Shedding Light in the Darkness

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler Loves Maui

JON_STEVEN-TYLER-with-Rebecca-Lynn-HowardSteven Tyler loves living on Maui. Ask Aerosmith’s iconic lead singer about his affection for our island, and he enthusiastically relays how he’s been dreaming about locating here for years.

“We were lucky enough to play the HIC (Honolulu International Center) in 1976, and growing up in the Bronx and New Hampshire I always had this affinity for hula dancing and palm trees,” he recalls.

“Joe [Perry] was up on stage doing a sound check, ripping it up, and I was backstage checking my clothes out and contemplating my navel. I heard him playing really loud (he sings a famous Aerosmith riff), and it so grabbed me I ran up there, sat down on the drums and just started jamming with Joe — and my original thoughts for ‘Walk This Way’ was there. It was Maui, Honolulu — the whole mana vibe.

“While we were there I said, ‘Joe, why don’t we go over to Maui,’ and we stayed in Kaanapali, and I immediately started looking at houses. Someone mentioned the nude beach, and we drove from Kaanapali all the way over here (Makena) and got stuck in the sand. Just great memories.”

“I got married in ’88 and had kids, and we always came to Maui for Christmas break and we stayed at the Four Seasons. To keep in shape, I’d jog down to La Perouse, and there was a house down here — the most Maui-ish house I’d ever seen — and I fell in love with it.

“Then I took ‘American Idol,’ which was a great pay day, and I made an offer [on the house] and got it. I’ve lived here five years. It’s a dream come true. I come here and drop to my knees and thank God.”

A familiar, affable presence on Maui when he’s not touring, he’s often seen around our island, and gives a shout out to Hawaiian Moons and Mana Foods. He’s shared his sobriety wisdom at Maui’s drug court, hung with our resident spiritual teacher Ram Dass and lately he’s been passionately involved with invasive miconia eradication, “which is taking the island over.”

Having fronted one of America’s greatest rock bands for close to 50 years, Tyler has set out on solo tours backed by the Nashville-based Loving Mary Band since 2016.

After closing a European tour in August, Tyler is about to give a treat to Maui on Dec. 27 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s A&B Amphitheater, which will mark the first major solo concert he’s performed here.

Mixing Aerosmith gems like “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion” and his Hawaii-inspired “Walk This Way” with favorites by the Beatles and Janis Joplin, he’s been getting rave reviews.

“If you have never seen Steven Tyler perform live, you MUST,” praised The Valley Ledger. “You would not know he is 70 and his voice is just as powerful. The Loving Mary Band was incredible. They truly rocked.”

The new partnership was sealed around the time Tyler released his solo album, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere,” which topped Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

“I had never done anything solo, and Joe had,” he explains. “This band is famous for its ups and downs, and I finally thought, ‘It’s my time to do a solo project.’ I went down to Nashville and thought of doing a country record. A dear friend, Marti Frederiksen — who wrote some great songs with Aerosmith — lives in Nashville and knows all these musicians.

“Marty said, ‘Let me get a band together and we’ll write some songs and go on tour and do solo stuff.’ And sure enough, we put a band together with Suzie McNeil, who I love and am going to steal for Vegas (to perform with Aerosmith in April), and Rebecca Lynn Howard who sings like an angel, and Andrew Mactaggart, Elisha Hoffman on banjo and mandolin and Sarah Tomek on drums — the slammenest drummer I’ve ever seen. And we have Jenee Fleenor, who plays the fiddle with Blake Shelton. You’re not going to believe how good she is.

“It’s great to be in a country band with three singers, we sing so good together. We have four-part, slamming harmonies, and I’m bringing it to Maui.”

Reviewing Tyler’s album, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere,” Ultimate Classic Rock praised: “If you’re looking for a hint of the cheeky lecherousness that powered Aerosmith’s best early songs, head straight for the title track. He also unleashes a thunderous, blues-drenched performance on the harp during the Jeff Beck-ish ‘Hold On (Won’t Let Go).’ “

It’s a brilliant evolution that finds Tyler crafting some of his most engaging songs in years. Imagine hearing a laid-back Aerosmith dipping into a country pool, flavored with a taste of bluesy southern rock. You’ll discover one memorable song after another from the good time, solid rocking “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly & Me” and the smoldering fire of “Hold On (Won’t Let Go)” to the delightfully jubilant “I Make My Own Sunshine” and taste of lively Cajun on “Sweet Louisiana.”

