Mike Campbell is finally set to hit the road with the Dirty Knobs for their first proper tour, more than two years after they initially plotted shows.

Postponed several times due to the pandemic, the former Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist describes the dates as a “spiritual release.” They start March 9 in Tampa.

The tour will showcase songs from both Dirty Knobs albums; their newest, External Combustion, is out today. A video for "Wicked Mind," the first single, offered a preview of the album.

Campbell tells UCR that it’s been a lot of fun putting together set lists, which will vary from night to night. “In the past, we didn’t have records. The Knobs, we would play some new songs that we wrote and we’d do a lot of covers, just for fun,” he says. “Now, we have two records that we want to share. That takes up a lot of the set, doing the songs from the two records that work good live.”

The current plans won’t “leave a lot of room for covers,” in Campbell's view. But he says they will do "a handful of Heartbreakers songs, here and there along the way.”

The criteria Campbell used when selecting Petty tracks was pretty simple. “We just tried them [and] there were [also] songs that I liked.” He had the structure of the Dirty Knobs in mind, as well. “How does this sound with a four-piece loud guitar band?” Happily, “really good” was the answer that came back for a lot of them.

“We have a version of ‘You Got Lucky’ that’s without the keyboards, just the guitar. There’s almost a 'London Calling' approach to it,” Campbell says. “We do ‘You Wreck Me’ and ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream.’ We have a really good version of “Southern Accents” that we do as a waltz, kind of a pared-down version.”

Some deeper cuts will likely pop up occasionally in the set, as well. “This song ‘Can’t Stop the Sun.’ from The Last DJ, we have a great arrangement of that,” Campbell confirms. “We have an arsenal of [Heartbreakers] songs that we’ll interchange from night to night. I think people coming to see us would probably like to hear some of those.”

Mostly, Campbell is happy to get a chance to showcase Dirty Knobs songs and, at last, the incredible chemistry they have together. He’s looking forward to the spontaneity of not being tied to a regular set list and seeing what might unfold as they go city to city.

“Every night can be different,” he says. “It’s a great band and I just can’t wait to play.”

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