Last October saw the release of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers and All The Rest box set -- an all-encompassing collection of just about everything that was recorded for his 1994 masterpiece. On the heels of that now comes this lovely and heartfelt documentary Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free, which premiered at the SXSW 2021 Online Film Festival where it won this year's Audience Award.
As the story goes, Petty found himself in 1993 at a crossroads. Coming off great success with 1989’s radio-ready blockbuster Full Moon Fever and its equally shiny 1991 follow-up Into the Great Wide Open -- both of which were produced by Jeff Lynne -- he was ready for something more personal. He envisioned a singer-songwriter record that, while including members of the Heartbreakers, would not be a “Heartbreakers” record. The feeling being that if he only created with the same people, he would never grow as an artist. Looking for someone to oversee the project, he called in Rick Rubin who had been previously rebuffed by Petty’s management, saying “Tom only works with Jeff Lynne.” Rubin provided Tom with a different, yet nurturing environment. “I’d write songs in my house and then have my friend Rick come over and tell me what he thought.” The fruits of this collaboration provided a wealth of material, enough to put out a double album that was eventually rejected by the record company as being cost prohibitive. Tom eventually relented, agreeing to cut it down to a single album, but wanted to have the complete version released.