Rock legend Steven Tyler‘s Out on a Limb tour officially kicked off at the Venetian in Vegas on July 2. His aim was to make the event a “massive toga party,” according to the Aerosmith frontman, who is flying solo for this country detour. “We’re just finishing up the record. I sent the masters to Big Machine last night so we’re good to go.”
Tyler’s all about the eye candy on this and, let’s face it, every tour.
“Three of us sing so the backgrounds are delicious. I got three girls in the band, so we’re beautiful to look at,” he said.
The 68-year-old megastar is perhaps most anxious to greet his audience every night with new spins on old classics. Is he performing country? Yes, but expect a little “Janie’s Got a Gun” and “Dream On” to make the cut.
“It’s a cross probably between the looks on people’s faces when we rip into either this new version of ‘Janie’ that I put together and it’s going to be on the record,” Tyler said. “It’s a little bit darker than the other version, but it’s countrified a little…And the look on people’s faces when I rip ‘Into Only Heaven’ and ‘We’re All Somebody from Somewhere.’ It’s like the same thing – I didn’t know what was going to happen when Aerosmith first made it. But I did notice the looks on people’s faces when they kind of liked it. And I’m just looking forward to that again.”
Tyler’s found a new home in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Nashville’s been so good to me in the last year and a half,” he said. “And I managed to put together 15, 16 songs that are – it just came out much better than I ever expected. I’m looking forward to playing all those songs live.”
At this point in the artist’s career, it’s all about what “tweaks my passion and makes me feel so good. To collect marbles, it’s like panning for gold and after you get little particles…and then after a year you put it all together and you got a big bowl of it.”
Not one to bury his roots, Tyler pointed out, “I love Aerosmith. And I’m looking forward to going on tour in South America this October, November…but this is a real hoot. I’ve never done a solo anything and I kind of got jealous that the other guys in the band did. So I took a year off. It’s been a little bit longer, but I think you’ll like what you hear.”
The tapestry of solo songwriting was not a new challenge for Tyler, but it had its moments, so to speak.
“Well, I think with Aerosmith, like Joe Perry, he wrote all the licks, all the great licks. ‘Dream On’ is mine forever. I get off the most in life in collaborating…When I didn’t know anything at all about anything, I wrote ‘Dream On.’ So [I] trust my intuition that when it goes, [sings: dream on], when that part came and I went, oh shit, I can’t do that on a record. It sounds so stupid and goofy…and I took a chance and just did it. I think that was a moment with Aerosmith. And everyone’s had their moments, but writing a solo record and going off with other people that I don’t know, never met, go to their house, drink coffee, bullshit for two hours, and then get down to the nitty gritty of, ‘Well, what would you like to sing about?’ ‘Well, you know, I had this idea of the good, the bad, the ugly in me or we’re all somebody from somewhere or…,’ and we actually write a song around it. And I go home and everyone’s got Pro Tools and down here everybody’s so talented and knows how to run the damn thing.”
Channeling his home base in Maui as inspiration for the new record, Tyler said, “Well, I can sing on Maui. What would it be like to be like to sing in Alaska, and what would I sing about in Alaska? It’s kind of like that. And what do you come up with? Some of the stuff I came up with here was the most amazing February, March, April, May, of last year. Writing with such people as the Chris Distefano, Rhett Akin, and the Warren brothers, and Hillary Lindsey, and Lindsey Lee…”
The crooner made a concerted effort to exemplify the value in teamwork.
“I mean, I can call this a solo project, but a lot of Aerosmith records [were] that as well. There were songs that I had in my back pocket and I brought it in, but nothing is really a solo anything. It’s just going out like that…Steven Tyler ‘Out on a Limb,’ but I’m really nothing without that band, and I’m nothing without Aerosmith, and I’m nothing without my sobriety, and I’m nothing without a lot of things. So this whole damn thing is a ‘we’ thing.”
The songwriting process was much like going to church for Tyler.
“I got to get up and [I’d] be sitting in my bed at night listening to songs that we wrote that day, and even the demos. I’d have to get out of bed, drop to my knees and just say thank you, God, because I don’t even know where the shit came from,” he admitted. “I believe you all out there are going to ask, you’re going to listen to this stuff and you’re going to agree with me that it fell from the star. I had nothing to do with this shit. It’s just – it’s Nashville. It’s something so magical about this town.”
Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records seemed the perfect spot to take a respite – or, perhaps, re-energize the hit maker’s chops.
“When I came to Nashville, I took a chance,” Tyler said. “I did not sign with Scott Borchetta right away. I said, ‘Let me see what I get.’ Because, hey, who knows? But after two months, it just started coming heavy and hard.”
Borchetta was originally made famous for signing the uber popular Taylor Swift in Nashville. He later accepted the mentor role on American Idol, a show where Tyler served as judge for two seasons.
“I have a sorcerer’s grasp of melody, I like to think,” Tyler said.
A grasp of melody, yes, but it’s often accompanied by a sense of confusion to those nearest to him. It could be the result of sheer madness, or it could be due to his “Toxic Twin” era.
