The 20 Best Mike Campbell Quotes

The 73-year-old Florida-born guitar player, songwriter, and performer Mike Campbell was Tom Petty’s secret weapon for years when it came to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. He helped pen songs like “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “Refugee,” among many more.

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But Campbell is also a solo artist and he enjoyed success in his band, The Dirty Knobs. He also played in Fleetwood Mac when Lindsey Buckingham left the group. So, with so much experience and history in popular music, one might wonder what Campbell would have to say about his life, his craft, and the world at large. Below are the 20 best Campbell quotes.

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1. “Listen to the melody and the feel of the singer, and try to get inside the character of the guy who’s singing to find an answer to that or an accompaniment that is in that same pocket, that’s not showing off or playing above the song, or trying to put too much into it. Try to serve the song.”

2. “I’m a product of my influences, and those are the ’60s. All analog. I loved The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and the Stones—and then later on, of course, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix.”

3. “I never really composed guitar solos. I’d usually ask to run the tapes and I’d go off the top of my head to make something work.”

4. “Songwriting is such a mysterious thing. It’s a magical channel that’s a gift to you and you can’t really conjure it up when you want it to. It could pop up when you’re driving or out having dinner.”

5. “I do write a lot. In some ways, staying home and not being able to tour was kind of normal for me. Because when I’m home, I’m very active with writing and I have a studio here.”

6. “The Heartbreakers got stuck with these hits and we had to play them like the records, which is a great balance too and we were really good at that.”

7. “It’s hard to explain if you’ve never done it, but you’ve got five guys in the studio, and you’ve got high expectations. You’ve got a lot of money involved, and your life and your dreams and all of your desires fall to making this song sound great for three minutes.”

8. “I try to get into a headspace where I pretend like this is the first time I’m ever hearing this song, and I get into that and I just try to discover it. I found that if I really put my head in that space then I can get into it. I can discover it all over again.”

9. “But if you have something special, a bunch of guys who play well together, and a brilliant singer and writer who’s truly unique, you owe it to yourself and your fans to keep going.”

10. “I think I’ve improved in the finesse and the tone and compositional skills. But I think I basically still play the way I did back then, too. You get to a point and that’s how you play.”

11. “But it’s almost like church—were going to show up and preach the gospel of rock and roll. And it’s a great place to come and get away and get in touch with what’s really important in life—which is love and music and fun.”

12. “Sometimes when you start writing a song, you don’t know where they’re going to lead you. You just follow the ideas that come in. It’s all stream of consciousness. That’s what’s so fascinating about songwriting. It’s magical.”

13. “The album format is what we grew up on. It’s what we aspired to when we were first discovering music—it’s what’s what we know. We actually talked about this because nowadays, with iTunes and everything, there’s a lot of pressure to get this track and that track, whatever.”

14. “I believe strongly that you just take whatever the gift has given you that day. You don’t say, ‘Oh, this is the wrong well, so I’m not going to take it!’ You take what you’re given, and hope it’s from a good place.”

15. “Generally, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time on a solo. I’d try to catch something out of the air spontaneously.”

16. “I grew up in the ’60s, and before the ’60s, my father was into Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, so I heard those records all the time and soaked that up.”

17. “You never know if it’s gonna be a big hit, you hope for the best.”

18. “The first time I saw Tom Petty, he was playing in a band called Mudcrutch with Tom Leadon. They were in a park doing country-rock-type stuff.”

19. “Well, every night’s gonna be different. I don’t even know what we’re going to play the next two nights. But that’s the exciting part of it.”

20. “Keeping a band together is more work than anybody will ever tell you.”

(Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

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