The Petty Archives

Ex-Heartbreaker Now Songwriter
By Deborah Evans Price
Billboard - October 7, 2000

Former Tom Petty Drummer Stan Lynch Thrives On Collaboration
Whether he's co-writing with Don Henley or visiting Nashville to work with some of country music's top songwriters, Stan Lynch approaches each musical collaboration with the same enthusiasm and creative philosophy: writing the best song possible.

In every circumstance, Lynch brings to the table a wealth of experience as a musician, writer, and producer that is drawn from more than two decades on the road and in the studio.

"When you write, you have no idea where the song will go," he says. "It's an interesting process every time. You are trying to write a decent song . . . There is no change. That's the wonderful thing about writing. You just wake up and say what's in your heart and what's on your mind and put your message out there."

Lynch is one of the most versatile songwriter/producers in the industry, and his resume reads like a who's who of the most-acclaimed acts in the business. A love of music and an affinity for various styles has produced an eclectic body of work ranging from the Eagles to the Mavericks, from Matraca Berg to Meredith Brooks.

A founding member of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Lynch is an Ohio native who grew up in Gainesville, Fla., and now resides in St. Augustine, Fla. He spent years traveling with the band and playing drums on countless sessions.

"When I was playing sessions as a drummer, you can see that the good songs were always easier to play," says Lynch, who left the Heartbreakers in 1994. "So, from a drummer's point of view, it started to make a little sense to me now that [with] really good songs, there's no way to screw them up. I can play badly and the song still sounds amazing . . . I started to see that what you really needed to do is have a really great song. All the best musicians in the world can't save a bad song. Being in a band for 20 years helps you understand what makes a good song and what makes a song go, and why some work and some don't."

Lynch's experiences cover a wide variety of musical territory. As a drummer, he's played on albums by Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Aretha Franklin, Eurythmics, the Byrds, and Stevie Nicks, among others. As a producer, he's worked with a diverse array of talent, such as Henley, the Band, and Keith Richards. As a songwriter, he also has a penchant for collaborating with a variety of personalities. He's co-written with or written for numerous acts, including Berg, Brooks, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Toto, June Pointer, the Jeff Healey Band, Eddie Money, Tora Tora, James House, and Ringo Starr.

His most visible project this year has been as co-writer and co-producer on Henley's current Warner Bros. album, "Inside Job." Lynch first began working with Henley in the '80s when writer/producer Danny Kortchmar invited him to co-write a tune for Henley's "Building The Perfect Beast" album. The result was "Driving With Your Eyes Closed," a track that opened the door to a working relationship with Henley that has grown over the years.

"Don and I started to write together and in the process . . . we did a song ["Learn To Be Still"] for the Eagles, for the "Hell Freezes Over' record, and we sort of got a rhythm together," says Lynch. "Don and I had a way that we would work. I got some music started, Don would have a title, so we had a good thing going. We decided to write a few songs to see if we could get something going for the record for Don. He was thinking about making a record. That's how it got started, and the next thing I knew we were in the studio cutting the tracks."

Since then the two artists have been friends. Lynch says he's always looked at Henley as a brother, so working with him was especially rewarding.

"I didn't think for a second that we would ever be producing a record together," he says. "He made me learn my trade. It was very generous of him to let me serve my apprenticeship with him and [Kortchmar]. I really do owe them this huge debt of gratitude."

Lynch says the friendship with Henley makes the process thoroughly enjoyable. "I'd go fishing with him, or I'd go make a record with him," he says. "I didn't care. Either way, it's a great day."

His history with the Heartbreakers and his high-profile work with Henley might cause some to peg Lynch as a rock'n'roll guy, but the Warner/Chappell Music writer is just as comfortable collaborating with country songwriters.

"I came to Nashville for the first time in '91 or '92, and the first guy I met was Raul," Lynch says of Mavericks lead singer Raul Malo. "The Mavericks had had one record, "From Hell To Paradise,' and I didn't even know him. We got to talking, and we both had the same boxed sets [including] Hank Williams, and we said, "We should write a song.' So that was my introduction to Nashville."

Lynch has continued to co-write with Nashville tunesmiths. In June, he participated in Warner/Chappell's 2000 Summer Camp, a gathering of writers that some have compared to Miles Copeland's songwriting retreat, minus the castle as a setting.

Lynch enjoys the creative atmosphere on Music Row. "There's that Brill Building feeling," he says. "It's like we are all just going to get together and try to write songs, and let the best song win. In L.A. it's a little trendy for me. It's a little tough . . . Everybody is saying, "Well, that won't work for so and so.' And I'm like, "Gosh, who cares? I have this idea in my head today that needs to come out.' "

Lynch, who returned to Music City in August, adds, "I just did another round in Nashville, and I have some good people to write with there, and it's really great. I really enjoy writing with Jeff Stevens and Steve Bogart and Marv Green. Those guys have just been wonderful. Mostly what I want to do between now and the end of the year is just write. I want to get as good a hatful of songs as I can."

In addition to writing and producing, Lynch lends his musical expertise to New York-based Straight Line Records, providing A&R input. However, he's is eager to let people know he could never see himself as "a suit."

"I'm a hard worker, and I've done this a long time. I love music and love making music," says Lynch. "There's nothing else I'd rather do with my life. I've stumbled from one wonderful experience to the next in my career. It's been a remarkable experience since I was 18, and when I woke up I was 45."