Over the weekend, The Sun reported that Sam Smith had quietly and amicably settled a copyright dispute with Tom Petty in the likeness between Smith’s three-time Grammy-nominated “Stay With Me” and Petty’s Full Moon Fever hit “I Won’t Back Down,” co-written with ELO’s Jeff Lynne. In a statement to Rolling Stone, Smith’s reps have confirmed that “Stay With Me” is co-credited to Petty and Lynne, adding that while you will find undeniable “similarities” between two singles, that it was a “complete coincidence.”
“Recently the publishers for your song ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ authored by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, contacted the publishers for ‘Stay With Me,’ authored by Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips, about similarities heard inside the melodies with the choruses with the two compositions,” Smith’s rep tells Rolling Stone. “Not previously accustomed to the 1989 Petty/Lynne song, the writers of ‘Stay With Me’ believed ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and acknowledged the similarity.”
Smith’s rep added, “Although the likeness would be a complete coincidence, all involved located an immediate and amicable agreement by which Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne are actually credited as co-writers of ‘Stay With Me’ together with Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips.”
A representative for Petty has not been immediately intended for comment.
On the ASCAP site, where songwriter info is collated and often updated, Petty and Lynne have become listed on the list of “Stay With Me” team of Smith, Napier and Phillips. It’s unclear whether Petty and Lynne were retroactively compensated for songwriting credit or if they’ll receive future earnings about the track.
Despite getting writing credit, however, Petty and Lynne aren’t going to be eligible for a Grammy should Smith win some of his multiple nominations for your track. “Since Lynne and Petty wouldn’t do any new writing because of this work, we’re considering their original work to have already been interpolated by Napier, Phillips and Smith for ‘Stay With Me,'” Senior Vice President of Awards Bill Freimuth told the Wall Street Journal. “Lynne and Petty will never be considered nominees nor are they going to be considered GRAMMY recipients, if your song win. Rather, they will be given certificates to honor their participation from the work, just like any other writers of sampled or interpolated work.”