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Mike Campbell on performing Tom Petty songs in concert: “It’s a spiritual thing”


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Guitarist Mike Campbell is currently out on the road with his band The Dirty Knobs, and fans who come to see them can expect him to revisit his days with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Campbell tells ABC Audio that now that he’s recorded three albums with The Dirty Knobs, including their recent release, Vagabonds, Virgins & Misfits, the set list is mostly filled with that material, but he also includes three or four Petty songs each night.

“I like doing those songs now and it’s always good for the audience, too,” he shares, “and I feel close to Tom when we do them … it’s a spiritual thing.”

Campbell says he feels “very comfortable” singing the tunes he recorded with Petty, because nobody knows them better. 

“I know there’s a lot better singers than me out there, but if it’s a song that Tom and I wrote together, I understand how it’s supposed to sound and how it’s supposed to be delivered, the personality of it, maybe more than somebody who’s a proper singer,” he shares. “I know how to present the songs the way they’re supposed to feel.” 

And while Petty may no longer be with us, Campbell knows that by continuing to perform his music he’s keeping the legacy alive for fans. 

“You know, songs are magical and a good song will live, you know, and bad songs will just fade away,” he says. “And I think we’ve got a lot of good material that will last a long time.”

Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs’ tour hits Des Moines, Iowa, on July 3, with dates confirmed through Aug. 16. A complete schedule can be found at thedirtyknobs.com.

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