In a new interview, Rick Rubin talked about recording Tom Petty's 1994 album Wildflowers, saying that Petty was “haunted” by his legacy. Rubin told the Broken Record podcast that the idea for Wildflowers came from the sessions that resulted in the bonus tracks for the Heartbreakers 1993 compilation, Mary Jane's Last Dance and the cover of Thunderclap Newman's “Something in the Air.”

Rubin said that they recorded “between 26 and 28 songs” but Wildflowers was eventually released in November 1994 with 15 tracks. But Petty always hoped to put out the rest of the songs. Rubin said, “He thought it was really important because the legacy of the Wildflowers album loomed large in his career. And he knew that the second half of Wildflowers was an important statement.”

He continued, “His issue was that he didn't want to put it out as a new Tom Petty album, 'cause it's not a new Tom Petty album — it was recorded 25 years ago — and he didn't want to release it as an old catalog album because he thought it deserved more than being a catalog album. He felt like it was too good to just put out and was sort of looking for the right story where it would have the exposure that it deserved. And he never came up with it.”

About two and a half years ago, Petty went to Rubin's house and played the unreleased tracks, which he had since made a few changes to, for Rubin, and the quality “floored” him. He said, “I had, like, a vague memory of them. but some of them just hit me like, 'Wow, what a great song! How did we ever miss this?'”

Rubin added that Petty “told me Wildflowers scares him, because he's not really sure why it's as good as it is. So it has this, like, haunted feeling for him. … He loves it, but it's not like he can turn that on again. He couldn't make Wildflowers 2 today. That was the point. The point was, 'I can't do this now. This was then, and it was where I was then and it was a prolific period. This is an extension of that moment.'”