Podcast Transcript

Speaker 2:                        Taking a walk.

Mike Campbell:               I rarely work things out. I like to go off the cuff and try to grab things out of the air while you’re playing the song and try to catch a little magic. It’s spontaneous because I think that your listeners can sense that you’re discovering it when they are.

Speaker 2:                        Welcome to the Takin’ a Walk podcast. The podcast where your host, Buzz Knight, delves into the stories behind the music with the musicians who make it happen. Today Buzz is joined by guitarist Mike Campbell. Mike was part of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for many years. He also composed and played on Boys of Summer and Heart of the Matter by Don Henley and most of Stevie Nicks’ solo records. He also joined Fleetwood Mac to replace Lindsay Buckingham on the 2018 and 2019 tour. Now Mike is out on tour with his band The Dirty Knobs, and he’ll take some time to talk with Buzz about their new release, “Vagabonds Virgins and Misfits”. Mike Campbell joins Buzz Knight on Takin’ a Walk.

Buzz Knight:                     Mike Campbell. So awesome to have you on the Taking a Walk podcast, celebrating the release of “Vagabonds, Virgins and Misfits”. Have you been hanging around Tom Waits lately?

Mike Campbell:               I wish I could hang out with Tom Waits, but no, I haven’t seen Tom.

Buzz Knight:                     It’s a great title and I absolutely love the album. We’re going to get into talking about certainly the work with Lucinda Williams and Chris Stapleton and Graham Nash and Benmont as well, and of course the great Dirty Knobs. Is it hard for you to comprehend that this is the third Dirty Knobs album?

Mike Campbell:               No, I can comprehend it. I did all the work. It’s pretty well comprehended. There’s a lot of blood and sweat on those tapes. But no, I’m in this groove now. I’m moving forward with this band and my own writing, and I can comprehend going on even farther with this.

Buzz Knight:                     You seem to be absolutely having a joyful time.

Mike Campbell:               I am. I’m very grateful to be here. I love what I do and I’m very proud of the work that the band has done with me.

Buzz Knight:                     You were just out celebrating the 50th anniversary out at the Church Studio where Mudcrutch first hit the scene back with the great Leon Russell and Shelter. Tell me about, first of all, going back how it felt and tell me how you remember that experience 50 years ago.

Mike Campbell:               Yeah, I was very honored that Tulsa and the church people asked me to come back and honor that place. They restored it really well. We went out there and I had an out of body experience walking into that room after decades where it all started with us and Cordell and Shelter records. I walked into the room that Tom and I and Ben and Randall Marsh, the original Mudcrutch, walked into that room with Denny Cordell and we didn’t know how to record at all, but I remember standing in that room and just looking at each other and we thought we’d made the big time. We were in The Church Studio at Leon Russell’s Town, but we didn’t know what we were doing. I did have a flashback standing there last week. I could see my brother Tom’s ghost and feel all those old feelings again. It was touching in a lot of ways, in a good way.

Buzz Knight:                     When you were out initially there with Leon Russell, did you have a deep understanding of what an amazing musician and career he had had?

Mike Campbell:               Yeah, I loved Leon Russell. I used to see him play in Gainesville when he passed through town, and of course I’d seen the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour and all those great players in his band. But to be honest, Leon wasn’t there when we first went through Tulsa. We were hooked up with Denny Cordell, who was Leon’s partner, and our producer. We didn’t see Leon until a while later out in LA, but he was not there at The Church that first time we came through town.

Buzz Knight:                     But that’s amazing. You had this spiritual experience there that you clearly felt, right?

Mike Campbell:               Yeah. You could see it in the video where I’m standing in that room. We did a video of this new song, Dare to Dream, and you can see that I’m having a moment, a positive emotional moment.

Buzz Knight:                     The video’s amazing, and it really evokes a tremendous feeling and a sense of some optimism that we all need, don’t you think?

Mike Campbell:               Absolutely. Don’t we? The world is a wicked place these days. It seems almost more wicked than it used to be. Yeah, I think that as an artist or songwriter and Tom was the same way, not to compare myself to the Beatles, but I like the thing with the Beatles always had a positive, most of their songs were about peace and love. Every now and then John Lennon would throw in, “I’m a loser”. Generally speaking, our songs with the Heartbreakers we always tried to aim toward hope and redemption. And if a song maybe has a dark character, at least by the end, you hope there’s some way he’s going to get out of his predicament and life will be better. If this song in some ways makes people feel that maybe life can be better, then I’ve done my job.

