Alongside Neil Young and Bob Dylan, Tom Petty has one of the most distinctive voices in rock music. And when you have a distinctive voice, it gets spoofed a lot by comedians. So I ask Mike Campbell, longtime lead guitarist with Petty’s band The Heartbreakers, which comedian does the best Petty impersonation? After giving it some thought, Campbell laughs. “Ask Jimmy Fallon, he’ll give you a good answer,” Campbell says.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers are touring behind 2014’s Hypnotic Eye — a record many critics say is a return to roots for Petty and his band. “It’s a nice compliment,” Campbell says. “We didn’t approach it that way. We do the best songs we can at the time.” Campbell agrees many songs on Hypnotic Eye hearken back to the energy of early Heartbreakers material. “There are certain songs I get an extreme adrenaline rush playing,” Campbell says, mentioning timeless Petty hits like “American Girl,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “Refugee,” but adds, “Right now I’m enjoying learning the new songs from the album.”
So what are the roots of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers? “’50s and ’60s stuff,” Campbell says. “The stuff we grew up listening to.” In fact, Campbell’s favorite guitar is a ’59 Les Paul. “Most of my inspiration, the guitarists who inspired me, played Les Paul,” Campbell says, adding that his ’59 “has a tone no other guitar makes.”
Listen for the tone when Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers play with the legendary Steve Winwood 7:30 pm Thursday, Aug. 7, at Matthew Knight Arena; prices vary.