey LaFarge and Dale Watson were recently on David Letterman, there is a Sirius Outlaw Country Radio, and say what you want about Shooter Jennings but he has at least reached out to Indie Country Artists. Don’t get me wrong, I like Tom Petty and has fought the good fight for many years, but his comments proved him to be out of touch. Its not hard to find em, it just takes more effort these days.

  • ” I DON’T WANT TO RAIL ON ABOUT COUNTRY BECAUSE I DON”T KNOW MUCH ABOUT IT, but that’s what it seems like to me.”

    So we’re going to take Tom’s word about something he, by his own admission, knows little about? Good, glad we’re engaging in some critical thinking here. :P Tom’s pushing 70, past accomplishments be damned, why would anyone care what a 70 year old man thinks about current music? He’s so divorced from the matter at hand it’s not funny. And let’s not forget that he himself benefited from the 80′s video thing.

    If you’re tired of the current crop of radio music, and you’re complaining about it, why are you still listening to it? All one needs to do is fire up Pandora (or preferably type in the name of an artist, you like, and it’ll find you another 8 artists that have a similar sound. In the time you spent typing out your post here, you could have found out about some great new artists that have a sound you like.

    There’s no excuse in this day an age for listening to music you don’t like when there’s probably never been MORE choice of what to listen to if you just take a few minutes and check things out. There’s plenty of great old school type country out there, it’s just that now it’s called “americana” or “alt-country.” Blame marketing for the title change.

    • Tom Petty knows more about country music than you ever will. He was to “soften” his remarks by saying he does not know much about it. He is a southern boy who grew up listening to country music that you probably have never heard. And, by the way, he is 63-years-old. Get your facts straight!

      • Does he? Do I know you? Do you know that I’m a country artist myself who’s studied the music for a long time, listened to it, played a lot of the great classics myself as well as newer music? Do you still want to make that argument and continue putting your foot in your mouth in light of that?

        Regardless of Tom’s real age, older guys almost never like newer music. It’s always a case of “Well, back in my day, things were better” blah blah blah. And that’s fine. He doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone. I like Tom’s music, I’m a fan, but he needs to keep his misinformed opinions to himself. I didn’t give hip hop a chance for years because I had a music teacher who always said it was garbage. Come to find out I’d been missing out on a lot of good music because I was taking his opinion as gospel. Think about all the people who will hear Tom’s words and probably never give country music in any era a chance because of it. Regardless of whether you agree with him or not, can you see how what he’s saying is bad for the genre as a whole?

        • Most of the country I’ve heard sounds like really bad 80s glam rock, right down to the cliched guitar solos. Now I’m a fan of a lot of different kinds of music, but the last decade or so all of the music on the radio sounds the same, whatever the genre. I don’t think the problem is unique to country music.
          I’m in my mid 40s and my parents listened to mainly folk, country and early rock and roll, so I know what classic country sounded like. The Eagles were more country than most modern country acts are. Even videos for many of these acts could have been made by bad glam rock acts of the 80s, right down to the drinking till you pass out and loose women in tight jeans. The only thing missing is the hair spray.

  • Stapleton’s resume is impressive, but his solution is funny. Please see my open letter to Tiger Woods below.


    Since my golf game sucks, please come play a round with me.

  • Tom Petty better stand his ground and not agree to appear with these crappy pop artists. Why now are they just reacting to this, anyway? This is not the first time Tom Petty has ripped on shitty pop-country music.

    • Exactly! like in this video on his collaboration with Johnny Cash. in which he also stated that the current popular ‘country’ groups are bad rock with a fiddle

  • Anyone who has been in the music industry for almost 40 years has my respect. Tom Petty is one of the most talented artists in history. A true musician who can write, compose and execute his own music. Far and few between these days. There is much more to music than a pretty face and a good voice.

  • Tom Petty wont win any friends by saying this, no matter how correct it is. The top of the bands at the top of the “Country” charts are just as bad as the top of the “Pop” charts, or “Alternative”, etc. It doesn’t matter if it is “The Band Perry” or “Alecia Keys” — It is sh*t. Marketing sells CD’s but it doesn’t make good music. There are a thousand major label turds for each indie DIY gem.

  • “Country” music nowadays is sad. Its nothing more than shit with references to rednecks, back woods, dirt roads, sweet tea, 4×4′s, muddy tires, pickup trucks, and lots of claims of being “country”. Its horrible. Jason Aldean is the poster child for this new genre of music I call trash. I’m glad someone with some pull finally called out the posers that claim to be country musicians.

