Tom Petty’s Daughter Says ‘Wildflowers’ Outtakes Project Is Coming, Shares Demo (Listen)

Chris Willman

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A long-awaited collection of outtakes from Tom Petty’s classic 1994 album “Wildflowers” is finally destined to see the light of day, probably this calendar year, his daughter Adria Petty said in an appearance Thursday night on the Tom Petty Radio channel on SiriusXM. She came on the channel dedicated to her father to share news about the project and to premiere a previously unheard demo of “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” the most famous song from the original “Wildflowers” album.

Although she indicated that “Wildflowers: All the Rest” still wasn’t complete yet, “I think 2020 would be the best parameter I could give right now,” Adria told host David Fricke. “And just because of the way that the world is at the moment, the supply chains and whatnot, I don’t want to make any promises or break any hearts, but I think we’re getting really close, and I’m really excited.”

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That will come as a relief to Petty fans who’ve found that the waiting has been the hardest part ever since the late musician started talking about culling all the alternate material from “Wildflowers” together in one place back in the early 2010s. It was believed that completing “All the Rest” was going to be a priority for Petty once he got off the road with the Heartbreakers in 2017, but he died shortly after returning from the tour.

The 8-track home demo version of “You Don’t Know How It Feels” that Adria premiered on the radio program is remarkable mostly for how clearly it set out the template for the finished version produced by Rick Rubin, although there are a few different musical touches and some different lyrics.

The track was released to the public for streaming and download Friday morning, along with an animated video directed by Blaze Ben Brooks and Aaron Hymes.

In preparing the new project “with the community of the Heartbreakers that my dad had in a really holistic way, we waited so that we could do that in a really beautiful and thorough way,” Adria said. “And we’ve just been having so much fun with everybody and working with Dana [Petty’s second wife] and the band and everybody to just really put this masterpiece in the framing that it deserved.”

Whether the forthcoming project would be a single album, box set or something in between was not addressed in the SiriusXM interview. But in a separate interview with Rolling Stone, Adria suggested it would be something that encompasses demos like the one just released, on top of the sequence of alternative studio songs Petty was preparing. “The family and all our engineers and the Heartbreakers have been circling around this project and making it as delightful and completist as possible,” Adria told RS. “We’re really pleased to be able to share the second half of the Wildflowers double album. But there are also completist versions of how the sessions evolved.”

Previewing the newly released demo on Sirius XM, Adria said, “When this (coronavirus) crisis came around, we really wanted to give people something beautiful … We found a demo for ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’ that felt really sweet and authentic and sincere. And we wanted to put it out a little bit early, even though we’re not quite ready to put the project out, to share something without really asking for anything in exchange — to try to lighten everybody’s load a little bit with something dad left behind that we didn’t know was there.”

After premiering the song with Fricke, Adria added, “He definitely walked in to this project in particular with fully demoed songs that weren’t just lyrics and a melody … I think the 8-tracks were like so complete and so beautiful. As we’re going through these demos, we see a lot of times he’s got a piece of one song and it migrates over to another.” That was the case with some lyrics that he ended up transferring to the song “Crawling Back to You” instead.

“The cool thing about this demo for “’You Don’t Know How It Feels’ is that he’s got that line: ‘I’m so tired of being tired / Sure as night will follow day / Most things I worry about never happen anyway.’ And it’s such a great Tom Petty line. He actually had me put it at the end of the book that we did [to accompany the documentary] ‘Running Down a Dream.’ It was one of his favorite lines that he wrote. He was a worry-wart at times, and he definitely could get in his head about things that are never going to happen, and I think we all know how it feels to sort of live in a state of anxiety right now. And the fact that this familiar tune wraps this up into it in the demo just has this really comforting and sweet and sort of silly vibe to it that we wanted to share.”