“The few brain cells – I like to think few, it’s probably a lot – I lost going through that era, I almost feel like saying if I jump down the rabbit hole, could I not tell you about someone I met named Alice? And the guy that said, ‘Twas brillig and the slithy tove and the mome raths outgrabe,’ and all those great people that after they fell down the rabbit hole, they met,” he said.
Okay…oh, wait. Here we go…
“Now to climb out of that alive…I don’t know, man. God, she was good to me,” he continued. “But I just have this crazy, you know, and I say this only because I got beaten up so much for it, this crazy passion and love of life. And always speaking out of line and out of turn and out of this and out of that.”
Tyler’s come a long way from the Bronx where he was beaten up and bullied.
“…somewhere in there, along with being best friends with Joe Perry and loving the band so much and being called the ‘Toxic Twins,’ we were able to pull out of our asses and dance between the notes and find that magic lyric to get those songs,” he recalled.
Tyler credits his father for enticing him to enter the music world.
“I can’t help but blame my father because he went to Julliard and I grew up under the piano, literally. I know you wrote about this before but when they brought me home from the hospital I was put – apartments back then were 8×10 living room. That was it. So the piano, my father would play piano, classical practice. And then go off and have his teaching, the people he taught. So I grew up listening to the notes of music. So melody’s always been my forte. So when I listen back – Christ, sometimes I go to Maui and I just listen to the body of work that that band Aerosmith has done and it’s…fucking astounding. And I just, my prayers at night, I just say thank you, God, keep my passion.”
Passion means just about everything to this island-loving man.
“I’m happy as a clam and I just – I think as you can hear in my voice, you know, I wake up passionate,” he shared. “And passion means I can’t wait to do whatever, either feed my koi fish or the dogs or go write a song or run through the woods or something like that. But I’m kind of that way and I’m grateful that I haven’t sat back on my laurels. I really took a chance on this country record and it just turned out so much better than I ever thought. So the sky is the limit from here on out.”
The last time Tyler toured small venues was in the early ’80s with Aerosmith.
“The last time we did small venues was like at the end of that first run of Aerosmith, about ’81, ’82, ’83, started going down,” he said. “The band started breaking up and a lot of drug use and drinking too much. But, interestingly enough, Aerosmith even in its heyday back in – again, we’d play small venues in ’78. We played small venues every now and then in 1997. We did the Beacon. We’ve done a lot of small venues. I always love them. The word comes up ‘business’ and ‘money,’ which I hate to hear because I never really cared about it. I always went with my heart.”
The rocker also understands the business aspect of touring.
“…it’s not viable to get your crew and load in and do a 2,000-seater,” he said. “It’s just not cost effective, as they call it. I prefer them. I like playing a small venue where I look out and everybody’s close as opposed to 20,000 when they’ve got a big [barricade]…And they keep everybody, you know, we need a fire lane. And I’m going what the fuck? I can’t see or feel the people. So, it’s more, yeah, it’s a very living room thing to play small venues. And it’s a little bit more personal. It feeds that side of me that grew again after I did Idol. You can do the large venues, 40-, 80,000 a whack and you get kind of jaded. And then you do something like Idol where they’re actually on you, a camera, and it’s 40 million people watching you and you’re actually answering something quietly and thoughtfully and giving your opinion about something.”
Tyler further reflected on his Idol time.
“It was easy for me. It was hard at first because, you know, of course, they wanted me to be more like opinionated and rocked out and make people’s eyes roll,” he said. “But I just thought to myself, if any of these young people that are up there singing, they really don’t know that they’re up there singing to just be on American Idol. They’re going to sing for the rest of their lives. And I didn’t feel comfortable telling them, you know what, you suck. Who told you you could sing? Get out of here. What the fuck?”
And who could forget his love of Jenny from the Block?
“My biggest role was sitting next to Randy Jackson and, particularly, J. Lo,” he said. “I fell so in love with her and she knew it and we made each other blush a lot of times. And I love that. I loved that. I loved being next to her and feeling her love. She’s a very strong woman and beautiful and I was enamored by her and her smarts for music. I think she’s a dynamic musician and singer and dancer. And I got such joy out of – you know, talking with Randy. Randy Jackson is such a great personality, TV personality. They’re out of their mind at American Idol for letting him go. But it’s TV so it really had nothing to do with, as everybody can see, it had nothing to do with them seeing that they really had something. So they went on to other things and now they’re off the air. So, it’s sad.”
Tyler’s swagger has often been compared to the likes of Mick Jagger throughout the years.
“Everybody thinks that I, you know, Mick Jagger and I have so much in common. Yes, I loved him. I loved him to death. I couldn’t believe, he’s the baddest boy on the block when the Stones came out. Nobody did anything like that. But there was somebody here in America that was doing it at the same time,” he said. “That was Janis Joplin and I loved Janis Joplin to death.”
And he’s never been afraid to show his androgynous side.
“I have never been afraid to show my androgynous side because I live through music,” he said. “I think music is very feminine. In fact, I think I’ve got a – being a male, you know, like I’ve got 70, 60, 70 percent feminine in me that I live through, you know. I’ve got three daughters and a beautiful son and I live through female through my fashions, my hair, the way I dress. It just it makes me – it seems to me that it goes along with the music, the Aerosmith music.”
Join Tyler for his Out on a Limb tour through September 13, 2016 by purchasing tickets here.