  • Tom Petty is absolutely RIGHT! Petty (who I”ve always been a huge fan ofis more country than any of this garbage put out now.I hope that he would never lower himself to work with Fla/Geo Line. They are the epitome of what’s wrong with country music today. It had become “cool” to go country.These artists, if that’s what you want to cal them have no life experiences. And you can hear it in their digital voices. There’s no soul there. All I can say is…You don’t “go” country, you either always have been or never will be. I’m looking at you Kid Rock, Colt Ford., Low Cash Cowboys….

  • I agree 100% with Tom Petty.

    I was a young kid growing up in the early to mid 80′s (about 5 years old) my mother listened to groups like the Beatles and Abba. I gotta say from a young age I hated that music and still do, but during the summer months my mother would send me to stay with my relatives in the country, this is where I first herd artists like Jones, Haggard, Tillis, Hank SR, Lynn and Waylon Jennings to name a few and was introduced to new artists like Strait, Skaggs, Yoakum, Travis and Keith Whitley.

    What I really liked was the artists didn’t scream out the words, they stood there and sang often times with very little flash and flare and it was about the music and paying tribute to the history as well as real life experience’s.

    To me what really made country music great was hearing the crying of the steel guitar, I love hearing it in the begining of Vince Gill’s Look At Us. As well as the fiddle, loved the line from the George Strait song Heartland – “When You Here Twin Fiddles And A Steel Guitar, Your Listening To The Sound Of The American Heart” So true.

    I became a big fan of Country music from the mid 80′s til about the late 90′s and always was watching The Nashville Network and never missed any of the country award shows. New Singers such as Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Chris Gaines (Garth), Lonestar and the Dixie Chicks that started rising up began to turn me off of Country and living in Canada and listening to Canadian Country music at around the same time was really turning me off of it.

    When I listen to country radio these day’s I find your really lucky if you here one song you like after listing to it for a good hour, it’s just so manufactured. To me looking at the pool of talent that we have now is very very shallow compared to 15 – 20 years ago. There are a high number of artists on today’s radio that their voices sound pretty much the same and are not at all distinctive. And a high number of them do not introduce their fans to the artists that came before them, they do not honor the past. But there are a small number of young artists like Chris Young that don’t hide the fact that he was influenced by Keith Whitley, and that’s really needed.

    I watched an interview last winter on CMT Canada with Alan Jackson conducted with host Paul Mcguire, the host said that country music has really gone off the rails in recent years and asked Alan what will it take to get country back on track, A.J said country music needs an artist to come along and break it open the same way Randy Travis did in the mid 80′s, when he came on the scene Randy was as country as it got and stood out big time from the other artists. Alan also said that they’re is a large group of young people out there that want to here that kind of country but Nashville is not putting it out there for them. I saw George Strait preform back in February in Hartford, there was a lot of young people there (early 20′s) and they knew the words to Strait’s early songs like Amarillo By Morning which kind of gives you hope that country music will soon get turn around.

  • Petty has always been about the music, country and rock. i recall seeing him years ago and he had lucinda williams opening for him (car wheels was her album at the time). he also covered one of her songs (change the locks). he knows exactly what is happening and probably does know where to find the good current country music. he is one of the few musicians that has never sold out. in fact, i recall his fight with the record company back around his Long Before Dark album, refusing to let them raise the list price from $7.99 for the album (pre-CD folks) like they wanted to. not sure why the fans of this site are annoyed with him for clearly stating Saving Country Music’s mission statement so eloquently.

    • That was actually with his Hard Promises album, and the list price the record company wanted to tack on was $9.98, instead of the $8.98 usual list price.

  • I thnk you can’t have a true discussion about the decline in country music without bringing into the conversation the direction music in general seems to be headed in. Whatever happened to the day when a singer/songwritter could stand on the stage with only an acoustic guitar and bring the house down? Seems there are fewer and fewer true artists are hitting the seen nowadays. Music is not dance, it’s not a pyrotechnic show, it’s not sex display or a popularity contest to see who can be the most outrageous or shocking. Music is a gift to humanity. A force that can open the heart and mind to strength, passion, health, confidence, faith, hope, peace, joy, etc, etc, etc. It is an art form like no other. Melodies and are unforgettable; you know of the ones I speak. Where are the writters, singer/songwritters that moved us by their words and melodies? County music? Humm, it’s lost it’s purity like so much of music today. I’m not trying to be negative…just expressing a little sadness and loss for the purity of the art.


  • Modern country music sucks period. Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, etc. with their fake plastic cowboy hats and dragon shirts all sound like crap. Country music today is crap. The late great George Jones even said so and refused to even go on CMT.

