“There’s something good waitin’ down this road.”
Tom Petty, a widely-influential musician and leader of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, sang these words in his personal song “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”
That’s exactly what country musician Chris Stapleton heard and felt about Tom Petty’s music and influence the first time he heard one of his songs. That his influence and power as a musician was going to help lead to more great things down the road for him and other artists.
Stapleton recently talked about his biggest musical influence, which is Tom Petty, on the podcast “[X] on [Y].” This is a newer podcast that just started out. Chris Stapleton talking is their first episode. The podcast hopes to explore a different musician’s biggest influence in every episode. They then jam out to this influential artist in between talking about them.
Stapleton Performs ‘Wildflowers’
Stapleton will always remember his first time hearing Petty’s gentle, bluesy voice on the “Wildflowers” album. The rocker had a way of creating lyrics that perfectly matched each guitar riff.
“I was first introduced to Tom Petty as a teenager. or even younger than that. I don’t remember the first time I heard some of his earlier works, but I do remember hearing ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’ off the ‘Wildflower’ album,” Stapleton said.
For Stapleton that album, Grammy-winning Best Engineered Album, has been extremely formative to his artistry. Stapleton was also invited to sing “Wildflowers” at the Grammys in order to honor Petty after his passing. Something he saw as an absolute honor.
His experience playing that song would help him experiment with new ways of performing in the future.
“It was a different voicing than I have ever used playing the chords in that song of Gs and Cs … I’ve kind of adopted those into my process a little bit more than I ever have. I thank Tom and that song for that,” Stapleton said.
“American Girl” off Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ self-titled album tells the story of a girl looking for a little more in life.
“This theme is just as powerful now as it was when it came out … It’s just a band song,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton said the song has this amazing ability for the men to play off each other and lift each other up musically throughout the song. It’s a talent and a skill that is beyond respectable and difficult to achieve.
“It’s a very difficult thing to achieve with a group of guys and it’s a level of musicianship that is seldom reached by mere mortals,” Stapleton said.
The song “Refugee” appears on the Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ album “Damn the Torpedos.”
The song is a tribute to a kind of freedom seldom explored in music.
According to Stapleton this song masters a garage-band feeling, while also being able to stimulate a level of folk-like influence throughout the verses.
Stapleton’s favorite lyrics that speak to him are: “Everybody’s had the fight to be free.”
“When I apply that to myself, we’ve all had moments in our lives where we have to fight for ourselves in different moments … I hear him telling us to fight for our own freedoms in a very real Rock ‘N’ Roll way. It hits me right in the gut,” Stapleton said.
That’s why this song has the ability to defy expectations and promote freedom as something entirely individual.
“Everyone searches for who they are in this world and sometimes it’s a fight to figure out who you are. I think everyone has to go through that fight at some point,” Stapleton said.
‘I Won’t Back Down’
The song “I Won’t Back Down” appears on Tom Petty’s solo album “Full Moon Fever.”
This album was Petty’s first solo studio album that was released in 1989. It is considered the high-water mark of his individual career. The song is about learning to not back down in “a world that keeps on pushing me around.”
For Stapleton, this song achieves the difficult task of creating a “chugging” song that moves along. It sounds mechanical, yet in the way it is able to hold down a groove that requires great skill to do.
‘The chorus has this classic rock anthem feel and what I think they do so well is it feels like this very concentrated thing in the verses then it opens into this very wide sonic-range with the acoustics and the background vocals … it’s empowering,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton Breaks Down ‘Breakdown’
The song “Breakdown” appears on the Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ self-titled album.
The single was a Top 40 hit in the U.S. and Canada and is about a man and a woman’s sexy and intimate inner monologue.
Stapleton said that there is a wealth of information happening in the song, you know as soon as you hear that opening guitar. It’s repetitive but in the best way possible.
“It’s so good it’s worth repeating,” Stapleton said.
The song is an interesting perspective to hear. The song accentuates the “electric” moment between a man and a woman that feels like a rare moment in musical history.
“Not a lot of people voice internal monologues in songs … to just put it out there ‘Hey I like you lets get out of here,'” Stapleton said about the songs’ unique message.
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