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  • Matt Morrell

You Belong Among The Wildflowers

I learned last week that Tom Petty's song Wildflowers came into the world fully-formed. The home demo is almost indistinguishable from the record.


That song has always had a special place for me. I stumbled on it when I was learning to play guitar. I learned it properly with a band in college, finding the swing and the feel much harder to replicate than it initially appears. The high capo, the upper strings ringing out - it always felt more approachable for me than anything else in his catalog, but still just out of reach.


And to know he just made it up all on the spot, it just resonates even more.


For a while, I made making up songs a part of my show. The trick is you think of a line and then rhyme "towards" that line. You build up a little tension and then release it with the rhyme. It can kind of be anything - the audience can feel it when you are really making it up and it infuses just enough tension in the room to make everyone relax a little when you stick the landing. And even if you miss it they will usually go along with it. It's a bit of a gimmick, but it works.


The songs are usually disposable. That way of writing doesn't really translate to recording. The filler becomes more obvious.


Maybe it's just that Tom Petty's filler is so far above everyone else's that it holds up. In Tom Petty's hands, improvisation feels... pure?


Little glimpses of a genius at work. So grateful to be able to hear all of it.

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© 2020 by Matt Morrell