Steven Tyler's Life-Changing Year
by janice o’leary
photography by melissa mahoney
Steven Tyler is a talker. But he’s a surprisingly softspoken one, until he bursts into a rendition of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” or a few lines of rap. Then, he’s loud. Real loud. It’s like hearing the call of a loon on a lake—a familiar song you’ve been listening to from a distance for years, so you don’t know until one is beside you just how much volume the beautiful bird packs. The day we speak, he’s at his New Hampshire home near Lake Sunapee, and the house is chaotic with wires snaking everywhere and B-roll cameras shooting Tyler’s daughter Mia cooking breakfast and other details of his day. Tyler himself is getting his hair and makeup done while we talk, and his girlfriend, Erin, wanders in first with one outfit choice for him, then another.
A show on Tyler is taping this fall, though it won’t air until the next season of American Idol begins and the paperback of Tyler’s memoir, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, is scheduled to release. The title is pure Tyler, altogether typical of something he’d say.
What seems atypical for Tyler, hell, atypical for any 63-year-old rock star, are the recent turns in his career. It’s nearly 40 years since the band got its first contract with Columbia records, and he’s not winding down, not at all. This year has seen him as a judge on Idol, giving the show a new energy and expertise; the release of his memoir, which was a New York Times best seller for months; and the inspiration for a new line of clothing designed by Hilfiger the Younger, Andy. Oh, and the band plays on. Aerosmith tours Japan and South America this fall. Though he’s of the age to start receiving his AARP benefits and he cracks jokes about needing a hearing aid to catch the directions of the sweet, shy makeup artist, he still lives out loud and doesn’t rest.
So why a book? “Oh god, it’s been a project I’ve had in mind for years,” he says. “I always felt that from day one, since the band got together and we started playing clubs like Bunratty’s in Boston and high schools all over. I always felt that this band was magical and there would be a movie done about us.” And he still swears there will be. “As long as I stay healthy.”
“There were so many moments, like signing a first album with Columbia—nobody did that—or after our second run in the ’90s, so few can make that kind of comeback,” he says. “Or like this one: I’m at the urinal doing an interview with a journalist, and then Curt Schilling comes in with his wife, and then the phone rings and it was Al Gore wanting to talk about the ice caps melting. This is my experience once or twice a day. I’ve got my dream team and we’re trying to fit 50 pounds of shit into a five-pound bag.” Certainly a rock-star’s reality, and a reality that Tyler thought needed to be documented.