Interview: Tom Petty is ready to rock with new album, 'Hypnotic Eye'
Tom Petty received the Founders Award Wednesday night from performing rights organization ASCAP for the contributions he’s made to songwriting, but when Petty talked with HitFix, he was much more interested in talking about his songs to come rather than the ones in his past, especially the tunes on his forthcoming album, “Hypnotic Eye,” tentatively scheduled for release this summer.
I asked the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer what made him decide to make a rock record again, one that heralds back to his ‘70s work. “I just kind of go where the wind blows me musically,” he said. “I think it’s a very special record and it’s certainly rock and roll, it’s very electric. No ballads, it’s a rocker."
He joked that he only realized that he had enough songs for an album about two weeks ago, but in reality, he and the Heartbreakers have been working on the album since 2011. “The idea was to get an entire album of good songs…what a thing, you know,” he joked. “It took me quite a few years to write 11 that I felt were coming through and saying what should be said.”
During the ASCAP Awards, Petty was feted for his enduring body of work that includes such classic rock songs as “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “American Girl,” “Free Fallin’,” “Refugee,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “I Need To Know,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” “Learning to Fly,” and so many more.
Lucinda Williams performed “Rebel” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream” for Petty before his longtime friend Jackson Browne introduced him. In his gracious and moving acceptance speech, Petty first joked about what it’s like to hang out with the ageless Browne. “Girls love Jackson Browne…If you want to spend an evening noticed by nobody female, go out with Jackson Browne.”
“I’m lucky enough to be in one of the world’s better rock n’ roll bands, The Heartbreakers….They really keep me on my toes and will let me know if they don’t like [a song],” Petty said.
Creating a song “is the job most people in the band don’t want because it’s long, lonely work,” he continued. “You sit there waiting for magic and you play your guitar and you sit at your piano….You can sit there and suddenly some cosmic line is opened and BOOM! In a minute, it’s appeared and you’re seeing it and it’s in front of you and it comes back through the speakers and it’s real magic because it makes people happy.”
“Rock ’n’ roll is one of the greatest things because it makes you feel good; done at its very best, you feel cool...and that's a great reward,” Petty said, in the evening’s truest line.
“Hypnotic Eye” will be Petty’s first studio album since 2010’s “Mojo.”