Tom Petty Producer Explains How ‘Wildflowers’ Was Pared Down To A Single Album


Fans are chomping at the bit for the October 16th release of the Tom Petty box set, Wildflowers & All The Rest. The “Deluxe Edition” features 15 home studio recordings made by Petty and is rounded-off with 14 live performances of songs from Wildflowers, recorded on various tours from 1995 to 2017, along with 16 studio recordings of alternate takes of Wildflower's songs.

Rick Rubin, Petty's co-producer for the set spoke about the album, which resulted in over 60-hours of recorded music and a 25-track original double album delivered to Warner Bros. Records. Rubin recalled the nine-month process in creating Wildflowers, telling The Los Angeles Times, “We sat in office chairs and Tom would either play me recorded demos or play new songs on acoustic guitar. We returned to Tom’s roots, his comfort zone, with musicians making a human connection in the moment.”

Rubin, who was aware how much Petty resented authority, was confused how easily Warner exec Lenny Waronker was able to talk Petty out of releasing the set as a double-disc: “I was surprised Tom was open to this suggestion as he notoriously bucked any kind of voice of authority. Lenny was different though, and as Tom had so much respect for both Mo Ostin, who signed him, and Lenny, the always-tasteful music producer, he followed (their) advice. They picked the right songs. But I have to say, a few months ago I listened to the other half, the 10 (unreleased) songs, and I had to turn it off after three or four, because I was thinking, “Goddamn — that song was good too! Maybe we made a mistake here.'”

Rubin went on to say, “Tom tapped into something in that moment we didn’t recognize at the time. It ended up haunting him later in life. I remember running into him on the beach several years ago and he said he was 'afraid of Wildflowers.' He said it was his favorite of everything he’s done and couldn’t grasp why.”

Tom Petty admitted that songwriting could pose some difficulties depending on how the songs come about: “They're equally hard — they're equally easy. I'll tell you what's tough for me, when I write lyrics first. I have a real hard time finding the right piece of music that I think, sort of, matches the color of these lyrics. I always hope that I get at least a verse, or a chorus — something — come in as I find the melody. And that would usually guide me. But it has been tricky sometimes to get music to fit lyrics.”

Tom Petty On Songwriting Challenges :