Tom Petty will be on the road with Mudcrutch until June 30th, but he’s already thinking about his plans for 2017. While the singer has yet to confirm any shows, he hopes to finally release an expanded edition of his 1995 LP solo Wildflowers and then potentially play all of it on the road. “I want to take the Heartbreakers and whoever else I need to reproduce every sound in a big way,” he tells Rolling Stone. “That album was really about sound in a big way. I would like to go out there and perform the entire album as it was originally conceived with all of the songs.”
Wildflowers was initially envisioned as a double album, but was ultimately pared down to 15 songs on a single CD. It became one of the most successful records of his career, with singles “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “You Wreck Me” and “It’s Good To Be King” all getting extensive radio play. For years, Petty has been contemplating assembling the unreleased material into a deluxe package.
“I think I put four of the [Wildflowers outtakes] on the She’s The One soundtrack just to fill out the album,” says Tom Petty. “But they were very hastily mixed. Take ‘Climb That Hill.’ There’s a version of that on She’s The One, but the Wildflowers one I think is extremely better. I’m gonna put that out. ‘Hung Up And Overdue’ is another one we remixed and it turned into an epic. I had Carl Wilson [of the Beach Boys] and [Heartbreakers bassist] Howie Epstein singing quite a bit of harmony that didn’t come through on the original. Then again, there’s probably six songs that nobody has heard. There’s 11 or 12 [new] songs on the album. I think people are going to like it a lot. I like it a lot.”
As of now, Petty isn’t sure exactly how the new version of Wildflowers will be released. “At one point the label really just wanted to put it out as a standalone album,” he says. “And then there’s the point of view where they want to put both records together. There’s also the point of view that wants the box set with the demos and all that. I don’t see that as much fun, but other people do.”
Whatever happens, he definitely hopes to take it on the road, even though last year he told Rolling Stone he had no interest in complete album shows. “I’ve changed my mind because nobody has ever done something like this where you’re previewing the second part of a never-released album,” he says. “How often does that happen? It’s old and new at the same time.”
Petty saw the Rolling Stones play Sticky Fingers at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles last year, and noticed they played it completely out of sequence. “Single album concerts often don’t scan right for a concert,” he says. “But with the amount of material I have for the Wildflowers double album, I think I’ve got enough tempos and types of songs that I could do a live show … And it’ll be fun for the audience since there’s a bunch of songs they’ll know.”
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been off the road since the Hypnotic Eye tour ended in October 2014. They tend to play around 20 songs at their shows, which wouldn’t leave a lot of room for non-Wildflowers tunes if they wind up playing the complete double LP. Petty says he hasn’t given that issue any thought yet. “I haven’t gone to rehearsals yet,” he says with a laugh. “I probably haven’t even told the band about this yet, but they can read about it in Rolling Stone.”