With all the distractions and drama that have shadowed Aerosmith over the past decade – from rampant drug abuse and multiple rehabs, to vicious dissension between group members, to singer Steven Tyler’s two-year turn as a judge on American Idol – it might be easy to forget the powerhouse band’s stunningly eclectic musical accomplishments.
The Grammy-winning “bad boys from Boston” - the best-selling American rock band of all time - have reinvented themselves several times throughout their 40-year career. Starting off with swaggering, heavy blues-rock in the ‘70s (Dream On, Back in the Saddle, Walk This Way, Sweet Emotion), Aerosmith found chart gold by moving on to power ballads in the ‘80s and ‘90s (Angel, Crazy, Cryin’, I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing) and straightforward pop-rock tunes (Love in an Elevator, Janie’s Got a Gun, Dude (Looks Like a Lady).
Today, as tension between Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry is still subtly bubbling under the surface, Aerosmith is touring in support of its 15th studio album, Music From Another Dimension!, its first record in 10 years and an attempt to recapture the band’s former muscular force, as well as branch out a bit, with a duet with country sweetheart Carrie Underwood (Can’t Stop Loving You). The Global Warming Tour, featuring opening act Cheap Trick (Surrender, I Want You to Want Me, The Flame) hits the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Sunday night.
Tyler talked about the tour, the new album and putting band members’ differences aside to keep the Aerosmith machine running smoothly.
The solution was simple, said Tyler.
“Put your middle finger away. You know, back in the ‘80s the band had broken up. Joe quit, I threw him out - whichever way it worked, it didn't matter,” he said. “I called him up and said, "Joe, just let's stop." The anger was over. It was two years and it did a lot for the band getting back together. I mean, it's so easy to lay anger over magic and not see that when we sit together for whatever reason we come up with some amazing songs. It was more insane to stay broken up for us than it was for us to say, 'Let's get this back together again.'"
“Aerosmith has been a great vehicle for me to get my passion out,” he continued. "Dream On, part classical and part rock and all the songs I've been so grateful to write with Joe Perry. It's just too good to not do.”
Obviously, the road hasn’t been especially smooth. Tyler fell off the stage in 2009 during a show at Sturgis, SD, and had to be air-lifted to the hospital, where he found he had head and neck injuries, plus a broken shoulder. And he wasn’t thrilled by the response from his bandmates.
“During my time of healing, I didn't feel like I got any love from the boys,” he said, “and so I just I needed to heal and they were busy trying to find another lead singer so they could go on tour and make some money. And the guys were angry at me because while they were looking for another lead singer I just took another job. That's why I took Idol I didn't want to sit back and do nothing.”
When the reunion finally happened, it was a truly collaborative effort.
“Some of the other birds in the band got to chirp,” says Tyler. “And they did really well. [Drummer] Joey [Kramer]'s got a song that I think is a great song. And [guitarist] Joe [Perry] came at the last minute with four songs out of the blue. I think it's a real good piece of work that shows that we're not just in a studio looking for hits like we were in the '90s.”
As far as the country collaboration with Underwood, Tyler says it was a natural fit and not related to their Idol connection.
“Our relationship had nothing to do with American Idol. I kind of wrote it like I did Cryin' - there was a time when I was so broken-hearted. I evoked my country roots, which I don't think a lot of people realize are from the Everly Brothers. I learned harmony and singing and my passion from the Everly Brothers, so she was the first one we thought of.”
Tyler’s voice, like Paul McCartney’s on songs such as “Helter Skelter” and “Oh Darling,” is legendary, able to screech high notes that most rock singers can only dream of. So what’s his secret? How does he hit those notes without shredding his vocal cords?
“That's a great question. You know, people like McCartney, there's some great singers out there that have just, I think, somewhere between writing a melody and singing it we get this godlike feeling. It's like you wrote it, you sing it.
“So there's no one telling Paul he can't or shouldn't. He just does. He just sings it without anybody saying that's wrong. I mean, Nietzsche said, be careful not to cast your demons out of you, because you're casting out what's best in you. And I've heard people tell me all along, 'Don't sing like that,' but you know in Italian there's a thing called squealo, which is when you hit a high note and it kind of rasps it. And that's when they think your soul comes out. And again, when McCartney writes it, it's just when you're not told you can't, when you don't know you can't, it's amazing what you can. But I've always just, for lack of a better term, done it wrong, but got such a right thing out of it.”