On his way to the Chicago Theatre, Steven Tyler unplugs from Aerosmith for his country-infused solo debut

Steven Tyler Photos provided by Dot Records

With more than 150 million albums sold as front man for Aerosmith, slots in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, four Grammy Awards, an Emmy, nine chart-topping hits, a one time judge’s chair on “American Idol” and an endless string of accolades, it would appear as though Steven Tyler already accomplished virtually everything imaginable. Yet throughout more than four-and-a-half decades of artistry, the legendary singer/songwriter hasn’t released a solo album until this very summer, but rather than simply repeating the massively successful formula of Aerosmith, he’s turned towards a stompin’ country meets roots rockin’ motif.

Given the fact that his voice is nothing short of pure gold, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere” (Dot Records/ Big Machine Label Group) is an instantly memorable offering that also benefits from his melodic songwriting, super producers T Bone Burnett and Dann Huff, relative newcomers Marti Frederiksen and Jaren Johnston (The Cadillac Three), plus blustery backing from Nashville’s Loving Mary band. Chicago Concert Reviews recently caught up with Tyler on a teleconference phone call to hear all about his Music City experience and what type of show he’s bringing to the Windy City when the tour bus pulls up to the Chicago Theatre on Saturday, August 13.

I like playing a small venue where I look out and everybody’s close as opposed to 20,000 when they’ve got a big barricade. I can’t see or feel the people, so it’s a very living room thing to play small venues.

Steven TylerWhat are you looking forward to on your tour? What are you mostly anxious to see?

Steven Tyler: It’s a cross probably between the looks on people’s faces when we rip into either this new version of “Janie’s Got A Gun” that I put together and it’s going to be on the record. It’s a little bit darker than the other version, but it’s countrified a little. And the look on people’s faces when I rip “Into Only Heaven” and “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere.” I didn’t know what was going to happen when Aerosmith first made it, but I did notice the looks on people’s faces when they kind of liked it. And I’m just looking forward to that again. Three of us sing, so the backgrounds are delicious. I got three girls in the band, so we’re beautiful to look at.

I’m in such a high place right now because Nashville, if you don’t mind me going into a little rant here, Nashville’s been so good to me in the last year and a half…The vibe here in Nashville is ridiculous. The passion, the soul. There’s still a big soul beating here, whereas in a lot of other places, it’s kind of dead because business took over. Here, it’s still alive and the passion fuels that and I’m right stuck in the middle of it. So I’m loving it and I can’t wait to get on the tour with my country band, if you will.

When’s the last time you were touring in venues that were smaller sized, like theaters? Does it feel like you’ll be out there proving yourself again?

Tyler: Yeah. The last time we did small venues was like at the end of that first run of Aerosmith, about ’81, ’82, ’83. The band started breaking up with a lot of drug use and drinking too much. But interestingly enough, Aerosmith even in its heyday played small venues, [like] in ’78. We played small venues every now and then, and in 1997, we did the Beacon. I always love them. The words come up “business” and “money,” which I hate to hear because I never really cared about it. I always went with my heart. But it’s not viable to get your crew and load in and do a 2,000-seater. It’s just not cost effective, as they call it. I prefer them. I like playing a small venue where I look out and everybody’s close as opposed to 20,000 when they’ve got a big barricade. I can’t see or feel the people, so it’s a very living room thing to play small venues.

And it’s a little bit more personal. It feeds that side of me that grew again after I did “Idol” where they’re actually on you, a camera, and it’s 40 million people watching you and you’re actually answering something quietly and thoughtfully and giving your opinion about something. With the “Out on a Limb” Tour, I get to talk to people and be up close and personal.

Steven TylerWhat you think long time Steven Tyler fans are going to walk away with from seeing this tour that they might not get a sense of by seeing you fronting Aerosmith?

Tyler: I’m doing a bunch of songs that I wrote for Aerosmith, like “Janie’s Got a Gun” and “Dream On,” but it’s more about the country songs and I get a chance to [be a] storyteller. With Aerosmith, you know, the audience pays a lot of money. They want to hear the hits and we got to bang, bang, bang, bang one to the other, to the other. And I love it, it keeps me young, but [I also love] telling a little story and not being afraid to talk about the music business.

How much do you feel like you’re putting yourself out there a little bit with this? And for someone who’s accomplished as much as you have in your career, are you excited about that feeling of vulnerability and having something fresh to share with an audience?

Tyler: Yeah. It’s all that…I’ve always jumped into things with both feet whether it was an Aerosmith album or this thing. I came to Nashville. I rented a house. Now I just bought a house, so I’m living here full-on. It’s a musical mecca. It was very scary in the beginning. Scott Borchetta from Big Machine said, “I want you on my label.” I said, “You know, let’s do it on a handshake.” He said, “Okay.” I said, “All right. But let’s wait two months because I want to see what we get for music. I don’t know what I’m going to get. I could get nothing.” I didn’t know what I was going to get.

I started writing with people, and within two months, I got five of some of the greatest songs, I think, I’ve ever written or I’ve ever been part of in writing. I co-wrote with everyone down here and I think I’ve done some of my best work through this country head. Whatever it is that runs through Nashville. It’s something in the water…The town still has the passion for music. It hasn’t lost it through business, money and publishing. It may be big here, but the music aspect still has the passion. The artists that come here come from all over the world to be part of it and there’s so much music dripping out of this honeycomb.

Steven Tyler performs at the Chicago Theatre on Saturday, August 13. For additional details, visit TheChicagoTheatre.com, Ticketmaster.com and StevenTyler.com.