Q exclusive: Tom Petty brings the snarl back on Hypnotic Eye
The influential musician offers a glimpse into his creative process, reflects on how the forthcoming album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers compares to those before it, and laments the rise of digital music.
Four decades of fine music
Petty is one of the finest songwriters of our time and has been called a "masterful poet" by his peers. Together with his musical collaborators in the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty has authored some of the most recognizable songs of the last four decades, including Refugee, American Girl and Mary Jane's Last Dance.
- WATCH the full video version of Jian's chat with Tom Petty
- LISTEN to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Hypnotic Eye (CBC Music)
Speaking from Woodshed Recording in Malibu, Calif., Petty tells Jian how he comes up with the ideas for his songs and lyrics.
"There's some kind of actual magic going on there and I feel like for some reason I was born with some kind of a conduit to this energy force or whatever it is," he says.
"If I really try to do it, or sometimes when I'm not, when I'm just standing somewhere, or at the funniest times, something can come into your head and you think, 'That's a good line, you know' ...and then it's just trial and error."
Listen to an excerpt from the interview where Petty talks about how music gave him an escape from a difficult childhood:
Despite his collection of hit songs, Petty says that he never knows whether something he's working on will find success on the radio.
"There has been very few times where I set out to write a single," he says. "I knew that I really liked those songs. Like Free Fallin', I knew that was a good one because I played it all night when I went home... I rarely play it myself and I went home and I just kept playing that track over and over."
Listen to an excerpt from the interview where Petty talks about writing his hit songs:
Hypnotic Eye, the latest album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, channels the band's early rock and roll roots.
During the band's first playback, when they played all the songs on the record in a row, guitarist Mike Campbell told Petty that his vocals were very much like on their first two albums.
"I had never thought about that until he said that, and then I started to see what he meant," Petty says. "It's kind of like the snarl had come back into the music."
The age of digital
In an era where a lot of popular music is either made by or listened to on computers, Petty says that he's "annoyed" that most people don't get to hear the music at its best.
"What I don't like is with the digitization is that people aren't hearing quality sound, you know. The consumer's not getting what I hear everyday, which is just miles above, say, an MP3 or what most people are hearing -- their music off their phone or their computer."
Petty says that the band still takes an old-school approach to making their music -- playing actual instruments in the same room with other musicians.
"There's a lot of people that are in so much of a hurry to be, I guess, to be famous or that they don't want to take the time to learn to play and do all that. They'd rather just knock it down off a computer and maybe get on a game show and get famous... That's fine if that's what you want to do.
"We're more old school than that. We like creating the sounds."
Hypnotic Eye -- the latest record by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- will be released on July 29th. They will be touring all across Canada this summer -- for dates, click here.
Here's a clip of Petty telling Jian how Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones each inspired him: