Steven Tyler (American Idol)

Steven Tyler: The Interview (American Idol)

Born Stephen Victor Tallarico in Yonkers, NY, Steven Tyler is the iconic songwriter, composer and voice of Aerosmith – America’s greatest rock-and-roll band – and is considered one of rock’s most recognizable and dynamic frontmen. Rolling Stone has named him one of the greatest singers of all time. 

We sit down with the legendary singer to talk about his new role as judge on American Idol.

: 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 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. 

SF: 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.

ST: 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.

SF: Have you said anything so far as to any of the contestants during the auditions that you’ve regretted immediately afterwards?

ST: 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.

SF: 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?

ST: 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.

SF: Do you feel adding someone of your stature gives the show an extra layer of credibility it might not have had before?

ST: 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.

SF: 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?

ST: 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.

SF: 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.

ST: 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.

Peter Oberth
Interview by Peter Oberth
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