On December 29th at the Columbus Theatre, PVDlive and the Columbus Cooperative are pulling together a troop of performers to honor the late Tom Petty, for a night deemed “Something from a Dream”. Within a week of the legend’s passing, area musicians and promoters got to work, drumming up an incredible lineup of 15 of Providence’s finest acts, including surprise appearances and collaborations. Additionally, during this season of giving, all proceeds from the show are going to Girls Rock! Rhode Island, a volunteer-based non-profit that uses music creation and critical thinking to foster empowerment, collaborative relationships, and the development of healthy identities in girls and women.
This week, we chatted with event co-curator, Dylan Sevey, a Rhode Island native and former drummer of local favorite Smith&Weeden. About a year ago, Dylan uprooted to Nashville to secure his spot as the drummer for Ron Gallo, a punk roots rock group earning serious street cred all over the world. Check out what Dylan has to say about Nashville, his home state, and what’s in store for the Petty tribute show, where he’ll be performing with his longstanding project Dylan Sevey and The Gentlemen.
PVDlive: First and foremost, how are Nashville and Ron Gallo treating you?!
Dylan: It’s been great! I had been coming through Nashville for a few years before I moved here, and I fell in love with it a little more each time. I’m happy to be here.
Playing with Ron has been an unbelievable experience. We ended up playing 154 shows this year alone, which is far and away the most any of us have ever played in a year; but by the end of it, we could see the hard work paying off. I get to play music that I love with people I love for audiences that seem to really respond to it; we’ve still got a way to go, but I can’t think of a much better position to be in.
PVDlive: You guys are certainly supported around here, playing 2 sold out shows in PVD within 6 months!? Speaking of PVD, what do you love most about Providence?
Dylan: I love Nashville, and I’ve begun to make it home, but at least for right now, Rhode Island still feels like home to me. I lived in the same ten-mile radius for the first 25 1/2 years of my life; you don’t shed that easily. Providence is where I cut my teeth musically in my early-to-mid twenties. I’ve played a lot of great shows there, and a lot of bad shows as well. I did some things I was really proud of, made some awful mistakes, met a lot of people that became extremely important and close to me, and overall learned a lot about myself from my experiences playing and being there. It can be equally encouraging and unforgiving. It’s a tough city at times, but I will always love it for everything it’s meant to me.
PVDlive: Good for you for recognizing it was time to move on. What inspired you to put this show together?
Dylan: Two years ago, Jesse Smith of Smith&Weeden, who I drummed with for three years, had a birthday extravaganza at the Columbus Theatre. As Smith&Weeden, we did a full set of Warren Zevon songs, and the Gentlemen and I played a set of Tom Petty songs to close the evening. I was already in the stages of planning a show for the Gentlemen when I was back for Christmas break, and after the initial few days of mourning Petty’s death, I knew we would have to reprise it to some degree.
Eventually, my friend and fellow Petty enthusiast Michael Panico reached out to me and mentioned that PVDlive’s own Chrissy Stewart was in the midst of planning a tribute. I didn’t want to hold up any plans for anything, given that I wouldn’t be back until this month, but after conferring a bit, we decided to join forces and put together an evening to sufficiently honor Tom’s music.
We’re also happy to have all the proceeds going to benefit Girls Rock! RI. Given that the show is taking place in the holiday season, we felt it was important to give back to an admirable organization that is working to make our state and its music scene a better place by empowering female musicians.
PVDlive: Thanks for acknowledging that; we’re really honored to partner with Girls Rock! RI and contribute to such a relevant cause.
PVDlive: In preparation for this night, can you give us your take on Tom Petty? Where did your fandom start?
Dylan: I literally had a three-year phase where I barely listened to anything besides Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. I have been completely obsessed for the last ten years of my life. It would be futile to try and accurately describe what his music and songwriting has meant to me. The fourth and last Heartbreakers show that I saw was at the Beacon Theater in New York City in May 2013. To see them in a room that intimate was great enough, and to furthermore see them play a set heavily comprised of deep cuts that I never thought I’d be lucky enough to hear live was extremely special.
Because I’m a complete psychopath and don’t spend my free time doing anything remotely productive or interesting, I once ranked every Tom Petty song in order according to my personal taste. It’s mind-blowing how far down the list I need to go to start getting into the territory of songs that aren’t tremendous.
PVDlive: Well, we certainly won’t contest how you spend your time. Pull together your top ten and we’ll make a playlist to share!
Dylan: Will do! Everyone knows how great his hits are, but he has thrice as many deep cuts that are just as good. “Crawling Back To You” from Wildflowers in particular is a total gem. Still, as cliche as it may sound, I always end up going back to “American Girl.” The end of that second verse – “God, it’s so painful when something that is so close is still so far out of reach” – feels like life condensed into one line. Everything about that song is absolutely perfect.
PVDlive: Can’t argue that either! What act are you most looking forward to at this show?
Dylan: Is it a copout to say all of them? Because that’s my honest answer. I’ll be playing drums for Josh Buckley as well, and in the three years I’ve known him, I’ve never had a conversation with him that hasn’t devolved into us gushing over Petty, so I know his passion will shine through. The Quahogs have been good friends for many years; my cousin Steve plays guitar with them, and he and I literally grew up together playing Petty songs in his basement and at Christmas parties, so it’s going to be really special having him there. The ‘Mericans have been a Rhode Island institution for many years, and I know Chris has some great things up his sleeve. John Faraone, Allysen and Ava Callery, Jen Long, Russ Connors – they’ve all such great performers and friends, and they’ll be playing some stripped down songs that I know will be marvelous. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting or seeing Mary Bee, Kate Mick, Randy Robbins, or Jodie Treloar Sampson, but after hearing some of their music and speaking to each of them, I’m looking forward to all of their songs.
We have a few surprises and special guests that will be sprinkled in throughout the night, and as much as it pains me to keep some of them a secret, I think it will be ultimately worth it for everyone involved.
PVDlive: What can we expect from you and “The Gentlemen”?
Dylan: We are playing a set of our own music the night before (Thursday, December 28th) at Pump House Music Works in Wakefield, RI, my true hometown. It will be our only full set of original music that we play this year, so we’re excited for that. I expect that after that, we will be more than ready to bring it 100% at this show. We have some additional friends joining us for a few songs, and since we’re closing out the evening, we expect the end of the set will be especially celebratory.
From me personally, you can probably expect me to ugly cry approximately 382 times, from the moment that The Marshall Pass opens up until we close it out. Tom Petty’s music has impacted me in more ways than I can count, and based off the widespread reaction to his death and conversations I’ve had in the last two months, I know I’m far from alone. We’re going to celebrate his music and life at one of the best venues in the city with some of New England’s best musicians, surrounded by friends and family, and donating the proceeds to a good cause. I can’t think of a better evening.
PVDlive: Neither can we! See you there… we’ll bring the tissues!
As proud as the PVD community is to see Dylan learn to fly, we’re equally thankful he is reuniting with us for what’s sure to be an amazing night with the area’s top talent, and biggest Tom Petty fans. Head to the Facebook event for lineup, details, and ticket info… and check back with PVDlive for more interviews coming soon!
The waiting is the hardest part.
interview by Sarah Goodrich
photo credit Boston Concert Photography
PVDlive & The Columbus Cooperative Present:
‘SOMETHING FROM A DREAM’
A Tom Petty Tribute Night
When: 8:00 pm, December 29, 2017
Where: Columbus Theatre
Price: $10 advance / $12 day of show