I quit college and neglected to tell my dad.
I think that with Bob Dylan around, we’re living in an era where we have Whitman presenting new work, we have Dickens presenting new work, we have Yeats and Shakespeare presenting new work. It’s that level.
Bob Dylan’s not a hype and a haircut: he’s the real thing.
I loved Mal Evans holding one note down on You Won’t See Me from Rubber Soul.
Working with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson takes you up another level.
I think I drift toward sad love songs.
What a good session musician does is listen to the song, to the artist, and to the other players. That way you can help bring out the song and help the artist express what they want to express. It’s never about you stepping out and showing you can play something fancy.
Whoever hired me might’ve just heard ‘Refugee.’ Well, I’m not the secret to ‘Refugee.’ The secret to ‘Refugee’ is the song. But if somebody really good calls me up to play on something because they like the way I played on ‘Refugee,’ then I wind up playing on another really good song.
Fortunately, as we all know, it’s impossible for anybody but Jimmy Smith to really sound like Jimmy Smith.
Besides, I’m fairly incompetent. I can’t play that fast.
I don’t know about five guys against the world. It’s more like five guys against these three chords, and we’re gonna wrestle ’em down no matter what it takes.
Jeff Lynne is an arranger, and I think it’s probably much easier for him to go ahead and play a part himself than to try to show somebody else what he wants. But it’s hard for me to say; I barely know Jeff.
We started with Denny Cordell, and he was a great record producer. He knew exactly how to take a band that knew absolutely nothing, and guide you without trying to tell you what to do.
Tom would bring in songs, Mike would engineer, and we recorded about 30 songs.
I’m playing 10 feet from Mike Campbell every night. I look across the stage, there’s Howie. Tom’s in the middle and we’re playing all this stuff I love. It’s great.
I think we’ve always been better live.
I try to find little things that you can do to move the song along and things that serve the song.
If you call attention to yourself at the expense of the song, that’s the cardinal sin.
You can go crazy and play solos in the right place, and that’s great because it can intensify and bring an emotional lift. But the thing is you don’t want to get in the way of the song.
I loved working with Bob Dylan.
I got to play on a couple of records with the Rolling Stones, and that was really special to me.
Sometimes you work with somebody you’ve never heard of because you just feel like working.
I’ve always written songs since I was a kid – always.
In Mudcrutch we all wrote songs, and when it got to the focus on Tom and the Heartbreakers, I kept writing songs, but it wasn’t anything that was up the Heartbreakers tree, I didn’t think – and I don’t think they did, either. So I kept writing songs for the hell of it, but I didn’t want to make a record just for the sake of making a record.
I learned that the songs that mean the most to me are the songs that I write by myself. While there were people I wrote really well with, particularly Gary Nicholson and Delbert McClinton, and I really enjoyed the experience, I came away from it feeling like I need to write by myself.
I was just writing songs because, if a song shows up, you’ve gotta write it. I didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t have any faith in my voice.
I’m not an overly skilled piano player or organ player at all, but I think I’m the right piano and organ player for the Heartbreakers. And I’ve been the right piano and organ player for a lot of sessions that I’ve been called on.
I learned to play piano in a rock n’ roll context or band context from country records – you know, Floyd Cramer – and from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Stax. And none of those are keyboard records.
My parents always knew that I loved music. They just didn’t think I’d try to make it a career. They thought I’d be a painter or an art teacher or something like that.
There was a period when I wrote in Nashville for Maverick and then Warner/Chappell, and it was interesting.
I did enjoy Nashville a lot of the time, because I made really good friends who were really good songwriters, and they would be a joy to hang out with.
The idea that I could write songs that people wanted to hear came from other people who said they liked what I did.
Listen to the Beatles’ ‘Things We Said Today.’ Ringo Starr does not play a fill in the entire song. It doesn’t need it. ‘A Day In the Life’ has gorgeous fills, but there, the song needs it. When I play on any record, I’m striving to get where Ringo is. You play what doesn’t take you out of the song.
I’ve spent most of my life playing with Tom Petty, and he’s a damn good songwriter.
I’m not the best singer, but I like the way I sing my songs.
The people that call me to play on records call me because they think that I will suit their music. And the people whose music I suit are by and large people that I’m a fan of.