Where the Wildflowers grow: The inside story of Tom Petty’s greatest album

Tom Petty released a lot of great albums over the course of his four-decade career as one of the great American songwriters, but none meant more to him than 1994’s Wildflowers. “Even on the last tour, if we played a song from Wildflowers he’d say: ‘That’s the best record we ever made’,” remembers Benmont Tench, keyboardist and founding member of Petty’s backing group The Heartbreakers. “And I appreciated that he said ‘we’.”

Wildflowers is ostensibly a Petty solo record, although the majority of The Heartbreakers ended up playing on it anyway. It was recorded at a transitional time in his life; he was privately aware that his 20-year marriage was falling apart, and publicly separating from both his record label MCA and producer Jeff Lynne, who had been instrumental in the creation of his two previous albums, 1989’s Full Moon Fever and 1991’s Into the Great Wide Open. Lynne was a hero of Petty’s, and had been his bandmate in supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, but Tench says Petty was looking for a new sound. And it was easier, perhaps, recording the more personal, introspective songs on Wildflowers with Rick Rubin, a producer he barely knew when they started making the album. “People will tell their life story to a stranger, even when they won’t tell those things to a friend,” points out Tench. “I think emotionally it was great to have new blood around.”

Continue reading at The Independent.