Buzz Knight:                     It’s a wonderful song, and having Graham on it is super special. How did you happen upon asking Graham to appear on this?

Mike Campbell:               Well, it took a lot of courage. I had met Graham before a few times on tour they had opened for us, and I had done a gig in Kauai with him once at a benefit, and he came by and did my little radio show that I do on Tom Petty Radio. At the end of the interview, I kind of sheepishly said, “Would you maybe want to sing on one of our tracks?” He said, “Sure, I’ll make your song better.” He did. God bless him. I sent him the tape, and I am a huge child of the sixties, the Hollies, the Beatles, Animals, Stones. The Hollies I always just loved their vocals, and Graham was a large part of that high harmony. I sent him the song and I got it back, and I was just blown away that he captured some of that Hollies blend on the song for me. I couldn’t have been happier to have it here on your song. I mean, come on.

Buzz Knight:                     I love the show on Tom Petty Radio, by the way. You make it look very easy. How do you make it look so easy?

Mike Campbell:               Well, it’s just you and me, we’re just talking. The Tom Petty Radio on Sirius XM is a good station, and Tom started it and was deeply involved with the show. Now that he’s gone, we want to keep the show alive and keep playing his music and our music. Benmont does a DJ show, and I think Stan Lynch and Steve Ferrone are also doing DJ shows where they come on and talk and play songs. They asked me if I would want to help, and I didn’t want to do that because I don’t really feel like I’m a DJ type person. I said, “If I can do interviews and conversations with other people about music, then that would be interesting to me.” That’s what my show is all about, just getting someone that I respect or that knows about us and just talk about music and have a conversation like you and I are now. That’s the idea behind it.

Buzz Knight:                     It’s excellent. I love it. You got a guitar at 16 years old, is that right?

Mike Campbell:               That’s about right, yeah.

Buzz Knight:                     What kind of guitar was this?

Mike Campbell:               It was basically unplayable, but I didn’t know at the time. It was a $15 pawn shop Harmony Archtop Acoustic. I begged my mom, we didn’t have much money, but I begged her for a guitar and she scraped up the 15 bucks and got me this thing and I learned how to play on it, but it was unplayable. Now I look back on it, the strings were real high off the neck and my fingers would literally bleed. I’d be trying so hard until I went over to a friend’s house and he had a Gibson, and I pick it up and I went, “Oh my God, this isn’t hard at all. It’s easy. I’ve been struggling.” But my first guitar, it taught me how to play hard and I was just hooked. As soon as I got the guitar, nothing else mattered. It was all about the guitar.

Buzz Knight:                     Do you remember the first solo that you learned?

Mike Campbell:               Johnny B. Goode. I learned it off the radio. I didn’t have a teacher. I never took guitar lessons, but I heard that on the radio and somehow I managed, I guess I had an affinity, and I just figured it out on the guitar. I just love Chuck Berry and that song, I connected with it. I felt like a poor boy trying to dream about making it someday. I just identified with the way Chuck plays, and I still get chills when I hear him play. There’s something about him and the way he plays guitar, the double stop thing that I try to emulate.

Buzz Knight:                     Did you ever perfect the duck walk?

Mike Campbell:               No, I’m still working on that. Nobody can quite do it like him. I’ve seen people try, but Chuck had the way. He was quite a performer. Amazing person. Yeah.

Buzz Knight:                     A little bit of mojo, wouldn’t you say?

Mike Campbell:               Yeah. He had some mojo in his songwriting, his character, his originality, he created that thing that so many of us have borrowed from over the years. He’s still in my top three guitar players of all time.

Buzz Knight:                     You mind listing the other two?

Mike Campbell:               Well, it’s more than three really. But Chuck, of course, Jimi Hendrix because he was just ridiculously out of control, crazy good. I liked Mike Bloomfield. A lot in the early days I had the Paul Butterfield records and I had that Harmony guitar and record, and I would slow the record down to 16 so I could hear what the guitar was doing, and that’s how I learned that he was bending the notes. I didn’t know you could bend the notes on the guitar. There’s Keith Richards, George Harrison, Roger McGuinn, there’s so many. That era was just incredible for guitar players. It’s not like that anymore, but I’m happy I was there to be inspired by all that stuff when I was learning.

Buzz Knight:                     And you completely self-taught though?

