Aerosmith’s lead singer Steven Tyler is taking his music back to where it all began. The multiple Grammy winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer recently signed a solo deal with the Nashville-based Big Machine Records under its Dot Records subsidiary.
The iconic rock star’s debut single on the Dot imprint, “Love is Your Name,” is a mid-tempo country ballad that tones down Tyler’s blues-inspired vocals and piping squeals to a raspy, slightly throatier croon. Selling over 150 million records worldwide, Tyler arranged all of Aerosmith’s memorable harmonies, and that experience shines through on this breakthrough in the Nashville scene.
It was after witnessing each of his bandmates venture into side projects that Tyler knew it was time to do his own thing. He believes “Love is Your Name” is a continuum of Aerosmith’s rock ballads like “Cryin’” or “Crazy.” The electrifying showman adds that he patterns his songwriting after The Everly Brothers’ vocal arrangements. “I’m not here to turn this music into rock and roll,” says Tyler who appeared at the inaugural “Music and Mimosas” conversation that closed out this year’s Radio Show conference in Atlanta. “It’s gonna turn into a different type of rock and roll that’s also country. I threw those harmonies in all of the Aerosmith songs. It’s delicious. The lyrics are great and fun, and I wanted to be part of that.”
Aerosmith released countless rock hits for over four decades like “Sweet Emotion,” “Dude (Looks Like A Lady),” “Rag Doll,” “Livin’ on the Edge,” “Love in an Elevator,” “Janie’s Got a Gun” and “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” They performed before sold-out crowds featuring Tyler wearing animal print jumpsuits, ripped t-shirts and tied fabric to his microphone stand. The frontman’s latest musical incarnation includes a new backing band, Loving Mary, featuring vocalists Rebecca Lynn Howard, Suzie McNeil and one of Tyler’s collaborators, Marti Frederiksen.
Tyler’s upcoming material is slated for release in 2016. The new music is not as loud or full of shredded guitar riffs but should produce the same feel as any past Aerosmith LP. “I play with [Loving Mary],” says Tyler, a relaxed Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, with his legs crossed, “and I look into their eyes. We don’t need a lot of amps to play. We can generate as much energy, if not more, as the way I do with Aerosmith.”
Born Steven Victor Tallarico, the entertainer came of age in a trifecta of areas, a very small New Hampshire town, The Bronx and Boston. Stripped down music was always a part of Tyler’s musical DNA. When he joined Aerosmith in the early 1970s, Tyler was frequently listening to folk revival act Jim Kweskin and the Jig Band. He was also completely taken by singer Janis Joplin’s vocal delivery and countercultural fashion sense.
The opportunity for Tyler to finally record a country project came two years ago when Big Machine Records president and CEO Scott Borchetta introduced himself to the legendary rocker at a benefit for singer/songwriter Carole King. Borchetta extended an invitation to Tyler to come out to Nashville to discuss recording a project. Frederiksen, who co-wrote Aerosmith’s “Jaded” with Tyler, had also been trying to convince the performer to record at his studio in Memphis.
The former judge for two seasons on ‘American Idol’ normally retreats to Maui anytime he takes a break from touring or recording. Tyler agreed to finally visit Nashville. He relocated to the country music mecca, attaching himself to an intangible spirit in the city he says fuels his creativity. Tyler says he spent many eight-hour days in the studio to write songs and drink coffee with his new collaborators.
He tells a small joke about eating free food for the rest of his life from Cracker Barrel but doesn’t let it distract him from teasing the audience at Radio Show about playing three of his latest demos he’s been working on with producer Dann Huff. “Nashville has magic,” says Tyler. “There’s a vibe. I wanna play my new stuff, make the audience freak out, feel good, get up and dance or get down.”
Full of stories about his glory days, Tyler remembers getting the call from producer Rick Rubin about hip-hop trio Run DMC re-recording a rap version of “Walk This Way,” the first rap/rock single to crack the top five on the pop charts and the record that revamped Aerosmith’s stifled career. It’s a landmark moment he says almost didn’t happen because of Aerosmith’s touring schedule.
Tyler has no problem retelling a few moments from his highly publicized past either. The band’s record company originally didn’t want to release their debut single, “Dream On.” Drugs and alcohol landed the lead vocalist in-and-out of rehab, leading to another battle with Hepatitis C. Staggering record sales and band member changes in the late 1970s and early ‘80s also threatened to turn Aerosmith into one of rock and roll’s greatest tragedies.
Despite traveling a rocky road to success, a transparent Tyler expresses his appreciation for his success and storied career. “I was so lucky to be in a rock band,” he says. “When you are grateful for things you’ve done, magic happens. We’re still relevant. They’re still playing Aerosmith songs all over the radio. That’s unheard of.”
Tyler then applauds radio stations and programmers for continuing to rotate Aerosmith’s music on-air. “I wouldn’t be here without those guys. That’s the bottom line,” asserts Tyler. “The record business can be wonderful and it can also suck big time. I’ve seen all the wars and heard all of the egos, but personality needs to come back into radio. One hand washes the other. It will go one forever.”
A musically fulfilled Tyler doesn’t think too much about being a sex symbol or trendsetting rock star these days. He’s just happy to have had an extraordinary career as a musician.
Tyler owns up to being one of popular music’s greatest comeback stories, leaving some words of encouragement that fully personifies why he’s able to transform himself through music and have longevity. “As [Aerosmith], we wrapped ourselves around a band and played played played until we got it,” he says. “Super believe in yourself. Give it all you got, and don’t give up.”
Listen to Steven Tyler, “Love Is Your Name”