Killers frontman Brandon Flowers had a big night at Saturday’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. His band opened the show with a passionate rendition of “American Girl” in tribute to the late Tom Petty, and later, he did the honors of inducting the Cars – one of his key early influences – into the Hall. We caught up with the singer to get his thoughts on Petty’s genius, why he owes everything to the Cars and more.
Tell me the most meaningful part of the night for you so far.
We had two great moments, obviously. To pay tribute to Tom Petty who has just done nothing but enrich our lives, and then for me to get to induct the Cars into the Hall of Fame, I mean, this is a hell of a night for me.
People don’t realize how New Wave Tom Petty was. You don’t associate him with that movement at all, but a lot of those videos, and even some of the sentiments in the songs and the way that they’re presented were very New Wave. And then he obviously evolved, which, he was so great at that.
Yeah, he didn’t feel like an old artist when he died.
No. I was just talking about songs like “Square One.” That wasn’t that long ago; he was still bringing heat. And stuff he did with Mudcrutch. He was still just some kind of an endless well of great songs.
Did you spend much time with Tom?
No, I didn’t. We had the opportunity to open for him a long time ago and we weren’t able to do it, and I never met him. So it’s sad, for me. But some of the Heartbreakers I’ve met, and everybody’s been really cool, so I’m just assuming that he was a great guy. And like I said, the songs are eternal, and I’m grateful for what he did.
Elliot Easton of the Cars said that the best part of the night was when you said their name, and they hadn’t heard a crowd that big in a long time. What was that moment like for you?
I’m happy to usher it in, man. I feel like it was yesterday that my mom was complaining about the sound that was coming out of the speakers when I had the Cars in. And it was Elliot playing guitar. I can’t believe it’s been over 20 years now since those moments, but they were the first band I fell in love with, and they set me on the right track. In that time, gangsta rap was massive and kids were starting to listen to that and to grunge. So I feel like the Cars … because I just didn’t fit in with either of those scenes, they just really gave me a home and set me on a path which led to the woman that I married and the life that I’m living, and I’m really grateful for that.
You said something to Ric about your wedding, what was that?
All of that too, yeah. Like I said, I think even the woman that I married, it would’ve been different if I was heavily influenced by gangsta rap. [Laughs] Or grunge. She likes the same music that I do, and so we bonded over that, and so I owe them a lot.
They said that they were really thrilled to hear that through your music, their sound has carried on to a new generation.
Oh, for sure. Marrying keyboards and guitars. I mean, Pink Floyd did it well, and the Who did, but the Cars fuckin’ did it right. And it’s still something that I struggle with, but that we’ve managed to accomplish on a couple of songs, but they’re sort of the ones on top of the mountain for that.