Jimmy Page has said that strangers often stop him on the street and beg him to reunite Led Zeppelin. It’s possible not a single person alive has ever asked Tom Petty to reunite his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch, but he’s doing it anyway. The group — which included future Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, along with drummer Randall Marsh and guitarist Tom Leadon — broke up in the mid-Seventies and hadn’t played together until earlier this year when Petty called them all to his Malibu house to cut a new album. He’s even mulling a tour next year. Keep reading for a Q&A where Petty explains why he got the old crew together again (and click here for a gallery of photos from Runnin’ Down a Dream, a book of interviews from Peter Bodganovich’s documentary on the band).
Rolling Stone: You re-formed Mudcrutch recently, right?
Tom Petty: Yes, I did.
RS: What inspired that?
TP: It was weird. It was one of those lighting bolts to the brain. A few years ago I just started thinking about how I missed those guys, Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh. We’ve stayed in contact over the years and we’ve all stayed good friends. I brought it up to Mike and everybody was up for it. We had a ball doing it. We made the album in two weeks flat. We played everything live — vocals, no overdubs. I was just mixing it yesterday. It’s really good. I think people will enjoy it. I moved over to bass, like I used to be. Everybody sings at least one song on it, though I did the majority of the singing. It has kind of a country/rock feel, but not as you think of it today. Maybe a little edgier country kind of feel. It’s pretty cool.
RS: Are these all new songs or any older songs you recut?
TP: They’re all new songs.
RS: Are you guys doing any gigs?
TP: I think we may play some gigs. This is another spoke in the wheel — are the Heartbreakers going to go on tour and how does that preclude Mudcrutch doing the same thing and do we have time to do both?
RS: Mudcrutch could open up for Tom Petty & The Hearbreakers.
TP: [Laughs] I doubt that will happen.
RS: How did it feel to play with those guys after all these years?
TP: It was the most fun I’ve had in years. I had to calm myself down at night I was having so much fun. Most of the band came here and lived at my house in Malibu when we were doing it. We’d go to the Heartbreakers’ recording studio every day. We played live there with only four monitors, no headphones or anything. A lot of the songs were written down there or after we got home at night we’d write another one. I had too much fun doing it. It was just such a good time and I hope people enjoy it as much as I do.
RS: When you first called the guys about this, were they shocked?
TP: Yeah. They were like, “Really, are you serious? We’re going to do that?” I go, “Yeah, I’m serious.” I didn’t know. I had to call around and try to explain it to them. Once they started talking to each other and they really believed me, they got gung-ho.
RS: What sparked this? It’s pretty unusual for someone who’s been as successful as you to go back to their band that was significantly less successful.
TP: They weren’t successful at all. We were together for quite awhile. I learned to play with these guys. Tom and I had a really good harmony since we sang together so much. We have a really good blend. I’m still trying to figure out what inspired me. I had been in the midst of promoting Highway Companion and I was doing lots of interviews. One of them touched on Mudcrutch and I was sitting between interviews and thinking, “That might be an interesting thing to get them down and play with them.” The first day they came down we cut four tracks. It was like we never left. We’re actually a lot better than we were then.
RS: What kind of venues do you think you guys will playing, if you do tour?
TP: I think it would be small. I wouldn’t try and go into big arenas with Mudcrutch. What I would like to see them do is play festivals, that’s what they were always good at — those big outdoor summertime shows.
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