"Free Fallin'" was the third single from Tom Petty's first solo album, Full Moon Fever
, following "I Won't Back Down
" and "Runnin' Down A Dream
." Along with Jeff Lynne, the other creative driver on the album was Mike Campbell, guitarist in Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. He was Petty's right-hand man, producing and writing the music for many of the band's songs, as well as "The Boys of Summer
" and "The Heart Of The Matter
" for Don Henley.
In a Songfacts interview with Campbell
, he talked about making the album with Jeff Lynne. "That was an amazing time for me because it was mostly just the three of us - me and Tom and Jeff - working at my house," he said. "Jeff Lynne is an amazing record-maker. It was so exciting for a lot of reasons. First of all, our band energy in the studio had gotten into kind of a rut, we were having some issues with our drummer and just kind of at the end of our rope in terms of inspiration - having a lot of trouble cutting tracks in the studio.
This project came along and really we were just doing it for fun at the beginning, but Jeff would come in and every day he would blow my mind. It was so exciting to have him and Tom come over and go, 'OK, here's this song,' and then Jeff would just go. I'd never seen this done before, he'd say, 'OK, here's what we're going to do: Put a drum machine down. Now put up a mic, we're going to do some acoustic guitars. Put up another mic, were going to do a keyboard. OK, here's an idea for the bass. Mike, let's try some guitar on this. I've got an idea for a background part here...'
Sure enough, within five or six hours, the record would be done, and we'd just sit back and go, 'How the f-ck did you do that?' We were used to being in the studio and like 'OK, here's how the song goes' and everybody would set up to play and just laboriously run the song into the ground, and it usually got worse and worse from trying to get the groove and the spirit and trying to get a performance out of five guys at once. This guy walked in and he knew exactly how to put the pieces together, and he always had little tricks, like with the background vocals how he would slide them in and layer them, and little melodies here and there. Tom and I were soaking it up. Pretty amazing, a very exciting time, like going to musical college or something."