Chris Hillman was quick to remember his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame mate Tom Petty on Tuesday — and with good reason. Petty produced Hillman’s new solo album, Bidin’ My Time, which just came out on Sept. 21. Depending on what’s in the vaults, the album might also contain Petty’s final recordings as he played harmonica on “Given All I Can See” and guitar on Hillman’s version of The Byrds rarity, “Here She Comes Again.”
In a statement to Billboard, Hillman writes, “I loved Tom so much. He was such a blessing in my life. Tom touched everyone with his beautiful music. I am praying for his family, bandmates and friends.”
Prior to the album’s release, Hillman told Billboard that it was Petty along with good pal Herb Pedersen, who convinced the former Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers/Desert Rose Band mainstay to make the album at all.
“I didn’t think I would ever make another record,” Hillman said at the time. “This just came along through Herb and Tom Petty…. After I had a long conversation with Tom in the fall, November, I said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?,’ and he was, ‘Do you want me to?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah, can you make the commitment?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, do you want me to do this?’ ‘Of course I’d love to work with you.’ He said, ‘Great, we’ll use my old studio and everything.’ I told him the budget, which wasn’t’ very much, and he says, ‘That’ll be interesting…’ But all in all it was a joy. I’ve never had as much fun recording.”
Petty and Hillman go way back, of course, and Hillman said he was always appreciative of Petty’s devotion to the Byrds as an influence on his music.
“Tom has always acknowledged the Byrds in the early part of his career,” Hillman noted. “He cut a couple of our songs, ‘Feel A Whole Lot Better’ and ‘Rock and Roll Star’ on a live album and he really nailed ’em, just so much excitement. And he’s a great guy. I knew him from 1978 when the Heartbreakers were starting to break. I really got to know him on this project and it’s hard for me to look at Tom as a true rock star that he is, and he is such a humble guy and he loves music and understands and loves all kinds of music, which I like. So as a producer he was fantastic.”
Bidin’ My Time closes with a version of Petty’s “Wildflowers,” which he and Pedersen performed during the MusiCares Person of the Year gala honoring Petty earlier this year.
“After that I said, ‘We should cut this song ’cause it’s so comfortable for me to sing it,” Hillman notes. “It wasn’t any king of ‘Thanks for producing us, Tom. Here, we’re gonna do one of your songs.’ I was hoping it would meet his approval, and he loved how we did it. It’s such a great song.”
Hillman and Pedersen are currently on the road with John Jorgenson, who also plays on Bidin’ My Time.