Echoes – Mid-Michigan Artists Reimagine 23 Tom Petty Classics for Double Tribute Album

Twenty-three Mid-Michigan artists pay homage to Tom Petty on the new double tribute album, “Echoes.”

Eighteen months ago, Andy Reed and JD Dominowski heard a distant “echo” in the sprawling fields of Mid-Michigan.

That “echo” eagerly beckoned the Bay City singer-songwriters to pay homage to the late Tom Petty, who passed away in October 2017, and his musical legacy. The two friends quickly answered the call – a double tribute album of local artists reimagining Petty hits, fan favorites and deep cuts.

“We’re re-singing his songs, and we’re an echo of his music now. That’s all he has now are echoes of his music. It’s us carrying the torch a little bit and saying here’s what Tom Petty means to us. Here’s an echo of what he gave us, and we’re translating it in our own way,” said Reed, who produced, recorded, engineered and mixed the project at Reed Recording Company.

Last week, Reed, Dominowski and 21 other Michigan artists dropped their compelling tribute project, Echoes: Remembering the Music of Tom Petty, via all streaming platforms. The album also doubles as a fundraiser for All Music is Power (AMP), a Bay City nonprofit that provides live music for K-12 special needs students in the Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District.

“We thought, ‘Well, let’s make this for a good cause,’ and I started this nonprofit with Donny Brown, who’s also on the record, and I don’t play the live stuff anymore, but Donny still does, and he goes to different special education centers and plays a live concert for them,” Reed said.

“It’s basically music for all the right reasons. This is not something that we want to make money on ourselves. We just want this to be making music for another good thing.”

A Refugee Who Learns to Fly

JD Dominowski provides a countrified rendition of “Refugee” on “Echoes.”

Along with his Michigan music compadres, Reed beautifully interprets a kaleidoscope of Petty catalog “echoes” throughout the 23-track project. The first response includes Dominowski’s striking Americana rendition of the 1979 Damn the Torpedoes classic, “Refugee,” which exquisitely blends vibrant acoustic strums, vivid piano, piercing electric guitar, thumping bass and intermittent tambourine strikes.

Dominowski’s countrified Springsteen-like vocals breathe new life into one of Petty’s most iconic Heartbreaker tracks as he sings, “Somewhere, somehow, somebody/Must have kicked you around some/Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped/Tied up, taken away, and held for ransom.”

“The lyrics, the music – I can’t think of another song that showcases that sort of venom and vulnerability at the same time. That song stabs you and stitches you up in a three-minute sprint. That’s the thing I really noticed on the project, how brilliantly simple of a writer Tom was,” said Dominowski, who’s been a Petty fan since first hearing 1994’s Wildflowers at age 12.

“Andy and I did the whole thing. He really put some thought into the treatment and how it builds. We worked really quickly having been so familiar with it. I really want people to hear the vulnerability of the lyric. I did my best to sing it that way. I tried to really add gravity to it on the vocal and then the explosion of rock at the end – my favorite day ever in the studio, so satisfying. I definitely felt Tom in the room. I think every artist on here did.”

Sarah Schingeck soars on “Learning to Fly.”

While Dominowski soars on “Refugee,” Bay City singer-songwriter Sarah Schingeck effortlessly glides on “Learning to Fly,” Petty’s 1991 Top 10 Heartbreaker hit from Into the Great Wide Open. A glistening duo of acoustic and electric guitars seamlessly blend with rhythmic drums and driving bass as Schingeck’s rootsy vocals magically reverberate in response, “Well, some say life will beat you down/Break your heart, steal your crown/So I’ve started out for God knows where/I guess I’ll know when I get there.”

“The song to me personally means taking moments to try new things, to spread your wings (even if you don’t have them) and fly, and to find hope in each moment, even when it is hard. We started to shuffle through the tracks, and Andy landed on ‘Learning to Fly,’ and he said, ‘That’s it, Sarah. This track is for you.’ I happily agreed, and then as I began to embrace this song more deeply to learn it to record, I once again realized Andy’s genius, and it was indeed the right song for me,” said Schingeck, who’s favorite Petty album includes his 1993 Heartbreakers Greatest Hits compilation.

A King Who Goes Back to Square One

Andy Reed serves as the mastermind behind “Echoes.”

Meanwhile, Reed brilliantly embodies Petty’s solo spirit on “It’s Good to Be King,” the third single from 1994’s Wildflowers. As the “king” of Echoes, he weaves raspy Petty-like vocals with sparkling synths, delicate acoustic strums, light drums, fuzzy electric guitars and mesmerizing harmonies, “It’s good to be king and have your own way/Get a feeling of peace at the end of the day/And when your bulldog barks and your canary sings/You’re out there with winners, it’s good to be king.”

