Let's start with the big news:
We recently launched a very special collaboration, and I've been so excited about it I had to wait for my heartbeat to slow down for a bit just so I could write about it here.
Introducing the Tom Petty Wildflowers X Trek Light Gear Limited Edition Blanket:
It's available exclusively through the TomPetty.com shop and won't be sold on our site - so, head over quick and pick one up because it's a limited run and they're already disappearing fast.
And, if you haven't listened to the Wildflowers & All The Rest release yet, go ahead and stream it right now or grab it on vinyl if you can. I can't say enough about the incredible job that Adria Petty, the Heartbreakers, Rick Rubin, and everyone involved with the release did to make this feel as special as it deserved to be.
OK - now that you know we collaborated with the Tom Petty estate to make a very special blanket in honor of the Wildflowers & All The Rest release, I'm going to attempt to write about why this matters so much to me on a personal level.
Here we go.
When Tom Petty passed away in 2017, it hit me hard.
It feels like a weird thing to say. That the death of someone I didn't know really affected me, but if you know me well at all, which most of you don't, you would know that I loved Tom Petty just a little more than most. More on that in a bit.
It's easy for me to remember the exact moment I learned the news - he passed away the day after Heather and I got engaged. We both returned from a blissful weekend in a cabin way-off-the-grid, excited to share our good news - and immediately regretted turning our phones back on.
I initially wanted to write about it right away. That's what I do when I feel like I have a story I need to share.
I wanted to at least share the story of when I first saw Tom Petty in 1995 as he was touring for the Wildflowers album. How 25 years later I can still remember exactly how I felt at that show. How his music was a soundtrack to so many of my formative memories, and how his music eventually became an echo in my life.
Instead, I found myself actually, real-tears crying over the death of a celebrity/artist/someone I didn't know. That had never happened before.
The more it sunk in, the more I realized I wasn't going to be writing a quick story about how I loved Tom Petty and how grateful I felt for his impact in my life. The words just weren't there, and it felt too big.
But now here we are, and thanks to that beautiful blanket up above the story has somehow grown a little bigger - so, it's time for me to get some Tom Petty storytelling off my chest. Where do I even begin?
With Wildflowers I suppose, but it really begins right before that.
The Greatest Hits
In the early 1990's, I was a teenager quickly becoming obsessed with music. I was moving past the teeny bopper music that had been force-fed to me and I was coming through my own tunnel of music discovery.
And here at the end of it was all the REAL MUSIC to be discovered.
I immediately had stacks of older stuff to obsess over - The Beatles. Led Zeppelin. Bob Dylan. Creedence. Pink Floyd. The Grateful Dead.
And at the same time, I was living through the glory days of MTV and a golden age of new music. In the early 90's I was a nearly perfect age to witness so many massive bands explode onto the scene: Pearl Jam. Nirvana. Sublime. Dave Matthews Band. Rage Against The Machine. Phish. The list goes on.
And somehow, right in the middle of it all, was Tom Petty.
I vaguely knew him as the guy with some cool music videos on MTV, and that's really all. But when the Greatest Hits album came out in 1993, it all clicked for me.
Tom Petty was instantly my new 14-year-old obsession.
I honestly had no idea, until they were all put together on a single album, that all of those random radio songs and music videos I had heard over the years were the same guy. How could they all be?
I remember just leaving the CD in the player and hitting the Repeat button so the album would start over again every time it finished. And - I know I'm not alone in this experience - every time that guitar riff to American Girl started up again as the first track, I was somehow as excited as the first time I ever heard it.
Even after a year of listening to the Greatest Hits on repeat, I still hadn't dug any deeper into Tom Petty's catalog. I hadn't bought any other CD's and I just blindly trusted that, hey - these are all the best Tom Petty songs right? He's probably at the end of his career - that's how it usually worked when an artist put out a Greatest Hits album.
I thought of Tom Petty in the same way as some of my other recent musical obsessions like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin at the time - I loved it, but I still felt like I was catching up on my parent's music that I was born too late for.
And then came Wildflowers.
All of a sudden, I didn't just have old Tom Petty music to listen to - I had what felt like it could be the best album he had ever made, and it was brand new.
The minute I came home from the music store and unwrapped that beautiful, tan Wildflowers CD, Tom Petty went from being some other generation's music to being just as much MINE.
If you loved music as a teenager, you understand just how important of a distinction that is.
The Summer of '95
"It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was drivin'...'"
I got my driver's license in the summer of 1995 and if there's one universal truth in the world: that's what Tom Petty was made for.
He was the soundtrack to my new open road behind the wheel, but, like most 16 year-olds, my "open road" didn't feel all that big at the time. And I lived in Rhode Island, so I'd argue it was a little smaller than most.
To be more accurate, he was the soundtrack to all those nearby places I would drive to and dream about the real open road.
