Steve Taylor vividly remembers the day Tom Petty died.
The Lake Orion singer-songwriter and vocalist-guitarist of the Americana roots trio The Steve Taylor Three drove home from a band rehearsal on Oct. 2, 2017 and officially heard Petty had passed away.
“By the time I was driving home, it was like 10:30 at night, it was pretty clear that he was gone. I was rooting around in my car trying to find a Tom Petty CD in there somewhere, and I found the album, Echo,” said Taylor about Petty’s 1999 album. “The first song on that album is called ‘Room at the Top,’ and it just starts with Tom Petty playing guitar and singing, ‘I’ve got a room at the top of the world tonight, and I ain’t comin’ down.’”
That song instantly sparked Taylor to write four pages of nostalgic thoughts about Petty once he arrived home. Those thoughts remained dormant for six months until Taylor turned it into a heartfelt tribute with bandmates Bryan Frink (bass, keys) and Carey Weaver (drums, percussion) called “The Day Tom Petty Died.” It’s one of 12 new stunning tracks featured on The Steve Taylor Three’s third album, Earn Every Scar, out Saturday.
“And the whole thing was I didn’t want to write a sad song about it. I kinda wanted to write a song that told the story of the day he passed away,” said Taylor, who studied bass at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. “It’s supposed to be a tribute to everything that he accomplished.”
The uplifting ode to everyone’s favorite Heartbreaker features clicking drumsticks, driving bass and vibrant piano as Taylor beautifully sings, “I hope you like the view from the room at the top of the world/And I hope you’re dancing with an American girl/I know that Roy and George are sitting by his side/I won’t soon forget the day Tom Petty died.”
Taylor grew up listening to Tom Petty on the radio, but didn’t become a hardcore fan until seeing Peter Bogdanovich’s 2007 documentary, “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” about the Gainesville, Fla., native and his longtime band. “I’ve said to so many people, ‘You don’t realize for every 25 Tom Petty songs that you know there are 25 you’ve never heard that are good if not better,’” he said.
Earn Every Scar
Along with “The Day Tom Petty Died,” Earn Every Scar includes a timeless canon of countrified rock tracks about renewal, gratitude, self-reflection and wisdom. Produced by Frink and Andy Reed, the album serves as the ideal sonic companion for a relaxing drive with the windows rolled down on an unseasonably warm spring day.
In fact, The Steve Taylor Three eloquently shares a sense of personal renewal on “First Warm Day of Spring,” which blends chirping birds, hopeful fiddle and vibrant acoustic strums into a soaring, driving track.
Taylor breezily sings, “I love you like the first warm day of spring/As the sun shines upon the yellow grass/The trees begin to bud and the birds begin to sing/I love you like the first warm day of spring.”
“First Warm Day of Spring” also features former Vudu Hippies lead vocalist Renee Paquette on background vocals and Janet Sullins on fiddle.
“I never go very long without singing with Renee because she’s my favorite singer. She sang on Check Your Baggage as well. We didn’t get her on The Tennessee Sessions because she didn’t travel with us to Tennessee, but she did sing with us when we did The Tennessee Sessions release party. I told her we were doing this record, and I’m like, ‘You gotta get over to Bryan, and you definitely have to sing on this record,” said Taylor about his former Vudu Hippies bandmate.
Taylor also said Sullins’ gorgeous fiddle parts added a whole new dimension to the “First Warm Day of Spring” as well as the refreshing album opener “Sky So Blue” and the reflective ballad “These Lines on My Face (Last Call).”
“We played over the bridge, which is in the middle of ‘First Warm Day of Spring,’ a number of times, and Bryan played it back for me, and Janet played different things on different tracks, but these two tracks sound like they belong together with her playing two different things on two different takes. We said, ‘Oh, let’s pull that out by itself and make that the beginning of the song,’” he said.
Another standout Scar track includes “These Lines on My Face (Last Call),” which weaves crashing tambourine, delicate cymbals, deep-tone electric guitar, intermittent drum taps and mournful fiddle into one breathtaking sound.
It also references the trio’s album title as Taylor reflects, “Well, these lines on my face/They all have their place, and there’s not one that I would remove/Cuz I’ve earned every scar from too much time in bars/I’ve forgotten everything but this tune.”
“My favorite album title has always been when you pull a lyric out from a song. Basically, my inspiration was from Soul Asylum, and they have an album called Grave Dancers Union, and there’s a song toward the end of the record called ‘Without a Trace,’ and a lyric that goes, ‘I tried to dance at a funeral/New Orleans style/I joined the Grave Dancers Union/I had to file.’ The album title comes from lyric of a song that’s late in the record,” Taylor said.
The Steve Taylor Three started writing and recording for Earn Every Scar after the release of 2018’s The Tennessee Sessions as an ode to the musical legacies of Memphis and Nashville. They recorded four of Scar’s tracks at Nashville’s Welcome to 1979 studio while the other eight were laid down at Frink Studios in Beverly Hills, Mich.
Together, they also collaborated with Reed (slide guitar, organ), Billy Livsey (organ, piano) and Larry Labeck (pedal steel) as well as Paquette and Sullins on Scar. For Taylor, the album represents some of the band’s best material ever.
“I feel like for us, this is the record we’ve been trying to make for 10 years. I really feel like we did it mainly because of Andy coming in and really getting what we were going for,” Taylor said. “And when we listen back to this record, we’re really proud of it, just the sound of it and the production of it.”
Saturday’s Album Release Show
The Steve Taylor Three will celebrate Earn Every Scar’s release Saturday with a sold-out show at Dixie Moon Saloon in Royal Oak. Paquette and Labeck will join the band for their performance while Columbiaville singer-songwriter Jaime Marvin will open the show.
“We’re gonna play the whole record in order, and then we’re going to tack on some special stuff at the end, maybe a Vudu Hippies song or a cover,” Taylor said. “We always like to plug a new song here and give a preview of the next record.”
In the meantime, The Steve Taylor Three will start working on new material with Reed as a follow-up to Earn Every Scar at Frink Studios. The band already has several demos ready to go.
“All the songs for the next record have already been written, and I’m already getting excited for the songs that are not going to be on the next record, but on the record after that,” Taylor said. “We’re going to start doing some tracking with Andy in April, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we had another record done before the end of the year.”