March 18, 2006

Petty finishing solo album; plots tour, film

By Melinda Newman and Ray Waddell

LOS ANGELES/NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Tom Petty is putting
the finishing touches on a new solo album, "Highway Companion,"
expected to be released in June.

Also in the works is a documentary about Petty and his
longtime bandmates the Heartbreakers, with director Peter
Bogdonavich chronicling their career for a film due later this
year, their 30th together.

Petty previously said the solo disc would be released by
Rick Rubin's American Recordings label, but confirmation of the
deal is still pending.

"I'm reaching there to try and find a theme," Petty told
Billboard of the project, which he previously described as
being about the passage of time. "It's just a really nice
collection of songs. I think it does have an underlying theme
of time and what it does to you."

In support of the album, Petty and the Heartbreakers will
tour extensively in 2006, with dates concentrated in the
June-July and September-October time frames. True to form, they
will try something different.

"What we're trying to do is a bunch of shows with different
artists that either we like or think would be an interesting
show," Petty manager Tony Dimitriades told Billboard. "One of
the main things we're doing is a bunch of shows with Pearl Jam.
We're also talking to John Mayer about doing some dates, as
well as the Strokes."


Bogdanovich admits that he had not closely followed the
band's career when he was approached late last year by producer
George Drakoulias -- who has worked on several of the group's
albums and Petty's solo material -- about a potential
documentary. He became intrigued by the group's story, and,
after having a meeting with Petty about it, he was hooked.

"Tom is really a child of the rock 'n' roll age in the
sense that when he was 11, he was introduced fleetingly to
Elvis Presley and it changed his life," Bogdanovich says. "You
can't listen to Tom's music without knowing that he's heard a
lot of other music like the Beatles, Elvis, the Byrds and Bob
Dylan. But he's made a niche for himself, and he understands
that it's important to know what preceded you. I agree with
that sensibility, and we really got along intelligently."

Bogdanovich expects the film to be released close to the
anniversary of the band's debut in November. It will also air
on TV or cable around that time; details are still being

"We will be as candid as we can in the film," Bogdanovich
says. "We want to explain what impact the group had on the
world and the world on it. We will try to put their career into
perspective, and we will really get into what Tom meant by his

Why did the famously private Petty allow for such
unfettered access?

"I think it's a worthwhile project, and I think it's good
that he's going to finally tell this story completely.
Sometimes, giving up your privacy is a little like going to the
dentist, and we have let him have access that no one's ever

(Jill Kipnis in Los Angeles contributed to this story.)