Steven Tyler has never been quiet about, well, anything.
But to hear such enthusiasm in the voice of a grizzled rock ‘n’ roll veteran about his new solo project is validation that even though Tyler has momentarily swapped the swampy guitar licks of Aerosmith for the twangier tunes on “We’re All Somebody from Somewhere,” he’s feeling more creatively vital than ever.
“Country music still plays stuff with melody. I have a sorcerer’s grasp with melody,” he says in his unmistakable rasp, sounding not at all arrogant, but like a guy who just moved into a new man cave and never wants to leave.
Tyler, 68, and the country-rock band Loving Mary will share their musical joy at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Thursday with a selection of songs from the “Somebody” album, as well as some reworked Aerosmith classics.
Earlier this summer, the naturally loquacious Tyler talked to a handful of reporters about traveling a country road.
On touring small venues:
“The last time was at the end of the first run of Aerosmith, in 1981-‘82, when the band started going down, all that drug use. But then Aerosmith, even in its heyday, we played small venues. I always love them. The words business and money come up, which I hate to hear. I prefer (shows) when you look out and everybody is close, as opposed to when you look out at barricades and hear ‘we need a fire lane.’ It feeds that side of me that grew again after I did ‘American Idol.’ You can do the 40,000-80,000 (capacity) venues and get jaded, but then you do ‘Idol’ and there are millions of people watching but you’re answering quietly. This tour, I get to talk to people and get close and personal and tell them how the music business is a dark money trench (laughs).
I’m doing a bunch of songs that I wrote for Aerosmith, like ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’ and ‘Dream On.’ But I get a chance to be a storyteller. With Aerosmith, the audience pays a lot of money and there’s 20,000 of them out there and they want to hear the hits and it’s bang, bang, bang. But I want to be able to tell a story about how the music business keeps taking, or on the good side, about how if you keep working you’ll get your song out there.”
On doing a solo project:
“It’s so flipped out to turn around and see a bunch of other faces. This is a real hoot. I’ve never done a solo anything and I kinda got jealous that the other guys in the band did. With Aerosmith, Joe wrote all of the great licks; Brad wrote “Last Child.” Whatever he put into “Last Child”,” that’s his moment. “Dream On” is mine forever. I get off the most in life in collaborating. So I trust my intuition… I can call this a solo project, but a lot of Aerosmith records were that as well. Nothing is really a solo anything. I’m really nothing without that band (Loving Mary). I’m nothing without Aerosmith and nothing without my sobriety. This whole thing is a “we” thing.”
On working with T Bone Burnett, one of the producers of “We’re All Somebody from Somewhere”:
“I had met him a couple of times, checking out the Four Seasons in Boston; I’d see this tall guy lurking around. I certainly know the songs and music he’s done and while I was down here, I did the TV show “Nashville” and his wife Callie (Khouri, who created the show) said, ‘You know I’m married to T Bone.’ I met him at the House of Blues. I played him 11 songs and he loved three. He said, ‘I’d love to do those.’ We went from the three he loved to saying, “Let’s just continue, let’s just finish this record.” It was such an honor working with T Bone, who has that same feeling of minimalism. I love him to death, we’re really good friends.”
On gravitating to country music:
“Country is the new rock ‘n’ roll. There’s no (radio) format (for rock); no one is playing it. Dave Grohl is doing his hardest to keep it alive. There are three or four, maybe five songs on this record that will maybe stand the test of time. At least Alison Krauss said that, so I’m going to believe her.”
On his love affair with Nashville:
“Nashville has been so good to me the last year and a half and the album came out much better than I ever expected…The vibe here in Nashville is ridiculous. There’s still a big soul beating here and I’m stuck in the middle of it and I love it…. I grew up as a country boy playing with bugs and birds in New Hampshire, and then I moved to the Bronx and spent my winters there and got beaten up and called all kinds of names. I got the best of both worlds… I just bought a house in Nashville. It’s a musical mecca. I think I’ve done some of my best work through whatever there is that runs through Nashville.”
On his “American Idol” judging experience:
“I thought to myself, any of these young people up there singing, they don’t know that they’re up there singing just for ‘Idol,’ they’re going to be singing for the rest of their lives. So I didn’t feel comfortable saying, ‘You suck, get out of here.’ It was more to say what I heard and what I noticed. I think the hardest I ever got with them was to say, ‘You’ve got a voice, but not for ‘American Idol.’
My biggest thrill was sitting next to Randy Jackson and particularly J Lo. I fell so in love with her and she knew it. We made each other blush a lot of times. 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. I got such joy out of talking with Randy Jackson. He’s such a great personality. They’re out of their minds at ‘Idol’ for letting him go. But it’s TV – it really had nothing to do with (the producers) seeing that they really had something. So they went on to other things and now they’re off the air.”
On his Janie’s Fund organization (janiesfund.org) for abused girls:
“I wrote (“Janie’s Got a Gun”) 20 plus years ago after I learned about abuse in America in particular. I didn’t know why Janie had a gun. It came out of nowhere. The next thing I know I look at the cover of Newsweek and it showed all the deaths from handguns. A few years later the song is a hit. I come to find out how many girls in America are abused, sexually, but also verbally. Why? Because they can. It’s not only by parents, but by an aunt or uncle. I went and spoke about it.
I’d love to do a Janie’s House for abused girls. I met these folks at Youth Villages in Atlanta. I went to this giant yurt and there was a drum circle inside, there were all of these girls in the facility for being abused and on the street hooking at 11 and being raped time after time at the age of 13. 14. These poor kids were broken. This guy started a drum thing and I’m sitting there and there are about 40 of them, and everyone got to play and speak through the drums. I do that for a living; I come up with beats and things and show my emotions through my music.
It was so profound the way they played the drum and the way they spoke. They were shy and broken inside and it was there that I realized why I had written ‘Janie’s Got a Gun.’
I’m in the business of making my heart feel good and nothing feels better than knowing there is hope.”
8 p.m. Sept. 1. $56.95-$146.95. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.