Mike Campbell:               Well, yeah. When I was a kid in school, my parents forced me to take accordion lessons for a couple of months, and I learned the basics of scales and chords and things on that a little bit. But when I got the guitar, I just taught myself by ear.

Buzz Knight:                     What was the first concert that you ever went to?

Mike Campbell:               The first concert would’ve been the Beach Boys at the Jacksonville Coliseum. I think the bill was, it was one of those Dick Clark things. I think they had a bunch of artists on like Del Shannon and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs and different bands. Then the Beach Boys came on as the headliner at the end, and they just completely blew me away. They sounded just like their records. I love that California dream of hope and happiness, living in Jacksonville that sounded pretty good to me.

Buzz Knight:                     I am sure. Tell me about what pawn shops mean to you when it comes to the discovery of guitars, which mean the world to you.

Mike Campbell:               Yeah, pawn shops are a gold mine. In the early days when I couldn’t afford much, you could get a good deal in a pawn shop. I got my first Firebird Gibson in a pawn shop for I think $120. It was just ironic recently on the Fleetwood Mac tour when I was out with them, we were in Philadelphia and I went by a pawn shop and I found a white Firebird, and that’s become my main touring guitar now, so I’m back to the Firebirds again. It’s hard to find deals now because the word is out that these instruments are valuable. I used to always go on days off with the Heartbreakers, me and maybe Scott Thurston or Ron Blair, we’d go out and find a pawn shop and try to dig up an old gem. Occasionally you’d get something really cool. Most of my guitars are old vintage stuff, and nowadays though, I was lucky to find that white Firebird because nowadays it’s hard to find deals.

Buzz Knight:                     Is there anything in particular you’re on the lookout for?

Mike Campbell:               Brody keeps sending me stuff, “Do you want this?” “I’ve already got one of those.” I might want to get a Epiphone Coronet, I think it’s called. It’s real light, Del Shannon had one, real lightweight, and they sound pretty good. Steve Marriott played one I think in the Small Faces, but I’m not on a hunt. I’ve got too many. I need to give them away.

Buzz Knight:                     What did the loss of Duane Eddy mean to you as a guitarist?

Mike Campbell:               Well, Duane was a huge influence. He was one of the first, if not the first instrumental guitar player with Rebel Rouser and Because They’re Young and Moovin’ ‘N Groovin’, all those great instrumentals that were on the radio when I was learning, and I learned those songs off the radio too. Anytime an artist of that stature leaves us, it’s always a loss. But I really liked his guitar and his tone. He had that Gretsch tone, deep throaty vibrato-ish tone, and he was an innovator, rebel rouser.

Buzz Knight:                     You knew it was him when you heard him, right?

Mike Campbell:               Yeah, he was an icon and he was ahead of the curve. There weren’t that many guitar instrumentals out at that time, maybe Santo and Johnny and a few others, but his was a very recognizable style and tone, and I like to try to go for that sound sometimes.

Buzz Knight:                     You know what I thought was interesting? I was talking to Steve Howe from Yes on the podcast and even some of the great British prog rock guitarists looked up to Duane Eddy in a big way. He impacted them as well.

Mike Campbell:               The twang is the thing, have twang, we’ll travel.

Buzz Knight:                     Yeah.

Mike Campbell:               He made the guitar sound so big and full, and his songs are really cool, cool riffs and simple, not like showy, but melodic and tough sound. I try to play that way too.

Buzz Knight:                     I was hoping we could go back to, I’m just going to pick three of my favorites, which really is difficult for me because I’ve got another 300 favorites from your work with Tom and The Heartbreakers. Can you take us back into what you recall the creation, either solo wise or session wise of well, first American Girl would be the one I wanted to ask about?

Mike Campbell:               Yeah, I remember cutting American Girl. It was on the 4th of July, and we were at the Shelter, we called it the Brown Room, the Shelter Studios, which had compensated the API console from Tulsa and put it in the office there on Hollywood Boulevard. That’s where we did our first two records. Tom was beginning to blossom as a writer, and he brought in Breakdown and Wild One Forever. Then he brought in American Girl one day and it was a no-brainer this is a great song. He had the Bo Diddley chords, and I wanted to put a 12 string on it, but I didn’t have one, couldn’t afford a 12 string at the time. I had a Broadcaster, which is still my main guitar, so I was trying to get a 12 string sound with the drone octaves, that’s octaves on a six string, trying to sound like a 12 string. That was the genesis of that sound. Between Tom’s guitar and that high droning and the voicings of my chords going up against his chords down low, that became the Heartbreakers guitar sound basically.

