Tom Petty On Songwriting

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Tom Petty, 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,” said Petty. “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,” said Petty. “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.