“Homegrown in the headphones” is the opening line and “Gainesville was a big time” is the refrain in Tom Petty’s latest song, an homage to his hometown released Thursday.
Recorded in 1998 during the Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “Echo” album session, the new song, “Gainesville,” is part of the “An American Treasure” box set due out on Sept. 28.
“The song is a magical reflection on growing up in Gainesville,” Adria Petty, the rock ‘n’ roll legend’s oldest daughter, wrote in an email from her home in New York. “Florida is such a huge part of who my dad was and what his music is.”
Footage for an accompanying music video was shot in Alachua County last week and should be unveiled before the box set comes out, Adria Petty said.
Asked what fans would see in the video, she said: “They can expect to see some places that were important to my dad and his childhood. Things that inspired songs like ‘Dreamville’ as well as some present-day images of Gainesville and its loving and appreciation for him.”
Tom Petty performed with bands around the area before moving to Los Angeles – and in 1976 joined with the Heartbreakers. The singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He died Oct. 2 in Los Angeles. He and The Heartbreakers had just concluded a 40th anniversary tour one week earlier in that city.
The box set will include 60 tracks, among them live versions of such hits as “Breakdown” and “I Won’t Back Down,” as well as other unreleased tracks, one of which is “Bus to Tampa Bay.”
Adria Petty said her family and members of the Heartbreakers started working on the box set a few months after Petty’s death as a way to remember and honor his musical legacy.
“It has been a true labor of love and a cathartic way to accept the enormous loss we have all experienced,” she said.
Glenn Richards, who teaches a course called “Rock ‘n’ Roll and American Society” at the University of Florida, said the box set feels anything but a money grab.
“Even his throwaways were better than most people’s released songs,” said Richards, who is also the operations coordinator and “Morning Edition” host on WUFT-FM.
In “Gainesville,” Petty sings positive notes such as “you’re all right anywhere you land” and “you’re OK anywhere you fall.” Richards said one reason it might have been left off “Echo” is because those notes didn’t match the album’s darker tone.
Ryan Ulyate, a producer for “An American Treasure,” told Rolling Stone magazine: “’Gainesville’ is this guy (Petty) looking back on this early life. It is very self-referential from a guy who has some nostalgia for a simpler time. I love the song. It’s just great, but I can see how it didn’t necessarily fit the vibe of Echo.”
Brantley Gutierrez, a photographer and director who has worked with Paul McCartney as well as The Foo Fighters, led the team producing the “Gainesville” video. Chris Nixon, a close Petty family friend, and Heavy Petty tribute band leader Jason Hedges served as tour guides.
Hedges said the crew filmed at locations such as Lillian’s Music Store, Paynes Prairie, Lake Alice, Northeast Park, Blue Springs and Howard Bishop Middle School and Gainesville High School; Tom Petty attended both schools.
Gainesville plans to remember Petty by celebrating his birthday, Oct. 20, at two concerts as well as renaming Northeast Park in his honor.
“We all really appreciate what the city and the citizens have done to recognize my sweet dad,” Adria Petty said.