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Tom Petty Shares His Secrets to Songwriting: Honesty and Timelessness

Behind every hit song there are the songwriters, and on Wednesday night they were recognized at ASCAP’s 31st annual Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel.

Legendary rocker and songwriter, Tom Petty, was honored with ASCAP’s Founders Award for his contributions to the music industry.

“There is an element of authenticity of pure Tom Petty,” said ASCAP president and songwriter Paul Williams. “When I hear a Tom Petty song it takes me to a place where I just got no problems.”

Petty’s top hits include “American Girl” and “Free Falling” to “Refugee” and “Rebels.”

“I don’t know how he does what he does, ” said Jackson Browne, who presented the award to Petty. “Somewhere along the way I started trying to write a song as simple and as true as my favorite Tom Petty song . . . and I’m still trying.”

Petty told Variety that honest songs make hit songs.

“They have to have this sort of timelessness to them where they don’t feel locked in any period of time,” he said. “Those, you just have to be glad they happen.”

The band Fun. was also awarded top honors with the ASCAP Vanguard Award.

Fun.’s album “Some Nights” has sold five million copies worldwide and also garnered two Grammys, including song of the year with “We Are Young.”

“For us it’s always just been about the music, it’s always been about being a band. It’s not about the hit songs, it’s about making albums and making the best music that we can make as artists,” said lead vocalist Nate Ruess.

Throughout the night, award recipients performed their 2013 hit songs such as Greg Holden who wrote “Home” by Phillip Phillips, Aloe Blacc with Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” and Mary Lambert with “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

“On a cultural level, this song has done so much for our gay community,” said Lambert.

Song of the year went to “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams. Max Martin won songwriter of the year for the fourth consecutive year and seventh time in his career. He penned seven of the most performed songs of 2013, including “Daylight” and “One More Night” by Maroon 5, “Roar” and “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry and “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift.

With nearly 40 years in the biz, Petty seemed to share an optimistic view of the future of the music industry. “Things have changed, music is different, but the honest ones still shine through,” he said.

“If we’re all here going to make our living off of this, all I ask is let’s try really hard to understand that it’s important that we make money, but the art and the truth is just a little bit more important.”

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