Word to the wise: If you plan on making a song, make sure it doesn’t sound like Tom Petty’s 1989 hit, “I Won’t Back Down” . . . or any other song, for that matter.
Unfortunately for Sam Smith, he had to learn that lesson the hard (i.e. legal) way. And while Smith couldn’t be more different than the twangy rock-n-roll legend, “Stay With Me” does sound an awful lot like “I Won’t Back Down.” Though purely coincidental, the melodies of the two choruses are nearly identical, which, ya know, poses a problem.
“I Won’t Back Down” writers Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne contacted the writers of “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith, James Napier, and William Phillips regarding the song, to which both parties agreed that there were undeniable similarities. According to The Sun, “After it was pointed out to Sam’s camp, they didn’t try to fight it and amicably dished out royalties. It wasn’t a deliberate thing, musicians are just inspired by other artists and Sam and his team were quick to hold up their hand when it was officially flagged.”
The two parties settled out of court, with Smith’s team agreeing to pay Petty and Lynn royalties, “specifically a 12.5 percent credit.” Vulture noted that, on the bright side, Sam Smith and Tom Petty are basically business partners now, which is pretty awesome (and we completely agree).
Put your ears to the test and give the two song a listen, below.
Here’s “I Won’t Back Down”:
And now for “Stay With Me”: