The Heartshakers concert set for Wednesday at Holmes Theatre
The musicians who comprise Nashville’s premier Tom Petty tribute band, The Heartshakers, have performed with some of the industry's biggest stars, including Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, Amy Grant, Peter Cetera, Little Big Town, SheDaisy and Ronnie Milsap. They will bring their love of Petty's music to Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre this Wednesday, July 14 for a 7:30 p.m. tribute show titled "The Tom Petty Experience."
Those who attend this Saturday's Music on the Mountain fundraiser at Detroit Mountain Recreation area will be getting a little preview of Wednesday night's main stage show at the Historic Holmes Theatre: The Heartshakers, Nashville's premier tribute band celebrating the music of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, are one of two opening acts slated to perform prior to Saturday night headliner Billy Currington (Perham's own Patrick Murphy is the other).
"We love playing both outdoors (at Music on the Mountain) and indoors (at the Holmes)," said Mark Childers, the band's bass player, during a Wednesday Zoom interview. "It's going to be fun."
The band is also looking forward to spending a few days in the heart of Minnesota lake country during Detroit Lakes' Northwest Water Carnival.
"We're so excited to come to Detroit Lakes," said Ty Smith, the band's lead singer, adding that he was very impressed by what he had seen of the Holmes Theatre facilities online.
Though they've only been performing together as The Heartshakers for a couple of years now, Childers said they all have extensive experience as professional musicians. "I play for Carrie Underwood, Ty has played for Easton Corbin and Ronny Milsap — he's a drummer by trade," he added. "Our guitar player also plays for Leann Rimes— everybody kind of does their own thing when we're not together."
The five band members landed on the music of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers not only because of their mutual love of the music, but also due to Smith's uncanny resemblance to the late American rock icon.
"It was kind of crazy how this whole thing started," Smith said. "It was in the mid-2000s ... I was playing at Los Angeles with a guy named Gary Puckett (of Union Gap fame) ... we'd finished our show and this lady came up to me and asked, 'Has anybody told you, you look like Tom Petty?'"
When he answered yes, the lady asked him if he could also sing like Petty, so Smith sang a few bars of one of the Heartbreakers' better-known hits.
"She whipped out this business card and said, 'I book a tribute show in (Las) Vegas, and I'd like to book you.'"
Though Smith was obviously flattered by her interest, he said, "I was too busy being a touring musician at the time." So he turned her down.
It wasn't until about a decade and a half later that he and Childers came up with the idea of doing a Petty tribute show of their own. Though they decided on the concept prior to Petty's unexpected death in 2017, it wasn't until after the singer's passing that it became a reality.
"I'd only really known him as a drummer," Childers noted, but once he heard Smith's voice, he thought, "He's really good at it, at connecting with an audience."
"We do about 20-21 songs," Smith said. "We obviously cover all the hits, but we also try to work some in that only people who are true Petty fans would know. We have a few surprises in there."
For instance, he added, a lot of people don't know that Petty and his guitar player, Mike Campbell, wrote quite a few of the band's hits together — and Campbell wrote a few for other musicians along the way. Some of those songs could have been Heartbreakers hits as well, Smith said.
"Campbell had written this song and took it to Tom, who passed on it," he recalled. "So he took it to his good friend Don."
That song, titled "The Boys of Summer," became the biggest hit of Eagles vocalist-drummer Don Henley's solo career. It made the cut for the Heartshakers' playlist as well.
"We kind of do it in a cool way," Smith said. "I let our guitar player — who is also a great singer — do a little bit of it, and I show people how it could have been a Tom Petty song."
Though their show is slated to last about 90 minutes, he added, "Sometimes if I’m feeling extra saucy, it might go a little longer — because I talked so much."
Like many musicians, the Heartshakers have only recently begun doing live shows again, after a COVID-related, unplanned hiatus that lasted several months.
"We've done about four shows so far," said Childers. "We're really enjoying what's been going on."
At one recent show, the audience "didn't stop dancing the whole night long," he added. "They were having a great time.
"We're looking forward to getting to Minnesota," Childers continued. "We've heard there's a lot of Tom Petty fans there, so we're getting pretty stoked about being there."
If you go
What: "The Heartshakers: A Tom Petty Experience"
Where: Historic Holmes Theatre, 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes
When: Wednesday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.
How: All tickets $30; order online at dlccc.org/holmes-theatre.html or call 218-844-7469.