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


(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 “shitty” (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

© 2023 Saving Country Music