Those summer nights parked under the stars with friends, drinking beers I wasn't supposed to have, I found myself nodding my head, and understanding every story Tom Petty sang as if it were written for me: I was the waiting, the losers, I was every love song I wished I could write, and I was definitely a (wannabe) rebel without a fucking clue.
Tom Petty was a storyteller, and in my mind I was all the characters in those stories. If he was singing about something I hadn't experienced yet, I had a feeling I would someday soon.
Dogs With Wings
Tom Petty hadn't done a major US tour since 1991, but finally in that summer of 1995 I got my chance. The Wildflowers "Dogs With Wings" Tour.
August 14th, 1995 - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers at Great Woods
You'd think that my excitement to see Tom Petty as a 16 year-old that summer would be through the roof. In many ways it was, but the truth was that by the summer of 1995 when it came to live concerts, my musical tastes were shifting. The bands I loved seeing live by that summer were jam bands - young, improvisational, and playing different setlists every night.
No matter how much I loved his music, I was mentally preparing myself to be underwhelmed by an older 'legend' that presumably played the same set of 4-minute songs every night.
And then it happened.
The group took the stage, the energy level of the crowd was insane - and then I heard THE BAND.
I had no idea.
The second the Heartbreakers started to play, I instantly realized they weren't just a backing band - they were THE BAND.
And then the hits began.
Most 'classic' bands you'll ever see live will always play their big hits strategically in the setlist - they'll throw one in early to get you fired up, they'll put some in the middle after they've lost you with a few filler songs, and then they'll bring out the big guns to send you home thinking about how great the show was.
They can't all be hits. Right?
Not in Tom Petty's world. The Heartbreakers weren't fucking around with filler.
Every time I'd hear the first few notes of the next song it felt a little like I was being pranked. Was this going to be a 30 minute show? Had he screwed up and played all his best songs too soon?
Even the songs I had never heard before just felt like hits.
And they kept coming.
As I'd learn over the next 20+ years, and with every new album he released, and every older album I dug deep into - that first live experience I had was a metaphor for his entire career.
Greatest Hits? Damn near all of them.
"It's time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing"
When I decided to move to Colorado in the fall of 2001, I bought a 12-disc CD changer for my cross-country road trip and I was pumped. This was the biggest adventure of my life - moving at 22 years old to a place where I knew almost no one, and opening up every door in my life to the unknown.
Without really thinking about it much, I put Tom Petty's Greatest Hits in the first CD slot, loaded up 11 more road trip worthy albums, and off we went.
After our first pit stop, we learned something: Every time I turned the car off and started it again, the CD changer would start over and begin playing Disc 1, Track 1.
And every time, those opening notes to American Girl would hit the same way they did when I first heard them. You couldn't possibly skip it. And then the song would end, and we'd think "That was fun again, but man, we should probably listen to something else..." - and then those opening notes to Breakdown would ring out. And here we go again.
I can't begin to imagine how many times we listened to that entire album over the course of our week long road trip. We changed every other disc several times, but Tom Petty never left that the first slot. Just like when I'd leave that album on repeat at 14 years old, you somehow just couldn't overplay it. The songs, down to the exact order of the songs, were just too perfect to wear out.
Here I was, now 22 years old and as I listened to those songs heading out on the biggest adventure of my life, it finally hit me that something had changed - I wasn't dreaming about the stories in the lyrics anymore, I was finally living it.
I was finally headed into the great wide open. I was running down a dream, learning to fly, and on and on. It was cliché as hell (I know, sorry), but it was everything.
Tom Petty's music had become an echo in my life.
I knew I wasn't unique in identifying with Tom Petty's lyrics - hell, the genius of Tom Petty's songwriting (and any great artist) is that it feels so universally familiar to so many.
I knew I was identifying with the songs like millions of others because the themes were universal, but still it hit me like a ton of bricks:
I couldn't say for certain that listening to those songs all those years earlier hadn't somehow led me to exactly where I was in that moment.
Great art is simultaneously a reflection and an inspiration.
It's often impossible to decipher the difference between what initially inspired you, and what you were drawn to because of who you already were.
And that's the thing about an echo - once it starts, does it really matter where it began?
There's plenty more I could say, and believe it or not there's plenty that I cut out when trying to share this with you.
But - there is just one more part of the story I need to tell to wrap this up, and in a way it's the point of me sharing everything I did above.
By now I'm sure it's pretty clear why making a Tom Petty X Trek Light Gear blanket meant so much to me.
Back in 2017, when I was rocked by the death of one of my favorite artists, I never dreamed I'd have the chance to one day collaborate with his family and extended family on such a special product.
But here's the craziest part I want to share with you:
I never pitched the Tom Petty estate to make a blanket.
One day I opened my email and I came across a request. They were searching for small businesses with heart to make special products for the Wildflowers release, and in a simple twist of fate they had found Trek Light Gear and wanted us to make a blanket with them.
Nothing I consciously did led to that moment and this collaboration happening. Or maybe everything had.
How's that for an echo?