  • I think what Tom Missed that even Rock and Roll is out of fresh Ideas. I agree country is too, but the best country singers of all time actually had life experiences before they got big. Modern Country singers do not, even if they had life pain, they never traveled the road hitchhiking, poor as dirt and don’t know what to write about. Stompin Tom Connors did, and never ever ran out of songs, and if his jar got empty, he wrote about a lil town he visited. Rockers and metal heads are losing this too. Maybe some rap/hip hop has more heart and soul cause some of these guys are living in the streets before they get their gig and can relate to the bad conditions they live/grew up with. Everyone has anger and Angst., but it takes big feeling to pen a good set of lyrics. If your passionate about it, then the music will follow :)

  • Who the hell are you Chris Stapleton?? Tom Petty’s got his own arenas to sell out, own songs to write, and his own albums to record and sell HIMSELF! No time to come waste in your dump house studio in Nashville.You are the PROBLEM with country music. You write the bad songs, why should TOM PETTY help you?! I wish I could find a Tom Petty record for 5 bucks!! The only copy I can find of Wildflowers on vinyl is $300 USED! FOR ONE RECORD! Tom Petty is in a different realm of song writing than anybody involved in “new country” music these days. He is a true poet and an original, living breathing legend who’s music and contributions to music will never be forgotten, genre set aside. Nobody will know your name in 50 years Chris Stapleton. You will be lucky to have a record in the $5 bin in 5 years.

  • Wow. If anyone can’t see/hear how phony country music is, you are blind and deaf. It is so mind-numbingly forumlaic that it defies decription. Come on, people who love it, can’t you hear how identical every song is in structure and lyrics?
    When you have artists from Canada and Australia singing with southern (U.S.) accents, that should be the first clue as to how bogus it is.

    Here is the storyline on the next ten big country hits:

    I went out with my girl in her cut-off jeans on a Friday night in my four-wheel drive pickup and after we left the honky-tonk we stopped on a dirt road and sat on the taigate and drank beer.

  • While I’m not a fan of Tom Petty ( and i hate classic rock with a burning passion) I agree that today’s country music doesnt have the heart and soul that it used to have. Classic country and ’90′s and 2000′s country is amazing. I love country music and I always will, it will always be the most amazing kind of music in the world. But I am not to pleased with newer country music. There are some modern country artists who get it though like Jamie Johnson and Zac Brown. But there are still way to many songs about beer and pick up trucks and sexy country girls . I miss the days when Country Music was all about the things in life that really matter like family and God and love. Not about being a beer drinking Nascar watching hog wrestling truck driving redneck.

  • Tom Petty is off the mark a little. All country music sucks not just the modern crap

  • Luke Bryan is Crap.

    Clint Black/Earl Thomas Conley/Kathy Matea/Vince Gill: Real Country

  • Mr. Stapleton,

    If you want some respect, then stop performing with Luke Bryan, who can sing without going flat, and has no more talent than the average Koroke participant. I watched your drink a beer song with Mr. Bryan and the performance was no better than a couple of frat boys with no talent drunk on their ass howling on the porch.

    If you want to get some respect, then partner with Vince Gill, Emmy Lou Harris, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart, who play country music and not the shipt that Luke Bryan puts out.

  • To ‘Dave Dudd’ above (correction – ‘Dave DUMB’), to call country radio today “shitty” is an UNDERSTATEMENT. The NYC area was without a country radio station for about 15 years. I was so enthusiastic when one surfaced about a year ago, but holy crap (and the emphasis is on CRAP), it’s all the SAME SHIT over & over (guitar driven crap about beer & trucks, without any melody, meaning, feeling, soul…) My God, I can’t even listen to ore than 15 minutes of this junk at a time…and it makes you miss Willie, Waylon, Haggard, Don Williams, the Oaks so much more…

  • I can’t blame Tom Petty – he’s a busy man – but he’s just now noticing the same thing that Doug Sahm was talking about in 1999?

    Country music these days – at least the songs that get airplay – is just an infomercial for a lifestyle where poor suckers bust their butt all week trying to make truck payments, and have just enough left over to buy horrible american beer and go parking with some girl.

    I leave the writers of that dribble with this:

    “Fact is, Porter Wagoner, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, and Hank Williams Sr. understood the horror of the American Dream, and you don’t. If you DID, you’d be writing shit like “The Green, Green Grass of Home” and “I Don’t Remember Loving You”, while you turned your liver into something resembling a large smelly cheese.”
    - Doktor Howl

  • Modern music is only good to dance to. It has lost it’s soul and heart. The artistry is gone. Most of it is made on the computer and lacks emotion. Even shows like American Idol which have some of the best singers seems to be more about technical abilities than emotion and artistry. I guess people realized that when they voted for Phillip Phillip, who seemed to have some of the old soul and artistry in his music.