“I think it’s a great album,” he enthuses. “I didn’t know what I was getting into. I sat at Marty’s house and went over all the songs we should do and who we should sound like — Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard. I love the country vibe, and particularly outlaw country music. I love melodies and harmonies like the Everly Brothers. When I was 14, I stole a record from my sister’s bedroom — it was the Everly Brothers. That was my inspiration.”

Years before heading to Nashville, Tyler had recorded a song with Willie Nelson, “One Time Too Many,” which he wrote, and he sang a duet with country star Carrie Underwood on Aerosmith’s most recent studio album, “Music From Another Dimension.”

Hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the greatest singers of all time,” you could say Tyler was born for rock stardom. His intriguing astrology chart reflects many dynamic aspects that indicate powerful, magnetic energy coupled with an optimistic outlook, a generous spirit and self-confidence.

Born Steven Tallarico in 1948 as the son of a classical musician, he grew up ready to rock — first as a drummer.

“I came from a family of five musical brothers from Calabria who played old-timey chamber music in grand hotels,” he explains. “I started playing drums in 1964 in school — a snare drum — and I got the feeling of being in front of people, and I could see how everybody was attracted to the rhythm. Then, I was a singing drummer in a band.”

In the summer of 1970, he formed an early version of Aerosmith with guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton.

“I actually started playing the drums in Aerosmith for the first month when we were rehearsing,” he recalls. “Then we met Joey (Kramer).”

Remembering first meeting Tyler, Perry once reported: “Steven sure looked like a rock star, and he definitely acted like one. We just assumed he already was one.”

“We started playing clubs (in Boston) where no one came,” Tyler continues. “But there was one club where there was a couple of hundred people; then we played there again and people were all over the roof and breaking in the windows in the bathroom, which was our dressing room. And you kind of got the inkling that maybe you are doing something right. We had written our first song and were ready to put out our first album. We were a tight, bad-ass band, and it just took off. It was magic.”

By the time of its third album, “Toys in the Attic,” Aerosmith had conquered the charts, and its first five albums eventually attained multi-platinum status.

Throughout the 1970s, they released such signature classics as “Sweet Emotion,” “Dream On” and “Walk This Way,” to become one of the most popular rock bands in the world.

In the early ’80s, the band hit some hard times with members leaving. Aerosmith’s return to the charts began in 1986 when Tyler and Perry teamed with Run-D.M.C. for the rap/rock version of “Walk This Way.” The following year, the hit-laden “Permanent Vacation” sold multi-platinum.

“We had a second coming in ’87,” Tyler notes. “We started writing again and got tight with each other. And we had the whole explosion of ‘Pump’ and ‘Get a Grip’ — some great albums — and we had so much fun writing songs with other people.”

Into the 21st century, Aerosmith returned to its raw roots, releasing the terrific “Honkin’ on Bobo.” It featured 11 covers of vintage blues songs — including a killer version of Muddy Waters’ classic “Baby, Please Don’t Go.”

“We’re trying to decide whether we should do that in Vegas,” he says, “I think, ‘Yes’; but Vegas is, ‘Play your hits.’ We’re going to learn it again, and it should take us a day.”

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, in April Aerosmith will head to Las Vegas for a “Deuces Are Wild” residency at the Park Theater at the MGM Grand.

“We’re breaking records selling tickets,” he notes. “It’s three, three-week segments. I’m really looking forward to it.”

In October, he was featured on the new compilation album, “Muscle Shoals . . . Small Town, Big Sound,” belting out the Rolling Stones’ hit “Brown Sugar” — recorded at Alabama’s legendary FAME Studios.

“It was an honor to do it,” he says. “I saw the studios where Mick and Keith did ‘Brown Sugar,’ and I’m looking at a picture of Little Richard and he’s standing where I’m standing singing ‘Brown Sugar.’ That kind of stuff really gives you a feeling in your heart.”

Back on Maui before briefly heading to Boston, Tyler emphasizes how grateful he feels to finally have a home here.

“Maui was always where my mind went,” he says. “It’s otherworldly. The life I have, I love the attention and I love playing shows and going places and everybody knows your name, but it’s a bit much. There are times when you just have to clear your mind out, so the times I get to come here it’s been outrageous.”

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