Back in 2007 when Tom Petty got his Seventies band Mudcrutch back together to make their first studio album, they had a simple agenda: to capture the live dynamic for which they’d been renowned during their early days in Gainesville, Florida, and to get it done in short order. This time, for a second LP simply titled 2, they found a whole new freedom – more time (about a month of tracking versus 10 days), more songs (almost two LPs’ worth) and even more collaboration, with each member contributing songs, in addition to Petty’s.
Songs like lead single “Trailer,” as well as album cuts including “Dreams of Flying” and “Hope,” are classic Petty – rollicking, anthemic roots rock, built around the veteran singer-songwriter’s unmistakable voice and the impressive musical interplay between his bandmates – drummer Randall Marsh, guitarist Tom Leadon, keyboard player Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell. Meanwhile, Leadon’s “The Other Side of the Mountain,” which Petty describes as “psychedelic bluegrass,” and Marsh’s bouncy “Beautiful World,” epitomize the value of 2‘s collaborative approach. “The first album we played and sang live, and there was a handful of overdubs,” adds Leadon. “This time we wanted to get a little deeper into making the songs sound the way we wanted them to. Getting guitar sounds, getting the right amp, the right effect, the right arrangement.”
Due out May 20th, the album was recorded between the Heartbreakers’ Van Nuys, California, studio and Petty’s own spot in Malibu. “The songs really grew in the studio,” says Petty. “We’d try it one way and see if it was working. It was very organic, as you’d expect with Mudcrutch.” Petty says that the only specific musical ideas he had in mind when they began 2 were that he “wanted this album to have more of an edge to it. I wanted it to have some new sounds. I didn’t want us to get hung up on being anything in particular.”
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Formed in 1970, when the members were still teenagers, Mudcrutch only released one single (1974’s “Depot Street”) before splitting up in 1975. Petty, Campbell and Tench formed the Heartbreakers the following year. “We were kids then,” says Petty, regarding Mudcrutch’s breakup. “I think that we felt what we had started had become sort of not holy anymore. Coming into the music business was a real slap in the face for us. Recording was a slap in the face for us, because we were all about playing live and we didn’t really understand about recording. But fortunately we’ve been able to get back together and show what we’re capable of.”
“I wanted 2 to have some new sounds. I didn’t want us to get hung up on being anything in particular.” —Tom Petty
Petty plays bass in Mudcrutch, but he says he didn’t give much thought to that aspect of the songs until the band got into the studio together. “They were almost counting off the first song before I started thinking about the bass,” he says, explaining that his parts flow naturally from playing alongside Marsh’s drumming. Says Tench: “When you change the swing, you change everything. Also, having Tom Leadon play guitar with Mike instead of Tom Petty play guitar with Mike, it’s an entirely different blend of sound. So you have different air to play with when somebody’s singing a song or presenting a song.” Adds Petty: “Space is very important. Leaving a lot of space was always at the front of my mind. It’s important with a band to listen to each other. It’s a dying art.”
The album’s release will be followed by Mudcrutch’s first-ever full-scale tour: a sold-out 16-date jaunt. “We’re not playing anywhere bigger than, like, 2,000 people,” says Petty. “We got offers to play bigger places, but I didn’t think we’d earned the right to play bigger places. And also, we’re not that kind of band. It’s not that kind of show. It’s about music. It’s more about listening and feeling rather than playing lots of hits.” For now, Petty won’t speculate about whether there will ever be a Mudcrutch 3, but he’s definitely open to the idea. “I’m just glad to be able to play,” he says, and chuckles. “I’m glad I don’t have to show up anywhere for work. I don’t think I could hold a real job.”