Mike Campbell Channels Heartbreakers Spirit in New Dirty Knobs Album and Tour

Mike Campbell's Dirty Knobs release third album with new tales.

by Nouman Rasool
Mike Campbell Channels Heartbreakers Spirit in New Dirty Knobs Album and Tour
© Jerod Harris/Getty Images

After a more than four-decade tenure as lead guitarist and co-producer with the Heartbreakers, they entered "Unknown Territory" - which is the title of his debut album. Things have shifted around for Campbell, who took over lead vocals in the Dirty Knobs after Tom Petty passed away in 2017.

With their classic roots-rock vibe, the band has been wowing audiences and stirring up crowds since the release of its third album: Vagabonds, Virgins and Misfits. Campbell, 74 at the time, spoke to PEOPLE about how he credits taking a position in leadership for changing his life.

"Because - and here folks change..." he revealed "...I guess that's some type of metamorphosis sorta genre I've undergone. He remembered how light his previous job working as a guitarists was, and revealed that even though he has to remember lyrics instead of reading off the sheet music, guiding the wells band is much easier.

And now I've got to remember lyrics, hit the vocal notes and run the band. But I'm not shying away from it and actually getting loads of confidence, Campbell said.

Dirty Knobs: Sound Evolution

Featuring Campbell, bassist Lance Morrison, guitarist Chris Holt and drummer Matt Laug The Dirty Knobs will have been tweaking their sound since making its debut as a band on 2020's "Wreckless Abandon." As their new record proved ahead of time, the band can still write.

Campbell added, "It all starts with the songs. Wherever the songs decide to guide it is where the record goes. In tracks like Angel of Mercy, which sees Campbell veer from his own experiences and step into a narrative storytelling angle you really get to hear the lyrical prowess.

"Because my songs become the characters," he said. Dare to Dream Album buddies such as Graham Nash appear on the optimistic Dare to Dream. Campbell gushed about Nash, "He'd done an interview with me and I went all sycophantic (on) him like 'Would you sing harmony or something?' He said, ‘Sure.’ I love his voice.

For me, it's like a gift from heaven. The latter collaboration finds Lucinda Williams contributing a tearful verse to ballad Hell or High Water ("I wanted a woman's perspective for the story," says Campbell). "[Lucinda] was so shy about it when I asked her, but finally, and I pleaded with her to just do this.

She was just absolutely phenomenal at it," he added. Don't Wait Up showcases his abilities and contributions from Chris Stapleton, as well Benmont Tench. "Half the s--- he plays is great," Campbell says of Tench on piano. With Campbell in the lead, The Dirty Knobs are now on tour and they like taking request from fans.

He called their new anthem "The Greatest" a dedication to fans He said: "It's a thank-you song to the crowds that have been so sweet on us. She continues to pay tribute to Tom Petty - in projects like the recently released Petty Country album with country stars.

On "Ways to Be Wicked," he worked with Margo Price, noting in an "I Love L.A." uptrend (of sorts) how happy he was that the latter cut back would be given a spot of new life.