                                           When I hear that song now I can hear the formation of the band. That was where we found our thing. At the end of the song, funny story… I make a lot of stuff up on the track. I don’t work it out too much. At the end I just started doing those triplets because I got bored or didn’t know what to do, and I thought it was goofy. Tom goes, “Oh no, you got to double that.” I said, “No, it sounds too much like something else.” “No”, he said, “that’s really good, double it.” Now it’s like this on the fade that’s that signature guitar part that goes out. He was right about that.

Buzz Knight:                     That’s where you probably came into form as your own process of improvising through sessions and the continuous creation of something until you get it right. Is that correct?

Mike Campbell:               It is correct. I rarely work things out. I like to go off the cuff and try to grab things out of the air while you’re playing the song and try to catch a little magic. It’s spontaneous. That’s what I try to do and that’s what that song was about. Just to go back, and I don’t want to get too technical, but you talked about Duane Eddy. There’s also Chet Atkins who was a big influence on me, and it was because I had been teaching myself Chad Atkins on that song of American Girl at the end that’s a finger picking thing. You have to use a couple of fingers to get that and I got that from Chad Atkins, that technique, so I owe that to him too. Yeah, I like to just go off the cuff. Breakdown was an off the cuff. That opening riff was something I did on the track, mindlessly stream of consciousness at the end of the track. I played that once or twice as it was getting to the end of this long jam.

                                           Then they called me up and said, “That lick you play at the end should be at the beginning of the song. It’d be like a catch for the song, a hook.” I went back down and learned it and played it on the front of the song. I like to grab things out of the air that are unexpected because I think that listeners can sense that you’re discovering it when they are.

Buzz Knight:                     It’s beautiful. Tell me about You Got Lucky, what you remember about that whole process and the session and solos and the creation of it.

Mike Campbell:               You Got Lucky was written on a synthesizer, the chords, that whole thing I had done with three fingers. I’m not much on the keyboards, but I had made a drum loop, which I was into at the time, and I had that keyboard line and the chords. I didn’t have the sort of Clint Eastwood movie, Italian Western kind of solo, Marconi thing, which is in the middle. That was Tom’s idea. He said, “Why don’t you go play something like a James Bond thing on the middle?” I had a Strategist come in the mail and I went [inaudible 00:19:27]. Actually, that line was on the keyboard line at the beginning of the song. I just copied that on the guitar and did it with the vibrato arm. Tom suggested that I do that there. I just think he wrote a great lyric to that song. I was so happy every time I would give him a piece of music, if he was inspired to write words, it was always great. I was lucky that way.

Buzz Knight:                     Then tell me about The Waiting and the creation of The waiting. In particular, is it true you also played bass on The Waiting?

Mike Campbell:               I did. Yeah, I played bass no deference to Ron, who’s an incredible, a lot better bass player than I am. But on the songs of mine that if I had a demo, I would put a rough bass on it just to find how it should go. Sometimes we would end up I’d have to play it because that was the right vibe for the song. On The Waiting for some reason Ron wasn’t there that day or something. I ended up playing the bass. What’s interesting about that song, which I love, one of my favorite songs of his, it’s very [inaudible 00:20:39]. I hadn’t done my guitar part yet. On the end of the bass where it breaks down the bass goes [inaudible 00:20:48], and that was a bass line. When I went to do the guitar, I found that once again, the high octaves to sound like a 12th string, so that came from the bass part.

                                           That was also just a stream of consciousness moment where that line came in when I was doing the bass. But if you’re clever and you listen to what you’re doing, you can grab little things that you didn’t expect to happen, little pieces of magic. If you can catch them and mine them, I think that makes for good music.

Speaker 2:                        We’ll be right back with more of the Takin’ A Walk Podcast. Podcast. Welcome back to the Takin’ A Walk podcast.

Buzz Knight:                     Let’s talk about the magic you created on “Vagabonds Virgins and Misfits”.

Mike Campbell:               Yeah.

Buzz Knight:                     I just absolutely love this cover to cover, as we would say. You’ve got some great folks that are helping you out here, Lucinda Williams and Chris Stapleton, Graham Nash of course, and Benmont. Talk about how this project came together.

