Speaking in his conversion with Open Culture, Petty talked about how he would often make a basic home recording on an acoustic guitar before showcasing it to the band. After persisting with the song in rehearsals, he would wait for his fellow bandmates to confirm that the arrangement was “good,” and continue developing the tune in an open, collaborative environment.
Tom Petty’s thirst for groove and the cohesion he cultivated in the musicians he worked with become increasingly obvious the more you listen to his music. The song “Forgotten Man,” one of Petty’s most recent and arguably, ferocious, offerings, is a testament to the wider vision the musician had for his material, with a pounding, groove-sodden rhythm section that forms the perfect foundations for the explosive vocal and guitar work that define the theme of the song—a masterclass in lifelong professionalism and persistence.
Melody and narrative
When questioned about the inspiration behind his songs, Tom Petty once explained that he never looked at the germ that kickstarted or drove his songwriting as he felt it was kind of creative magic for which he, like many of his legendary peers, served as a conduit.
Rather than analyze his creative process or put it under a microscope, Petty would pluck his ideas out of the air and capitalize on them as they entered his imagination, wherever he was in the world.
That said, one of the main methods the musician used to give each song, not only direction, but its own unique voice, was to pick a character for his narrative and step into his or her shoes. By doing so, he would set a tone, choose a theme and use these elements as a vessel for the song, shaping the way in which he sang, played and forged the beginning, middle and end.
Without a doubt, Petty delivered his music heart-on-sleeve, and songs like “I Need to Know,” written in the midst of the original Heartbreakers’ bassist, Ron Blair, leaving the band, demonstrate his dedication for meaningful, passionate delivery.