Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler has fit nicely into the controversial seat at the American Idol judges table and is loving every minute of it as the show counts down to the next champion. In a recent conference call with the press, which RockStar Weekly sat in on, Tyler said there is a multi-year deal in place for his position on the show and that he hopes he’s adding a bit of a rock star element to the show.
The “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” singer says he hopes Aerosmith fans will get to see another side of him that you don’t see when he’s in the band.
Can you talk about some of the concerns that you had stepping into such a popular show, and what it was like to find your own identity as a judge?
None whatsoever. I got such an identity with this band and for all the videos that I’ve done I figured it’d be a shoe in. The part that’s a little difficult is judging young kids that I think they all have a voice, but actually being honest and open. So it took me a couple of minutes to get into the role of that, but I’ve grown accustomed to it and it’s fun, and I get to sit next to J. Lo and Randy taking the you know what out of everybody, and it’s been good.
I don’t take whatever happened to me this morning or last night or with the band or with exes, I don’t take that into judging kids like some other people might have. I kind of take what I’ve grown up with, which is being a very harsh judge of myself—my own vocals, my own band—and kind of laid that across the talent that comes across my view.
I’m a huge Aerosmith fan, so I’m a little bit more interested in what you’re going to be doing when you’re not at the judge’s table. Are going to be planning on working on the new album when you’re out there in L.A.? It’s going to be the first one since Just Push Play, which is ten years now.
Yes. As a matter of fact—well you know we did Honkin’ on Bobo. We’ve done a bunch of things since and we’ve certainly been writing. I know Joe’s got the licks and I got a bunch of songs that I’ve written for solo and/or Aerosmith. Next Saturday we start with the guys are coming out to L.A. where I will be flying out of New York tomorrow and be back in L.A., watch the premier Wednesday night. I get Thursday off, and Friday I’m writing with Marti Frederiksen, and Saturday we’re into a writing program with the band. We’re already booked for a tour November/December that’s to be South America and Japan. I mean what you hear in the press about Aerosmith getting in the way of American Idol it’s just isn’t so.
What do you think you do for American Idol, and what does being a part of the show do for you?
You know I’m not sure. I’m just a judge. Before we say anything I’d like to say thank you for the Kennedy Center what you said about that, but I think I’m not going in there to be a harsh judge or an overly bearing judge. I’m just bringing my Italian on how to work a room, Aunt Phyllis honesty, 40 years that front guy in Aerosmith who’s judged the hell out of himself and kind of made a good career out of it, and with hopes to find some kids in America here for American Idol to take the stage and no more, no less.
I think it’s funny. I think there’s love up there you’ll never see— Certainly, there’s camaraderie that you haven’t seen in 10 years. About that I’m really happy that I get along with Randy so well. J. Lo is a fox, she’s also street, she’s also got a good big heart. We’ve seen a lot of people this year and we’ve got our top 40, so we’re ready to go.
Have you said anything so far as to any of the contestants during the auditions that you’ve regretted immediately afterward?
Yes. I made some harsh comments the first week, and they snapped back and said, “What do you mean?” But I only did two of those. There were only two of those because I didn’t want that to happen again. I couldn’t say that you were no good without substantiating why, and a couple times that I said, “You know you just don’t have it,” they did ask me why, and I couldn’t tell them why.
I just heard—It’s like I’m looking for that certain something. Well I heard that certain something in a negative way. I didn’t see the star. I didn’t see this and I didn’t have the … to tell them that. I hadn’t ever really watched the show, and I wasn’t really versed in that type of judging. I’ve got three daughters, so it’s hard for me. Those two times after that I was ready to go and I jumped back in both feet.
You recently opened up about your past. Do you have any big regrets? You have one year sober. Do you have a new outlook on life?