Mike Campbell:               Well, it is a Dirty Knobs album, and I started writing songs for the sessions, and we came in. I like to cut live with The Dirty Knobs, as much as the Heartbreakers were doing near the end of their career and the very beginning of our career, we always played live in the studio. The Dirty Knobs is very much spontaneous, solos on the fly. I try to get it on tape before they know it too well, so it sounds a little rough and rowdy. I was writing some songs for the album and we started recording with our producer George Drakoulias. We recorded about 25 songs or more, and then I was reassessing all the songs, trying to narrow it down to what an album might be. My wife actually suggested, you should go back through your tape locker. I’ve got closets full of two inch tape of demos I did back 20 years ago, and I didn’t want to do that because I don’t like to go back. I like to keep moving forward.

                                           She said, “No, you might have overlooked something.” I went in there, started listening to those things, and I found four or five things that ended up on this record because I thought the songs were good, and they fit into what I was trying to do. A few of them, we actually used those tapes and built up from them because they had the vibe. Half the record is older songs, and half the record is newer songs and the other record’s laying on the floor for the next record.

Buzz Knight:                     Let’s talk about some of the cuts. First of all, is The Greatest one of those that you took off the shelf?

Mike Campbell:               That’s a new one. It was one of the first songs I wrote for the album. We had come off a great tour and I wanted to write a song that was a thank you to the crowd. That song is You Are The Greatest as the audience, and I just wanted to give back how much appreciation we have for them being there. That song built out of that, and it just became this drone Beatles-y harmony kind of, I don’t know what you’d call it, kind of psychedelic in a way, but it’s a gift back to the audience.

Buzz Knight:                     I love it. Tell me about Angel of Mercy, the creation of that.

Mike Campbell:               Angel of Mercy is an old song that was not in the tape locker. I had tried on the first two albums to cut it because I liked the song. It goes back quite a ways. The Dirty Knobs, when we were playing bars, when we first got started around LA, we played that song live. We tried it again for the third album, and it didn’t really measure up. We basically had finished the record and George Drakoulias came in and he said, “I’ve been listening to that song. You guys should cut it again. Let’s make it sound like a proper record.” I said, “Okay.” At that point, Steve Ferrone came in because I needed a drummer, and he played drums on that one song, and it made the record.

Buzz Knight:                     We talked about Dare to Dream, which is the single with Graham Nash, which is just such a fun, uplifting, optimistic song. I want to talk about Hands are Tied. What guitar are you playing on that that produces such a unique sound there?

Mike Campbell:               I’m trying to remember. I know it’s got a vibrato arm. I think it was a Gretsch cranked up through an amp because I know it’s got a Neil Young-ish vibrato arm vibe on it. I think it was a Gretsch clipper that I have, same guitar I used on I Won’t Back Down. That was an old song that I dug up, and that’s one of my favorite songs. It’s a very emotional song and it’s a little dark. Someone’s in trouble, the girl or whoever is having a really hard time and you want to help her. It’s like whatever it is, it could be drugs, it could be illness, whatever it is, I want to help you but my hands are tied and I hope it works out kind of thing. Also, I like that song because it’s got a time signature change in it, which I rarely do. I usually write in 4/4 or 3/4. This one has a 5/4 section at the top and at the end.

                                           Another thing I like about that song is my wife is so shy, and I’ve always asked her over the years, “Why don’t you come in and sing on something? I’ll make you sound good, don’t worry.” She never wanted to. Then one day on this record, she came in, “I’d like to sing on this record.” On that song, she just comes in and we just layered her to make this great bed, and it really gives this song a spiritual quality. I was proud of her for doing that.

Buzz Knight:                     That’s great.

Mike Campbell:               The guitar is emotional and sweet, and the words are spiritual too.

Buzz Knight:                     It almost evokes that Town Without Pity sound a little bit.

Mike Campbell:               I didn’t notice this until recently that the guitar, which was a stream of consciousness line, it’s reminiscent of Breakdown a little bit. I think it’s that same guy, whoever that guy in me is that plays in that mode. It has a little bit of that element in it. Then of course at the end, it goes into the whole Jimi Hendrix swirly thing. Yeah. Thank you for mentioning that song. I like that one quite a bit.

Buzz Knight:                     Oh, I love it. Then You have Hell or High Water where that force of nature, Lucinda Williams, emerges in that song. What a brilliant song, brilliant collaboration. Talk about how you collaborated with her.

