Tom Petty reflects on 40 years of songwriting as he receives ASCAP’s Founders Award

Forty years of practice has made songwriting harder, not easier, for Tom Petty.

LOS ANGELES — Forty years of practice has made songwriting harder, not easier, for Tom Petty.

“As life goes by, you get a little more carefree or distracted by other things and you have to really police yourself — I do — into sitting down and doing something that pleases me,” the 63-year-old rocker said.

“Plus, I’m trying to do things that I haven’t done before and not go over the same ground.”

The writer behind such hits as American Girl, Mary Jane’s Last Dance and I Need to Know will accept the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ Founders Award on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Previous honorees include Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel.

“It’s very nice to get an award for songwriting,” Petty said. “I’m duly impressed.”

His process is much the same as it’s always been: Sit down with the guitar and see what comes.

When inspiration strikes, “it’s a very real magic,” he said.

So magical, in fact, that he hesitates to examine it too closely.

“It’s really hard to explain because I don’t really understand it myself,” he said.

“I know that when we have time booked, like when we set aside time to make a record, that’s when I usually get pretty — I guess I get on the job as far as making sure I have enough songs, you know.”

He sits and plays, recording bits here and there.

The next day, he listens to what he did and either develops or scraps it.

Touring takes him out of the songwriting groove.

“It takes me a few months after a tour to get back into the headspace to write songs.”

Petty and his band just finished their latest album, Hypnotic Eye, set for release this summer. That allowed time for him to check out Jimmy Fallon’s recent duet — as Petty — with Stevie Nicks.

“I was amazed by how well they did the Heartbreakers,” he said. “It was brilliant. Very funny.”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also signed on as the headliner of the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco this August, along with Kanye West.

The musicians haven’t yet met, but Petty said, “Everybody loves Kanye West, right?”

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Aaron Goodvin sings at Westerner Days

Aaron Goodvin performed at Westerner Days Wednesday.… Continue reading

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Central Alberta

There’s a severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Red Deer and the… Continue reading

WATCH: Sun shines on Red Deer’s Westerner Days parade

George Young has been a Westerner Days parade marshal for about 28… Continue reading

Central Alberta receives funding for regional emergency training

Alberta Municipal Affairs announces $160,000 for training on top of $40,000 previously received

WATCH: Global FMX at Westerner Days

There are three freestyle motocross shows a day at Westerner Park this week

Study links air pollution to drop in national park visitors

DENVER — Visitors appear to be steering clear of some U.S. national… Continue reading

Banff’s bathroom bears returned to the park after 15 months of rehab in Ontari

Three cubs found abandoned in a washroom along the Trans-Canada Highway in… Continue reading

Canada could get caught in cross-fire of U.S. uranium investigation

Canada could get caught in the crossfire after the U.S. Department of… Continue reading

Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled his pre-election cabinet, shuffling… Continue reading

Canada’s premiers meet Indigenous groups, although three major groups decline

BOUCTOUCHE, N.B. — Canada’s premiers are meeting with Indigenous organizations in New… Continue reading

An updated list of federal cabinet ministers following Wednesday’s shuffle

OTTAWA — An updated list of federal cabinet ministers following Wednesday’s shuffle,… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month