Yes, he's exited his high-profile post as a judge on American Idol, despite the fact that his two seasons on the show were really what put him back on the pop-culture radar. But Steven Tyler would like to clarify one thing: There's truly a method to his madness.
When the Aerosmith frontman accepted the job in 2010, his personal life was in tumult. He'd battled prescription painkiller addiction, tumbled awkwardly off a Sturgis, S.D., stage, and scrapped scheduled recording sessions with red-hot producer Brendan O'Brien. His longtime songwriting partner, band guitarist Joe Perry, was livid, and began auditioning replacement vocalists.
Aerosmith, explains Tyler, is a lot like a dysfunctional family.
"I think they proved that by the fact that after I fell off the stage, they were looking for another singer," chuckles Tyler. "So all I did was take Idol and say, 'Look — just cool your jets for a while, and I'm gonna take a little side job here.' And it turned out to be really good for me.
"And I wasn't sure at first — who was? — but when I took it, 40 million people loved it. And when I quit last week, everyone comes forward and goes, 'We didn't like you on Idol anyway — we want Aerosmith back!'"
After four up-and-down decades together, declares Tyler, "What I do is Aerosmith. Aerosmith is my first love, it's what I AM."
As further proof, the band is returning with its first new album of original material in 11 years, Music From Another Dimension, which hits the streets in November. In the meantime, Aerosmith's Global Warming tour is heating up summer venues.
What's even more impressive is that Perry and Tyler — once dubbed The Toxic Twins for their hard-partying ways — are not only on friendly terms again, they're actually writing together on two-fisted new scrappers like "Out Go the Lights." The new single "Legendary Child" feels teleported in from their late-'70s heyday, while a vintage soul cover, "Shaky Ground," finds Tyler tearing it up the way he first heard Etta James do it. And then there's his personal favorite track, "Street Jesus," a rocker he penned with axeman Brad Whitford.
So after members of Aerosmith's own management team had predicted the band would never record together again, how did Tyler manage to accomplish all this? It wasn't easy, he sighs. Especially when Perry wasn't taking his calls.
But American Idol turned out to be the game-changer. "In the first three months of its airing, by March of 2011, our catalog was literally up 260 percent. So, look — I was angry at the band, they were angry at me, I took the job, they got jealous, they came to the table, I brought in Jack [Douglas, producer of early Aerosmith gems like Rocks], and we wrote one of the best albums ever."
The band even performed with him on Idol's season finale. "So in the end, what the band was afraid of and didn't like, they embraced," says Tyler, noting that he's spent recent months holed up in the Sunset Marquis working on the album.
"I finished the choruses, I wrote the melodies and all the lyrics, and the album started coming together. And it's looking like a fucking monster!"