    The 40′s produced great Jazz, the 50′s Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and rock roll, the 60′s, folk rock, Motown and the Beatles, the 70′s, hard rock, glam rock, heavy metal, more Motown, country rock, jazz rock. During these decades country music was at it’s peak influences all these genres.
    Music became generic in the 80′s producing a few great stand alone songs from artist that were one hit wonders.

    The 90′s had a bit of a artistic revival with grunge rock and rap but then it all went generic and contrived and boring, lacking originality or artistry. Computer produced, auto tuned, studio effect, heartless music, good rhythm to dance too but not much of any substance or soul. Around this time country music tried to become more like AOR adult rock and lost it’s soul too. Country singers and writers use to live and feel the music, baring their souls. Now they are more concerned with being stars and producing canned music for the masses.

    If Blurred Lines was song of the year what does that say?

  • Dierks Bentley isn’t country either. He flat out sucks compared to the stars of the 50′s, 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s.

  • Funny this comment makes a stir now, it is virtually in (word for word) the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers documentary “Running Down A Dream.” Petty is not only an amazing artist but a lifelong STUDENT of music and its multiple genres. He was sincere about how he feels and guess what? He’s right. “Honkytonk-Badonkadonk?” This is supposed to be as good as what previous country artist? And what country artist is the inspiration of whatever “alleged” current country artist who performs this piece of shite “current” country artist? Petty is on the monkey and he’s not trying to take down the genre, he’s pointing out that the patient is very, very sick, the emperor has no clothes, there is a problem but no one seems to care. I think it is hilarious that in a thinly veiled way, Chris Stapelton is admitting he doesn’t know his craft and in the false appearance of some kind of “challenge,” Stapelton is asking for Petty to come save him, to show him what country music should sound like. Well, go listen to the last albums Johnny Cash diid with Rick Rubin (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers turned out to be the backing band for Johnny’s last few recordings). In other words, “Don’t screw with Tom Petty – he’s still a potent songwriter (still makes great albums when Paul McCartney sadly cannot) and Petty is sounding as good as ever!! TP&TH cannot be touched “live,” they are still so solid “live” that I bet not one current country act could come close to be miles from their proverbial trail (just trying to keep up.” Read “Conversations with Tom Petty” by Paul Zollo. It’s almost a course in songwriting. What are you waiting for, go get it!! Read!! Learn from the master!!!

  • […] completely agree with him. I also agree with his feelings about modern country music and idiots being famous. I also love him for politely telling Michele Bachman to piss off. Tom […]

  • I work in the Nashville area. The radio where I work stays tuned to WSIX, The Big 98. The modern country music I hear on this station is the equivalent to nails on a chalkboard to my ears. I live in Hendersonville, TN, Johnny Cash’s former home and resting place. I was never much of a country music fan, but I’ve loved Johnny’s music since childhood. He understood this this problem well over a decade ago. That’s why he took out a full page ad in Billboard magazine. The ad feature his famous bird flipping photo with this quote. “American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowlage the Nashville music establishment and country radio for it’s support.” Thank you Tom Petty for sharing your wisdom, knowledge & spot on opinion! You sir are an inspiration!

  • I knew country was shit when my Idol loving wife said it was cool and she had turned “country,” any one that knows music, knows Tom is right.

  • Country music today is a victim of the same crappy ass producers whose voice altering antics grace all the other categories….even Christian music.
    Petty is right though. The twang dang rock thang is perdy tired. Best I have heard
    that even gets near the plate is “She took my last beer” or some such. Otherwise
    Its speed search to real rock or old country. I know its selling for yall but so did muskrat love……It kinduve like southern Il. chicks. Everything is apparently alright until they light up and smile.

  • Modern country music is completely lacking in any soul or creativity. It is very very very painful to listen to and Tom was being nice by not being more descriptive and honest. It’s really alarming and unsettling how bad contemporary country is. I like Travis Tritt and Dwight Yoakam but I guess they are oldies nowadays. I feel sick thinking how lame it is so I can’t say anything more : )

  • Tom is 100% correct. I grew up listening to classic country music. The 50′s, 60′s, and into the 70′s. After that things started going down hill. By the 90′s you might have heard one or two decent songs. Now the term “country music” is a joke. As others have said, now it is all about the all mighty dollar. To Chris Stapleton: You have no idea what you are talking about. You are just the same as the other “puppets” of the powers to be in Nashville. Country singers used to respect not only themselves, but also the heart and soul of the genre.
    Today… Someone wearing an old, torn pair of jeans, a dirty t-shirt and a filthy baseball hat (turned around backwards)…equals a country music singer.

  • Country music today is the most insipid sound alike garbage next to rap and hip hop. Pure trash on every level and mindlessly uninspiring.

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