Listen to an Hour-Plus Interview with Tom Petty, Circa 1985 and the ‘Southern Accents’ Era

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Rock Cellar Magazine

In 1985, rock and roll writer Steve Rosen headed to Sunset Boulevard to interview Tom Petty. Southern Accents, Petty’s sixth album with the Heartbreakers, had recently been released and Petty was doing press for the record.

What ensued was an interview between Tom Petty and Steve Rosen that spanned more than an hour. Rosen’s piece about the interview ran in 2008 at, but here, below, is the full audio conversation between the two of them … a real snapshot of Petty at the peak of his musical powers, so to speak.

Rosen is hosting the audio of this interview on his YouTube page, where he’s recently been unearthing archival interviews with rock and roll luminaries, such as Petty, Eddie Van Halen, John Frusciante, David Gilmour and others, having recently decided to release the audio tapes to the masses, for anyone who might be interested.

Regarding the Tom Petty chat, there’s this from Rosen (whose Behind the Curtain columns can be read monthly here at Rock Cellar):

Though this interview took place around 1985 and the release of Southern Accents, I first ran into Tom Petty nearly 10 years earlier when his Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album was released. Shelter Records, Petty’s label, had put together a little meet-and-greet at their Hollywood offices. The self-titled record had just come out—this would be late 1976—and nobody had even heard any of the music yet. They were probably playing the album at this little party but with everybody talking and mingling and hanging out, I don’t remember hearing a single note [which makes me cringe to this day when I think I could have been listening to “Breakdown” and “American Girl” with Petty standing just three feet away from me and I could have talked to him about the songs and everything].

What I do remember from that first albeit brief encounter was this very young-looking blond dude with a thick accent dripping with drawl—I thought at first he was a Texan—and a huge grin. He was affable and said hello to everybody and was so unassuming you might have thought his music probably sucked. But as we’d all learn, it hardly sucked.

I finally had a chance to sit down with this shy boy from Florida in 1985. We met at his management offices on Sunset Boulevard. As I glanced out over the Strip, I thought back to that first encounter, which happened just east of where we now were. Though it was only a few miles geographically, it was a world away historically.

I had read that Petty wasn’t an easy person to get along with and that he directed his band with a mighty fist. In fact, I thought the interview itself might be a bit like pulling teeth. Oh man, was I wrong. Tom was funny as fuck and self-effacing and knew exactly who he was and what he was doing.

At the end of our conversation, which turned out to be a wonderful one, I felt emboldened enough to say to Tom, “I’d heard you were a really hard person to talk to.” To which he responded, “Yeah, I heard the same thing.”

I fell off my chair. I loved this interview with Petty and was heartbroken when I heard about his passing. But here in 1985, he was more than alive.

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