Despite being one of the biggest rock stars in the world, Tom Petty always seemed more down to earth than your typical performer. Maybe it was the folksy northern Florida drawl, or the easygoing attitude, or maybe even his lyrics that focused on blue collar experiences and the everyday life of a typical American, but Petty gave off the impression that he could just as easily be running an auto mechanic garage rather than entertaining millions of devoted fans.
Sitting down with journalist Jian Ghomeshi back in 2014, Petty reflected on how fame had changed from when he initially experienced it in the late 1970s versus the modern day. Given his age and status within the classic rock canon, it would be easy to see Petty taking on a stodgy disposition regarding contemporary music, but as was his speciality, Petty brings a nuanced perspective to his views.
“Nothing was ever worse than corporate rock,” Petty says, referring to the AOR format of the late ’70s. “Nothing any worse has come along. There is a lot of popular kind of plastic computer music that’s not that interesting. I don’t feel like an artist did that, you know? You put your name on it, but you didn’t do that. But nevertheless, how a record’s made isn’t important to the audience. What’s important to them is what they’re hearing.”
“As far as getting famous, I don’t know nothing about getting famous,” Petty modestly extolls. “A lot of people know get famous very quickly and then they seem to have a turnover where they’re not famous for that long but someone else steps in to fill the slot. They’re sort of ‘disposably famous’, I suppose. I can’t keep up with who’s famous anymore.”
When meditating on shows like American Idol or America’s Got Talent, Petty laughs off the notion that his generation would embrace those types of singers. “If they had tried to offer my generation music from someone who had won a game show, it would have been hysterical. You would have been laughed out of the room,” Petty said. “We were of suspicious of people who had hit records! I mean it was that different a time.”
Check out the interview with Petty down below.