It’s a gift to fans. While Tom Petty was recording the Wildflowers album, some of the process was being filmed. The raw footage was discovered by his daughter, Adria, in 2020, and now it’s a film we can watch free on YouTube.
The documentary combines the original footage with other film from that time, plus there are recent interviews with producer Rick Ruben, and Heartbreakers Mike Campbell & Benmont Tench.
Tom Petty fans will find it all fascinating. We’re given insights into what was happening in Tom’s life in 1993 & 1994 during the writing and recording of what he considered his best album.
Producer Rick Ruben was especially insightful. He said we think of the song “Wildflowers” as just Tom Petty and an acoustic guitar. He explained the reality is there are “fifty elements”, including orchestration, that are light touches adding to our pleasure as we enjoy repeated listenings.
Ruben also explained that the album sounds more intimate, because they didn’t layer the guitars as on previous Heartbreaker albums, allowing for a more singer-songwriter feel.
Tom Petty quipped…”I never really hired Rick as the producer, he just kept showing up.” Actually, Tom admitted he would write some songs, and then call Rick to come over.
Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench added many details about the whole project. They agreed that making Wildflowers was the most fun they had making an album. They said the reason there were so many songs is that the process was so enjoyable they didn’t want to stop.
The documentary is about 90-minutes long. Besides all the revelations about the songs, I love hearing pieces of the recordings. Those included isolated voices in harmony, individual guitars and keyboards, and hearing the orchestrations all by themselves
There’s also a separate interview piece on YouTube with those responsible for the project. They include (top row) Adria Petty, director Mary Wharton, interviewer David Fricke, (bottom row) co-producer Sarah Haber, editor Mari Keiko Gonzalez, and producer Peter Afterman.
You can hear the passion they all had for the project, and they obviously did a great job.
Anyone who misses Tom Petty will be thankful to spend a little more time with him. Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free…streaming now on YouTube.
Update: (March 2022) Tom Petty’s “Somewhere” won the Producers Guild Award for Best Television or Streaming Movie.