Yes. You know what I’ve got no regrets. Everything that came my way has cut me into what I am today, and what I am today is I’m grateful, recovering drug addict/alcoholic. I’m not without my faults and my marks and my scars. I’m proud of them. I show people them. I have for 40 years. That’s why they love my music because I’m honest and I got no regrets. Things have been good. I thought you meant you listened to Howard Stern this morning because after that life will never be the same for me. Nor will it be tomorrow night after this show
Look, I’m always ready to take it up a notch. I’m not sure if it’s—it used to be my … but now it’s I’m addicted to adrenalin. I still like a good challenge, and Idol was with the best people. It’s with the best network. I get to meet all these Fox people. Someday I’ll have my own show called—different type of Survivor. I don’t know what. They’ll put me in a barrel and throw me into the ocean. It’ll be called Message in a Bottle. They’ll put me in a giant bottle and see what shore I land on. Then I’ll marry the person and we’ll see what kind of kids look like. I don’t know but I’m ready for anything.
I’m ready for anything, and nothing has been more convincing that I’m ready for anything than this last year with Aerosmith. Yes, we’re getting ready to launch a tour November/December; it’s already booked. The song writing starts next week. So everything you hear is just hearsay and a lot of muck that’s been thrown around and there’s no validity to it. I’m here to tell you that.
I’m curious about bringing things a little slightly local and thinking of like Siobhan Magnus, sort of a rock type performer, and seeing if you’re going to bring a little more of a rock element, less of a pop element, to the show. Something that has a little more edge, a little more personality than sort of just a crooner.
You know it’s interesting. It’s like again that would be my judgment call on what rock is, and I haven’t heard a lot of it, but what I have heard I’ve come out through the worm hole. Remember it’s got to go through two other judges and for every week that I’ve run along someone that I thought was great the next week after they were given the wrong song in the wrong key, so we had to drop them. That’s the beauty of this show, which I didn’t know before, and it’s also the heartbreak.
There’s one kid there that’s got a rock element about him. He’s totally off the wall, and I don’t know which rock star ever wasn’t, but I’ve got hopes that he makes it through. His voice is ridiculous; it’s so crazy and great. I hope he can stretch out and use the voice that I heard.
But will I bring a rock element? Yes, my personality but I’m also very—I’ve got a good ear for all music and that’s what I thought I would take this. It’s not just a one phase type judging. I’m good for all different music and listening to voicing, and the spirit of, and the imperfections of someone’s voice because not all great singers make great rock stars. It’s some of those voices that aren’t the best that make the best rock stars I mean to say. So it’s been fun. I don’t take this too seriously and I take it seriously, so it’s been a real hoot for me.
Do you feel adding someone of your stature gives the show an extra layer of credibility it might not have had before?
I like to think so. It’s interesting; I was just saying I’m not bringing some grumpiness or something in my life that’s not been good. I’m not bringing that to the table, and letting that cloak my judging of these kids. I’m taking what they give me, cutting it up in three different pieces: One is can they sing? Are they in pitch? Two, do they have character? Three, do they have a star quality about them? Kind of folding that all into one but that would be my expertise, and J. Lo’s got her own singing style. But don’t forget I’m a drummer. I’ve got the pitch from my father, Juilliard, my own. I’ve got the drumming sensibility and there’s a tonality and harmonic stuff, and I think I’m going to take it up a notch.
Do you think as a road dog that you can be as sympathetic to some guy who’s been working in a gas station as you can to some guy who’s been out playing every night for the last three or ten years at Joe’s Roadside Tavern?
That’s a great question. I’ve been sympathetic to that because it did color my opinions in the past about someone who didn’t go through the clubs, and didn’t walk the gauntlet in order to get their start. I’m listening to these kids regardless. I listen for that certain something that someone might have— I mean look it I remember what I had before I was allowed in the doors of this club. It’s an incredible thing to be able to come out with the stars that causes me to have character, but if they’re good to begin with I’m hoping to see that. It’s certainly not a coloring my thing. I’ve got my own melodic sensibility that’s judging theirs and regardless of whether you’ve sung in church, and sometimes most people that have put their time in church have a great sense of blues or time or melody more than the other ones. I’m hoping … really close.
