Tom Petty has been known to speak his mind from time to time, including in August of 2013 when he criticized modern country as “Bad rock with a fiddle.” Now in a new interview with Canada’s CBC news organization, Petty has relayed some pointed opinions about what he characterizes as stars that have “won a game show” and that make “plastic computer music.”
Speaking to reporter Jian Ghomeshi of CBC about his past, Petty said that discos and DJ’s presented a problem for Petty’s first band Mudcrutch when they first came onto the music scene.
“Now if you’re a band it’s really tough to find places to work, places to play,” Petty says. “This changed so much. I remember when we were a working band, when Mudcrutch was just a working band, we had to work all the time in order to eat, you know? And disco suddenly changed over to cats who just played records, and the bands were out of work. And we were so insulted. Like, ‘What? You mean, we’ve been fired for a guy that plays records?’ But that was the first wake up call that wow, there’s a lot of gigs being taken away. And if you want to keep working, you’re going to have to get better and better.”
When talking about his influences, and how Petty saw Elvis, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones, and eventually onto what rock music would become, Petty said, “Nothing was any worse than corporate rock. Nothing worse has come along, though there is a lot of popular kind of plastic computer music that’s not that interesting. I don’t feel like somebody … like the artist did that, you know? You put your name on it, but you didn’t do that. But nevertheless, how a record’s made isn’t important to the audience. What’s important to them is what they’re hearing.”
When the idea of fame was brought up to Petty, he replied, “As far as getting famous, I don’t know nothing about getting famous … A lot of people get famous now very quickly, and then they seem to have a turnover where they weren’t famous for that long, but someone else steps in to fill the slot. They’re sort of disposably famous I suppose. But I can’t keep up with who’s famous anymore … I know in my time, in my generation, if you had come, if they tried to offer my generation music by someone that had won a game show, it would have been hysterical. You would have been laughed out of the room. I mean we were suspicious of people that had hit records. I mean it was that different of a time.”
The interview happened at Tom Petty’s Woodshed Recording studio in Malibu, where Petty is getting ready for the release of his latest album Hypnotic Eye on July 29th; his first album with The Heartbreakers since 2010’s Mojo. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also have a massive tour planned to begin on August 3rd.
Petty is given credit by some for sparking off the Season of Discontent last summer and fall that saw artists from both the country and rock worlds coming out in record numbers to criticize the direction of 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,” Petty said at the time. “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?”
Later Florida Georgia Line responded to the Petty quotes with a petty “U think we care?” Country songwriter Chris Stapleton also took Petty to task for his comments.
The 63-year-old Gainsville, FL native has shown his appreciation for country over the years, including covering the Conway Twitty / George Jones song “Image of Me”.