Steven Tyler held a 45-minute conference call on Tuesday morning to help kickoff the 10th season of American Idol which debuts at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Here is what Mr. Tyler had to say:
Can you talk about some of the concerns you had stepping into such a popular show and how you found your own identity…
ST: “I had none whatsoever. I have such an identity with this band (Aerosmith) and with all the videos that I have done I figured it would be a shoe-in. The part that was difficult in judging young kids is that I think they all have a voice. So, to be honest and open it took me a couple of minutes to get into the role of that but I’ve grown accustomed to it. And I get to sit next to JayLo (Jennifer Lopez) and Randy (Jackson) taking the you-know-what out of everybody. It’s been good. I don’t judge everybody based on what happened to me this morning or last night. Like what happened with the band. I don’t take that into judging kids like some other people might have. I take what I have grown up with, which is being a very harsh judge of myself and my band and kind of laid that across the talent that came across.”
What are you doing when you aren’t at the judges’ table? Are you planning on working on the new album while you are out there in L.A.?
ST: “I have a bunch of songs that I have written to record either solo or with Aerosmith. In fact next Saturday the guys are flying out to L.A. I fly out there from New York to be there for the premiere on Wednesday night. We are already booked for a tour in November and December in South America and Japan. So, what you hear in the press about Aerosmith getting in the way of American Idol it just isn’t so.”
What do you think you do for American Idol and what does being part of the show do for you?
ST: “I’m not going in there to be a harsh judge or an overbearing judge. I’m just bringing my Italian, I know how to work a room honesty and the 40-years of being the front guy for Aerosmith who judged the hell out of himself and kind of made a good career out of it with hopes to find some kids here in America for American Idol to take the stage.
“No more, no less. I think there is love up and certainly there is camaraderie that you will never see in 10 years. And about that I am really happy. I get along with Randy (Jackson) so well. JayLo is a fox, she’s also street and she’s also got a good, big heart.
“We’ve seen a lot of people this year and we’ve got our top 40. We are ready to go.”
Have you said anything to any of the contestants so far that you have regretted immediately afterward?
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 cause I didn’t want that to happen again. You couldn’t say that you were no good without substantiating why.
“There were a couple of times that I said, ‘You just don’t have it,’ and they did ask me why. And I couldn’t tell them why. I just felt if we were looking for a certain something then I heard that certain something in a negative way. I didn’t see the star in that and I didn’t have the hutzpah to tell them that. I hadn’t ever really watched the show and I wasn’t really versed that type of judging.
“I have three daughters and it was hard for me. But after that I was ready to go. I judged back in with both feet.”
You recently opened up about your past. Do you have any regrets?
ST: “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 a grateful drug addict and 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’ve got no regrets.
“Life will never be the same for me after being on Howard Stern’s show this morning. Nor will it be after tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
“Look, I’m always ready to kick it up a notch. I’m not sure if … it used to be my frivolity. But now it gets into adrenaline. I still like a good challenge. I’m with the best people. I get to meet all these FOX people. I’m with the best network.
“Someday maybe I’ll have my own show called A Different Type of Survivor” I don’t know what. They’ll put me in a barrel and throw me in the ocean. It’ll be called Message In A Bottle. They’ll put in a giant bottle and see what shore I land on. Then I’ll marry the person and we’ll see what the kids look like. I’m ready for anything and nothing has been more convincing that I’m ready for anything than this last year with Aerosmith.”
Are you going to bring a little more rock element, like Siobhan Magnus did last year, to the show and less of a pop element. A little more edge, a little more personality?
ST: “It’s interesting. That would be my judgement call on what rock is. For every week that I brought along someone that I thought was great, the next week they were given the wrong song and the wrong key and we had to drop ‘em.
“That’s the beauty of the show that I didn’t know before and it’s also the heartbreak. There is one kid there who has a rock element about him and he is off the wall. I don’t know which rock star wasn’t. But I have hopes that he makes it through. His voice is ridiculous, crazy and great.
“So, will I bring a rock element? Sure. I have a good ear for all music. That’s why I thought I would take this. It’s not just a one-thing type judging. Not all great singers make great rock stars. Some of the voices that aren’t the best make the best rock stars I mean to say. It’s been fun. I don’t take this too seriously and I do take it seriously. It’s been a real hoot for me.”
Do you feel adding someone of your stature to the show has added a layer of credibility to the show that it might not have had before?
ST: “I’d like to think so. I’m not bringing some grumpiness or something that hasn’t been good. I’m not bringing that to the table.
“I’m taking what these kids give me and cutting it up in three different pieces – one is can they sing and are they in pitch; two do they have character; and three do they have a star quality about them. Kind of folding that all into one that would be my expertise.
“Don’t forget, I’m a drummer so I have the pitch from my father, Juilliard from the drumming sensibility and I’ve got the tonality and the harmonic stuff. I think I’m gonna take it up a notch.”
Do you think as a road dog you can be as sympathetic to some guy who has been working in the gas station as compared to some guy who has been out playing every night at Joe’s Roadside Tavern?
ST: “I am sympathetic to that cause it did color my opinions in the past about someone who didn’t go through the clubs and didn’t walk the gauntlet to get their star. But I listen to these kids regardless. I listen for that certain something. But if they are good to begin with I am hoping to see that. Regardless of whether you have sung in church. There are a lot of people who have put their time in church that a great sense of the blues or time or melody.”
How long have you signed up for the show? Do you have more than a one year contract?
ST: “I have more than a one-year contract but it’s you know things are what they are.”
When you decided to be a judge did it matter to you who was in or out?
ST: “At first I was told that she (Jennifer Lopez) was out and I was a little bummed. But I met Randy (Jackson) and I love Randy. He and I got on with it in the first five minutes. It was like we were separated at birth. How we hadn’t met before was beyond me. I’m grateful Jennifer got the part.”
Were you a fan of Idol in the past and do you have a particular favorite winner?
ST: “Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. Them two.”
What kind of reaction do you expect from long-time Aerosmith fans to this judging?
ST: “I’ve studied this so far and it’s been … well here I get to be more vulnerable, more honest, more open, more in the moment and less colored by songs that I wrote and listening to songs that they sing.”
Are you going to call a moratorium on Aerosmith songs on the show and if not how would you be able to judge a song that you had sung a song yourself?
ST: “In the seven weeks we probably got 15 or 16 Don’t Want To Miss a Thing. It was hard for me cause I knew when they sang it someone back home had said, ‘If you are singing that song Tyler will be enamored.’ And when I didn’t like it I felt a little ill at ease to tell them you really didn’t sing it good. But after the third of fourth one I got into it.
You know what if anyone has anything bad to say about me this season it will get better next season. I take that back – it will be easier for me to judge live on TV because I have been through this minefield.
“But we are down to 20 great people now and if any of them sing it now it would be good.”