Steven Tyler on Going Country, ‘Idol’ and the Future of Aerosmith
As a child spending his summers in New Hampshire, Steven Tyler would run a 50-foot wire from the back of his radio to the top of an apple tree in order to pick up WOWO, a Fort Wayne, Indiana, station that would play some of his favorite country songs. “I’d listen to things like Johnny Horton’s ‘The Battle of New Orleans,’ ” Tyler says. “I loved the Everly Brothers, Duane Eddy, Jerry Lee Lewis.” More than half a century later, Tyler is connecting with his childhood love by cutting a country album in Nashville. He just released a single, “Love Is Your Name,” which debuted at Number 33 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, and he hopes to wrap the album after Aerosmith finish a summer tour in August. “I feel like a kid who just got laid for the first time,” says Tyler, 67. “Sometimes doing the same-old same-old gets a little constricting.”
What drew you to Nashville?
I was here two years ago to present at a few awards shows, and I just fell in love with the place. I met [Big Machine Records CEO] Scott Borchetta. He offered to sign me to his label, and the rest is history. Nashville is a mecca of song-age. I feel like one of the Three Wise Men that saw the star falling into Bethlehem.
Did you worry that some Aerosmith fans aren’t going to accept you going country?
I might have, for a minute. It was kind of like taking American Idol. I thought, “Would Bob Dylan have taken Idol?” But my heart and my muse sent me here.
If Dylan can write Nashville Skyline . . .
You know what I tell Aerosmith fans? Live with it. They don’t know that Dan Hicks is huge for me, and I listened to him while making our first album. It’s one of the things that spurred “Big Ten Inch Record.”
Are there other Aerosmith songs with a big country influence?
“Cryin’.” Listen to the lyrics. It was country — we just Aerosmith’d it. And how about “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”? Mark Chesnutt put out a country version and had a Number One hit.
What’s the difference between rock and country at this point?
Country songs really spell out what’s on a guy’s mind in no uncertain terms. Rock & roll can be a little more aloof. But country is changing. Jaren Johnston and the Cadillac Three and Florida Georgia Line are proving that you can go any which way. Modern country might add a little a cappella or raps or heavier beats. God knows Brad Paisley plays guitar like a motherfucker. I think country is the new rock & roll — everyone is trying to stretch out.
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