Of the forthcoming album, Adria said, “He was champing at the bits to do this project. I mean, he really I think was just going to wait for that tour to be completed, the anniversary tour, and jump in with both feet and do something really special in terms of releasing this sort of second chapter of the ‘Wildflowers’ sessions, which is called ‘All the Rest.’ [It is] just so absolutely stunning and beautiful and a cool thing for someone to discover later in their career and go, ‘Wow, this is really significant work I didn’t release from a really fertile and prolific time.’ We’re just being so thorough about curating it and going through all his work properly, because the sessions were incredible and fruitful, and there’s just so many iterations of the music that we’re excited to share with the fans and the people who have been anticipating this record for such a long time. We’re really hoping to get that done in the next year. But I think he really was waiting to do it perfectly. Dad was such a subtle perfectionist, and he just left us with such a gorgeous record to put out. We’re so excited.”

“Wildflowers” was conceived as a double album, which is a reason such a wealth of material got left out, even though, at 15 songs, the finished product was not particularly short. Many of the songs that got left on the cutting room floor did find their way out, but sometimes in remixed or re-recorded form, on B-sides or, in particular, as part of his soundtrack for the Ed Burns film “She’s the One.”

“I think that at the time that ‘Wildflowers’ was released, it was a very well-sequenced double album, which a number of us heard at the time,” Adria said. “And it would have had what is [now] ‘All the Rest,’ the way he sequenced it before he died, the ‘Wildflowers’ tracks, and probably ‘Girl on LSD,’ which hasn’t made it on either one of his edits for the single records.” (Petty released the “LSD” song as a B-side to “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” apparently considering its litany of comical drug metaphors too silly for such an otherwise serious project.) “But I think that double record was just ill-timed for his signing at Warner Brothers in the ‘90s. And they really edited it down to the cream to put the first ‘Wildflowers’ out.”

Leaving that material behind, “I think he just wanted to move forward in his love and exploration of music in the records that came after that, from ‘Echo’ to ‘Highway Companion’ to ‘Mojo’ …  they’re so driven by dad’s passion for music and roots and his study of rock and blues and all of that. (But)  I think he went back and was blown away that there was something that hadn’t been explored and realized that that second record really did exist that was not just a rehash of ‘She’s the One.’ And I think because he had such a beautiful relationship with our engineer, Ryan Ulyate, and Ryan has such enthusiasm and sort of tenacity to find everything, he got my dad to sit down and listen to it and realize, ‘Hey, this is a really important, significant chapter of your work there in the mid-‘90s.'”

A rep for the Petty family said there would no additional comment on “All the Rest” content or release plans for the moment.

A legal dispute in 2019 between Petty’s widow, Dana, and his daughters, Adria and Annakim (whose mother is his first wife, Jane), had fans wondering if an “All the Rest” project would ever see the light of day. Disputes about the timing of the posthumous “Wildflowers” project were even specifically raised in court papers. But the contention was seemingly cleared up last December as the women released a joint statement saying they had settled their differences. That they are all still in accord was indicated last weekend when Adria, Annakim, Dana and Jane all signed a statement saying they shared distress over the president’s use of “I Won’t Back Down” at his campaign rally and would be filing a cease-and-desist to try to prevent future uses.

In an interview with Variety in May 2019, Adria Petty had spoken of the importance of the “Wildflowers” sequel in completing Petty’s recorded legacy.

“That’s a masterpiece that needs to be really well handled and explained not only to a younger generation, but even to the people that only got to see half of the record because it was originally a double record,” she told Variety at the time. “It’s not just ‘Hey, we got left this stuff and it’s going to make money for this family.’ It’s ‘Hey, we are the stewards of this big archive of awesomeness, and how do we go in and explain to someone who’s 25 or even 35 what ‘Wildflowers’ was?” It’s him growing as an artist and pushing the Heartbreakers into a new direction; it was a solo album. but a lot of the players are the same, while he was experiencing a different level of freedom in doing this personal material. And ‘Wildflowers’ is undoubtedly about him leaving my mom and falling in love with someone else. So there’s sort of this celebration and this grieving process all in that record. And when you get all of it together, you see what the guy’s real life was like at that time and what he was going through. It’s so beautiful and so empathetic and so connected that it’s a really important thing to be able to share with people the right way.”

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