“That is a very Beatle-y song, and it’s Tom kind of showing his influence there. I thought it was a good one for me to do with the harmonies, and the fact that it was on Wildflowers was a bonus for sure. That was an easy one for me, I kinda waited until everybody picked theirs because I really wanted to make sure everybody had what was a good fit for them. Having it be more of an open forum, and everybody helping each other, I had some great encouragement on it,” said Reed, who discovered Petty’s music through his connection to The Beatles.

Michael Robertson pays tribute to his daughter Amanda on “Square One.”

Another captivating Echoes track includes Michael Robertson’s hypnotic folky rendition of “Square One,” a Petty deep cut originally featured on the Elizabethtown soundtrack as well as Petty’s 2006 Highway Companion album. The track features gleaming acoustic guitars, vibrating percussion, sorrowful electric guitar, bouncy drums and faint accordion as Robertson tenderly sings, “Square one, my slate is clear/Rest your head on me my dear/It took a world of trouble, took a world of tears/It took a long time to get back here.”

“As much as I love the original version, I needed to come up with an arrangement that felt like a Michael Robertson song for a lack of a better way to put it. I needed to change the key, and I just wanted something that felt comfortable for me to just sit down and perform it by myself,” said Robertson, whose son’s band, Leland Blue, beautifully covers “Even the Losers.”

Initially, Robertson planned to record “Square One” with his daughter Amanda, who passed away in unexpectedly in January 2019. His poignant Echoes version serves as a double tribute – first to Amanda and second to Petty – that will forever live in his heart. Friends and collaborators Reed (bass, acoustic guitar), Brown (drums), Loren Kranz (keys, accordion) and Rosco Selley (harmonica) add colorful, enchanting instrumentation to Robertson’s haunting version.

“She had a voice from heaven and also wrote and performed her own songs … I really wish we could have made that happen. I debated about picking a different Petty song to record myself, but ultimately felt that sticking with ‘Square One’ was the right thing to do, and that it made a beautiful tribute to Amanda. I think she’d be happy. There’s a spot in one of the choruses where my voice breaks a little to keep from crying. I don’t know if it’s noticeable to anyone else. We just decided to keep it in,” said Robertson, who originally put “Square One” as a ringtone on his cell phone.

An American Girl Who Loves Wildflowers

Jennifer Naegele brings an island flavor to “American Girl.”

Like Reed, Jennifer Naegele discovered her love of Petty’s Wildflowers in 1994. The Saginaw singer-songwriter bought Petty’s first solo album on CD after getting her first CD player for Christmas that year and slowly devoured his catalog.

“I was late to the Tom Petty game. I knew his earlier music, of course, but I’ll admit, I don’t know it, know it yet. I’d gotten hooked by ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’ on the radio and was like, ‘This is the music I want to hear more.’ It makes me feel so good,” she said.

For Echoes, Naegele provides an exquisite slow-tempo, island rendition of Petty’s 1976 signature track, “American Girl” from his self-titled Heartbreakers debut. A breezy blend of finger snaps, quick drum taps, tropical horns, beachy ukulele and deep bass surround Naegele’s honeyed vocals, “Well, it was kind of cold that night/She stood along on her balcony (ooh)/Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by/Out on 441 like waves crashin’ on the beach.”

“I got to know ‘American Girl’ more through recording it than I ever knew it in the first place, and that was a really cool thing to experience. I love its juxtaposition – upbeat and adventuress, yet yearning and lonely – it captures every feeling I’ve ever had when striking out somewhere new (I’ve been on that balcony), pursuing a dream or letting go. I think it’s all of our stories, and he was able to relate to that,” said Naegele, who shines on ukulele throughout the track.

Outside of Naegele, other standout Echoes tracks include Laurie Middlebrook’s countrified jam, “Louisiana Rain,” Amy Petty’s groovy thumper, “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” Escaping Pavement’s soaring bluegrass jamboree, “Don’t Fade on Me” and The Steve Taylor Three’s heavenly Americana ode to uncertainty, “The Waiting.”

“I hope that those who love Tom Petty are moved and excited by these new versions, maybe even rediscover something new in them. I hope they feel how much we all respect his legacy, and I hope that new people are introduced to and begin to follow the gem of a music community we have here in our region and through Reed Recording Company,” Naegele said.

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