Tom Petty had a reputation as a laid-back recording artist, but his kids disagreed with that description of their father. They described him as intense. While his public-facing persona was relaxed, he was deeply dedicated to his music. Because of this, he couldn’t disagree with his kids. While he said he’d mellowed with age, he did not believe he was laid-back.

Tom Petty had three kids

Petty had three children, Adria, Annakim, and Dylan. He shared Adria and Annakim with his first wife, Jane Benyo. After the couple divorced in 1996, Petty married Dana York and became a stepfather to her son Dylan. He once spoke about the life lesson he wanted to pass down to all three children.

“I have a very blessed life,” he told Parade in 2010. “I think any time you’re making a living at what you love to do, you’re blessed. That’s what I try to instill in my kids. Go after what you really love and find a way to make that work for you, and then you’ll be a happy person.”

Tom Petty’s kids told him he was extremely intense as a person

Over the years, Petty picked up a reputation as a laid-back musician. In many ways, he was relaxed. When Sam Smith’s song “Stay With Me” drew criticism for sounding like Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” Petty wasn’t upset about the similarities.

“About the Sam Smith thing. Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam,” Petty wrote, per Rolling Stone. “All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement. The word lawsuit was never even said and was never my intention. And no more was to be said about it.”

Still, his kids didn’t believe that his chilled-out rocker reputation was very fitting.

“My kids have this huge laugh about me. I just spent some time with them, and they were laughing about my image,” Petty said in the book Conversations With Tom Petty by Paul Zollo. “They said, ‘The world pictures you as this laid-back, laconic kind of person, and actually you’re the most intense, neurotic person we’ve ever met.’”

He found that he couldn’t disagree with them.

“That’s kind of true. You’re not always what people picture you as,” he said. “Like ‘laid-back.’ I’m not a laid-back person.”

The ‘Wildflowers’ singer believed he had mellowed over the years

Though Petty didn’t think of himself as laid-back, he said that he became more relaxed as he got older.

“I was a pretty turbulent person. I don’t think I was an a**hole. But I think I was intense. Very intense,” he said. “So I don’t think it was always somebody else’s fault. I’ll take the blame as much as anyone else [Laughs] for what went on. But I was very intense, very serious about this. We were going to do it. We were going to make something great. And sometimes that requires a lot of intensity. I think it was just born into me. I’m incredibly changed. I think I’m a much changed person from those days. I think I’m a lot mellower.”

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