Chris Stapleton was crushed by Tom Petty’s unexpected death on Oct. 2, 2017.

The rock legend was a heavy influence on Stapleton’s career, along with Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, whom Stapleton cited as his favorite guitar player of all time.

“I play a [Fender] Princeton [guitar] because Mike Campbell plays a Princeton,” Stapleton tells Taste of Country. “I’ve done a lot of things because I think Mike Campbell would do it.”

In summer of 2017, Stapleton got to live out a dream of performing with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, joining the band for three Midwest shows.

“To get to play three shows with them, that was something that was talked about for a year and a half, or two years, before that ever actually happened,” Stapleton explains. “I thought it was just some kind of running booking-agent joke. … And it actually happened.”

However, Stapleton had hoped the three shows wouldn’t be his only run with the band. According to Stapleton, Petty shared the same sentiment.

“I got to spend a few minutes with Tom, talking, and the last thing he said to me was, ‘I hope we get to do more of this,’” says Stapleton. “I left there thinking that we would get to do more of it, and I’m so heartbroken and sad that he’s no longer with us. He’s given us so much music -- and brought so much joy to so many people who have listened to his songs and his songwriting, and his singing and his guitar playing.

"I would not trade anything for those shows, and that brief moment I got to speak with Tom. It was a highlight of the year for me.”

Stapleton is currently readying for the release of his highly anticipated From A Room: Volume 2, which is available Dec. 1.

Country Music's Best Guitarists