Over the weekend, The Sun reported that Sam Smith had quietly and amicably settled a copyright dispute with Tom Petty over 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 now co-credited to Petty and Lynne, adding that while there are undeniable “similarities” between the two singles, it was a “complete coincidence.”
“Recently the publishers for the song ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ written by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, contacted the publishers for ‘Stay With Me,’ written by Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips, about similarities heard in the melodies of the choruses of the two compositions,” Smith’s rep tells Rolling Stone. “Not previously familiar with the 1989 Petty/Lynne song, the writers of ‘Stay With Me’ listened to ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and acknowledged the similarity.”
Smith’s rep added, “Although the likeness was a complete coincidence, all involved came to an immediate and amicable agreement in which Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne are now credited as co-writers of ‘Stay With Me’ along with Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips.”
A representative for Petty was not immediately available for comment.
On the ASCAP site, where songwriter information is collated and frequently updated, Petty and Lynne are now listed among the “Stay With Me” team of Smith, Napier and Phillips. It’s unclear whether Petty and Lynne were retroactively compensated for their songwriting credit or if they’ll receive future earnings on the track.
Despite getting writing credit, however, Petty and Lynne will not be eligible for a Grammy should Smith win any of his multiple nominations for the track. “Since Lynne and Petty did not do any new writing for this work, we are considering their original work to have 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 not be considered nominees nor will they be considered GRAMMY recipients, should the song win. Rather, they would be given certificates to honor their participation in the work, just as any other writers of sampled or interpolated work.”