Tom Petty meant a lot to the Shelters, and since Petty’s death, the members of the young L.A. rock band haven’t been shy about letting people know. “He really was our best friend and our guide through life,” frontman Chase Simpson told Rolling Stone in October, just days after the rock icon’s passing. “He taught us everything – not just about music, but about life and the world.”
Now the band, who opened for the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch on tour, and worked with Petty in the studio, have recorded an intimate cover of “Scare Easy,” a poignant and defiant tune from Mudcrutch’s 2008 debut LP, in tribute to their mentor. A video documents the performance, which took place in a location that played a key part in Petty’s own early history: historic Tulsa, Oklahoma, studio the Church, where Petty had signed his first record deal, with Shelter Records.
Directed by Jeremy Charles of FireThief Productions, the clip shows the band entering the Church and explaining how they found themselves with some time off in Tulsa and wanted to explore the studio. Then the band members – Simpson, guitarist Josh Jove, bassist Jacob Pillot and drummer Sebastian Harris – sit in a circle and perform a tender acoustic version of the song.
“We were on tour at the time of Tommy’s passing and happened to pull into Tulsa a few days later,” Simpson tells Rolling Stone of how the cover came about. “Tommy used to tell us stories of him and the guys getting their first real studio experience at the Church Studio … and we knew we just had to go there. We were fortunate enough to team up with the current owner of the studio, Teresa Knox, who graciously invited us in to record this song. We wanted to play something that perhaps not everyone knows, but is a song we all love deeply and we feel it resonate now more than ever.”
“It was a very emotional time on the road, in the weeks following Tom’s passing,” Jove adds. “Clearly it came as quite the shock to us. The morning of October 2nd, which also happens to be my birthday, I woke up early as usual and long before hearing the news, was watching the Western movie Appaloosa – at the end of the movie came one of my favorite Mudcrutch tunes, ‘Scare Easy.’ The moment became quite surreal upon learning that Tom left us a couple hours later.
“While getting through the rest of the tour, we found ourselves playing with the Growlers in Oklahoma City, followed by a couple days off. Naturally, we decided to go see what Tulsa had to offer knowing its rich musical history. One early morning I had the thought to look up what became of the Church Studio where so many of our favorite artists spent time, including Tom. I found the name of Teresa Knox, and that she was involved in an overhaul of the legendary space. A couple phone calls later and we had been allowed to go explore.
“Thinking of the time that a young Tom spent honing his vision for his brand of rock & roll, in that very space, we knew we had to go explore within those walls. With the help of some amazing local crew and our good friend Ryan Lindsey from Broncho, we were able to take some guitars into the space and play a song for Tom. A song that I remember blaring out of my truck in Florida when I was 20 years old. A song that I was later able to hear him play every night when supporting Mudcrutch on the road. A song that the universe played to me the morning Tom passed in the credits of the film Appaloosa. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Lyrically, the song perfectly describes Tom’s spirit and the sturdy presence he brought to this earth.
“We had never played the song before, but we ran it on the bus a couple times before arriving to lovely Teresa and the people at Church Studios. Thanks to her, the studio’s legacy will live on the way it should.”
The Shelters recently wrapped up a U.S. tour and have begun writing songs for their second album. Their 2016 self-tilted debut LP was produced by Petty, and both Simpson and Jove worked on Petty’s 2014 LP, Hypnotic Eye.