The four-piece rock band The Shelters released their self-titled album in June 2016 with the help of music icon Tom Petty. The band’s light-hearted surf-rock riffs and magnetic vocals caught Petty’s attention and he brought the band into his studio. Lead vocalist Chase Simpson recalls growing up with Petty’s stepson and developing a coveted relationship with his friend’s dad.
“Tommy would turn me onto a record or I’d show him a lick on the guitar and eventually I started showing him stuff and he’d give me pointers and suggestions. Once The Shelters were born, it was a natural relationship between all of us.”
After releasing their debut album, the L.A. rockers took to the road and toured across the States, supporting Band of Horses and The Hunna and Night Riots. The Shelters performed their hit single “Rebel Heart” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and will be found playing the European festival circuit this summer and the Air + Style Festival in Los Angeles. We caught up with Chase to discuss their album, working with Tom Petty and the most important lesson he’s learned as an aspiring songwriter.
How did your relationship with Tom Petty begin?
I grew up in Malibu with his son. Naturally I developed my own relationship with Tommy and we connected about music more and more over the years of my friendship with Dylan. We were always comfortable with each other.
How did everyone else react when you started working with Tom Petty?
It’s crazy at first. He’s such a cool, down-to-earth soul though. He’s a really wonderful person. Everyone has become great friends and developed our own individual relationships with him.
Do you think the album would have been much different without his mentorship?
Well, I think we would’ve made it happen no matter what but obviously it turned out much better and we’re much better songwriters and musicians for having him around. He helped guide us and show us around. Experience is everything. His guidance really comes in handy when you don’t know which road to turn down and you have a great idea but you’re stuck. He’s been down the good and bad roads before. He’ll steer you clear of the bad ones.
What was it like having Tom Petty co-produce your album?
As great as it was having his guidance, we were alone in the studio for the majority of the time. He was overseeing the entire process rather than micro-managing every little thing.
We had never been in a real studio before so we definitely had to earn our stripes. There are a lot of knobs in studios. We did a bit of learning from our mistakes in the beginning. The beauty of being able to be in Tommy’s studio for as long as we wanted was that we had a lot of time to explore.
What inspires you?
Everything. When you’re writing, anything can be a song. While I’m talking to you, I might write something down that you said that could be a song. Liar, that’s a cool word. What can I do with that? I’m definitely inspired by listening to other music, mostly.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned being an aspiring songwriter is that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. You can sometimes take something and tweak it and make it your own. No matter what, it will be you playing it at the end of the day and it will be special.
Who inspires you musically?
I love British invasion music, mostly. I love the Kinks. Ray Davies is one of the greatest songwriters ever, in my opinion.
What is a band or artist that fans would be surprised to hear you listen to?
That’s a better question for Jacob; he listens to weird stuff. Josh listens to a lot of rockabilly bands. He actually found this really small record label out of L.A. and they have like 20 rockabilly bands. Maybe that’s surprising to people.