Mike Campbell:               Yeah, that’s a new song that I wrote for the album, and I’m very proud of that one because it is a lyrical workout. It’s a story. There’s a character and there’s a little movie and there’s a lot of wordplay in it, which I’m starting to really enjoy doing. We cut it live and I sang, most of my vocal is live. Then on reflection, I thought, there’s this character in the song, this girl that this guy meets up with and goes into this shadowy world for a moment, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a female voice in there to come in and be that character?” I thought of Lucinda. Once again she had done my show and I said, “Would you maybe consider singing on this song?” She was real shy about it, but she came in and she added such a depth of soul to it. God bless her she’s so good. She really makes the song for me.

Buzz Knight:                     Yeah, it’s so memorable. My God. Can you talk about the song, So Alive and in particular, just that grinding, those sounds that you get out of the guitars there, what is that?

Mike Campbell:               It’s live. I think it’s tuned down to D, the low string is tuned down for a deep growl, and it’s just a burst of adrenaline. It’s just like, “I feel so alive every time I see you.” It’s almost corny, but the music, I think gives it some depth and it’s just Dirty Knobs at their best. The solos live on the floor with mistakes and all. I just see it as a burst of adrenaline. We got Steve Ferrone to sing the oh, oh, oh in there, which is hilarious.

Buzz Knight:                     I love it. Don’t Wait Up with Chris Stapleton and Benmont Tench. That is another stellar collaboration. Tell me how that came together.

Mike Campbell:               That was an older song that we had played in the bars before, and I had discovered two-inch tape, analog tape version of it that was really, really good. I tidied it up a little bit, and Chris Stapleton was over to write one day or something, and I begged him to sing on it, which he did. He sang great. Benmont came over one day and I have a Steinway in my living room we barely use it. We set up the mics in there for him, and he did one take of [inaudible 00:30:25] on it. It was tremendous. It’s a funny song. The words are kind of I am the walrus a little bit like nonsensical, but in a weird way they make sense and it’s just got a sense of humor in it, but it’s a real burst of adrenaline. Guys are really going for it, especially our bass player, Crawdaddy, Lance Morrison, he just altered the album. He’s just pumping it. He’s so good.

Buzz Knight:                     Yeah. Talk about Lance Morrison and how you love playing with these guys in The Dirty Knobs.

Mike Campbell:               Our guitarist is a guy named Chris Holt. We call him Sidewinder. He’s from Texas too, and he’s all over this new record. He is a real breath of fresh air. He’s a great singer. He can play piano. A lot of the piano you hear is him and the guitar he’s just incredible. His voice sounds real good with mine because I need a lot of help, but he makes me sound better. There’s another song on the album called Shake These Blues, which is kind of a [inaudible 00:31:27]. We cut the track live. I said to Chris, I said, “When we get to your solo, just make something up.” He did. He was right on the money. He nailed it. He’s like that. I could just look at him, “Hey, do this.” He’ll go, “All right”, and he’ll do it better than I thought he would. Chris Holt is a real find so I’m lucky to have those guys. And now Steve Ferrone on the drums, it’s quite a band.

Buzz Knight:                     I would say. Speaking of sense of humor too, My Old Friends, that one made me smile.

Mike Campbell:               Good. It did its job. Well, I wasn’t going to put it on the record, I thought it was a little in joke, but George Drakoulias said, “No, it will sound great at the end. Just a little breath of fresh air at the end and a little humor is good.” That’s obviously just me discovering how to play with words. I got this idea that there’s all these alcoholic drinks that could be people because they have names like Dom Perignon or Captain Morgan. I figured I’ll just make the drinks the characters in the song, but you gotta to say goodbye to them because you can’t get sucked into that world. It’s a tongue in cheek song, but it is fun. Chris Stapleton actually sings harmony on it too, which is good.

Buzz Knight:                     Tell me about Innocent Man, since we’ve covered I think everything other than a mandolin. Tell me about Innocent Man as well.

Mike Campbell:               It’s got that drone-y, I don’t know what to compare it to. It’s kind of Appalachian or Irish almost, but it’s got that riff in it. It’s another story song, which I had these characters, and it’s also an old song that I used to play back in the bars and that I pulled out and refined it a bit. I like it because it’s like a movie. There’s a lot of descriptive characters throughout the song, and it’s partly autobiographical. There’s a verse in there where it talks about the attack trained dogs coming on the bus and sniffing around for drugs, which actually happened to The Heartbreakers once going into Canada. We had stopped and put all our pot and stuff in a hotel room on the American side. We’ll pick it up after we come back. We’re going across the border at four in the morning, and they stop the bus.