I wondered, Steven, how long have you signed up to this gig for? I mean is it something you see— Do you have—if I can ask—you have more than a one year contract or is it something you’re just going to do for a year or so and then move onto something else?
I have more than a one year contract, but as you know things are what they are, but I have more than a one year contract. I’ll give you that one. Can I elaborate? No, I can’t.
When you were deciding whether or not to be part of American Idol last summer, did it matter who else was in or out? Did Jennifer Lopez—did her involvement influence your decision?
It did at first. At first, I was told she wasn’t, she was out, and I was a little bummed, but I met Randy first before, and Randy was the …. I loved Randy. I thought he and I got on within the first five minutes. It was like we were separated at birth, and we had so many similarities, and the music curriculum and program. Whatever he’s been through I’ve been through, and we mentioned names and we knew everybody and it was like how we hadn’t met before was beyond me.
But no and then when I—and yes on the way from England to America, I saw J. Lo’s movie Back-Up Plan and I fell in love with her. I’m watching going, “Oh my God, it’s Jennifer Lopez,” and I went, “Alright I’ll watch the movie.” I watched her and I fell in love with her because the way she played that to a guy that was just falling in love with her, the way she played her part I could so relate to and I thought anybody that could be this open and honest even acting …. All I can tell you is when I met her she was exactly all that and I was grateful that she got the part.
Just curious if you had been a fan of Idol from years past and if you had a particular favorite idol that had been selected from all past few seasons.
Yes, Carrie Underwood. A great friend of mine wrote her hit so I’ve been following her, and of course Kelly who I’ve done photo shoots with and am enamored by the song that she’s put out, hugely so.
I would love to know what kind of reaction do you expect from long time Aerosmith fans as you venture into this new part of your career as a judge.
Well like, I’ve studied this so far. It’s been 15 weeks already I’ve been in it, and all the TV’s getting is just that other side of me. It would be like if there were reality cameras in the house when my kids were growing up. That’s the side of me they’re seeing. If Aerosmith fans don’t like that then all they saw was the ominous, dark, or open, however you choose to see me on stage with whatever lighting when Aerosmith comes to town. It’s kind of bigger than both of us type of thing, that Aerosmith thing, but here I get to be more vulnerable, more honest, more open, more in the moment and less colored by the songs I wrote and listening to the songs that they sing.
One of the, I think, most overdone songs on American Idol is “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” which is a song that I don’t think anyone can sing as well as you can. Aerosmith songs get covered actually a lot in the show sometimes with good results a lot of times with bad. I’m just wondering are you going to call moratorium on Aerosmith songs on the show. If not, how would you be able to judge a song that you had sung yourself so well?
How would I have judged myself singing, “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing?”
No, someone else singing a song that is basically your song.
Well they have to sing it good, and a moratorium you’re calling, how do you know? They must have sung in the 7 weeks they probably got 15/16 “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and a bunch of … song by Pink—they sang that song as well. It was hard for me because it always seemed to me when they said they were going to sing it I knew that someone at home would—“If you sing this song Tyler will be enamored.” When I didn’t like it I felt a little ill at ease to tell them, “You know what you didn’t really sing it good,” but after the third or fourth, like I said I got into it.
I think if anyone’s got anything bad to say about me this season it will get better the next season, and I take that back. It will be easier for me to judge live on TV because I’ve been through this mine field of teenage entitlement with all the songs they brought, but specifically for the Aerosmith songs, wow. I wish they would have sung like a little something else but “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” is definitely a hard one especially when they have no accompaniment. They would stand in front of me all by themselves and sing it, but if any of them sing it now remember we’re down to 20 great people, so if they did it would be nothing but good.
So there you have it you all. Thank you so much.