                                           Then the German Shepherd came on the bus. He went straight for our tour manager’s coat, and he had a little half of a joint that he’d forgot about. They dragged us in the freezing cold and made us strip search and all that shit. That made its way into the song. There’s a little bit of that in it. now the title, when I first wrote it, I was calling it Immigrant Man, and then George Drakoulias one day, he goes, “I know that’s a cool idea, but you might get a little political whatever from that.” I said, “Yeah, maybe so.” He said, “How about if you call the Innocent man?” I said, “You know what? That’s better. It’s got a wider palette.” I gave him credit for co-writing the song with me.

Buzz Knight:                     Tell me what you have learned from being around two of the greats besides Tom, obviously Don Henley and Bob Dylan.

Mike Campbell:               Well, how lucky am I? My life is like that. Throughout my life, I’ve just been charmed. Things have dropped in my lap. The thing with Don Henley, Boys of Summer was just something that was a chain of events that Jimmy Iovine spearheaded that track because Tom didn’t hear what to do with it at that time. He later said to me, Tom said to me, “I shouldn’t have let that one get away. If I’d have been in my presence of mind, I would’ve kept that one.” It ended up with Don, and he did an amazing, amazing job on it. I’m really proud of that song. Don is just, he’s one of the greats, and he’s always been really kind to me and very generous with the songs that we’ve done.

                                           Of course, Bob Dylan showed up in our lives. We did a world tour with him with The Heartbreakers, which was very inspirational and just being around someone who’s that special and deep, I hope some of it rubbed off, but he was just so full of wisdom. He said to me once, “When you’re writing a song, don’t just write three verses and a chorus. Write 20 verses because while you’re in that place, your number 14 and 15 might be great that you would never have gotten to them. Channel and work for better lyrics.” I try to emulate that. I’ve learned a lot from him just watching him.

Buzz Knight:                     Tell me how much you’re looking forward to being out on the road.

Mike Campbell:               Oh, I can’t wait. The band they got all these new songs to learn. We have a whole new set. We’ll have to let some of the old songs go by the wayside for a while. I’m going to play most of the songs off the new record, and we’ve got a great opening act. This girl, Shannon McNally is going to open the tour for us, and the band is ready to go. I miss the crowds and I miss the whole… I like being on the road and I like playing for people. We’ve got to the stage where we can play theaters. Now, we’re not in the biker bars, not there’s anything wrong with biker bars, but I like the theaters better because the sound is better and they’re a little bigger. We’ve worked up to that stage. They’re small theaters, some of them are medium-sized, but that’ll make it a lot more fun.

                                           We’ll have better venues and Steve Ferrone on the drums on this tour, he’ll be a lot of fun to play with, and the crowd loves him. We get to play all these new songs. I’m just jazzed. That’s what I do. I write songs and go play them.

Buzz Knight:                     Will you be writing on the road continuously moving forward?

Mike Campbell:               I write all the time. I have found, typically on the road, I’m so drained from the tour, the gigs, that I don’t write that much. I tend to write more when I’m at home and I have free time. But every now and then I might get a sketch of an idea and I’ll put it down. Mostly I’m focused on the gigs when I’m traveling.

Buzz Knight:                     As someone who is continuously learning in your craft, in closing what haven’t you learned that you want to learn?

Mike Campbell:               Well, I want to learn to be a better singer and a better writer and a better guitar player. You can always get better. That’s the beauty of the guitar and music in general. The more you learn, the more there is to learn. I just want to get better. Mostly though, the guitar I just do that instinctively. I don’t have to work at it too hard, it just comes to me. But the singing I’m working on finding my own voice and writing my own characters and putting songs together that hopefully will inspire people. I know I can get better at that. I’m going to keep struggling with that to get as good as I can.

Buzz Knight:                     I am so grateful that we got to spend this time together Mike Campbell. “Vagabonds Virgins, and Misfits” go check it out. It is an amazing record. Mike, thank you for the time. But thank you for all the great music you continue to give us.

Mike Campbell:               Well, you’re very welcome, and thank you Buzz for taking the time for me today.

Speaker 2:                        Thanks for listening to this episode of The Takin’ a Walk podcast. Share this and other episodes with your friends and follow us so you never miss an episode. Takin’ a Walk is available on the iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.


About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.