He may be from Boston by way of Yonkers, N.Y., but there's a lot more country in Aerosmith's “Demon of Screamin'” than most folks realize.
Steven Tyler listened to country music when he was a kid, he has family ties in Oklahoma through his ex-wife Teresa Barrick, he used to spend time in rural Sequoyah County prowling the countryside with his kids, and he's performed duets on three occasions with Checotah's own country superstar Carrie Underwood.
The latest Tyler-Underwood team-up, “Can't Stop Lovin' You,” can be heard on Aerosmith's “Music From Another Dimension,” the band's first studio album of new, original material since 2001's “Just Push Play.”
The LP is due out Tuesday, and Tyler is looking forward to returning to Oklahoma Thursday, when Aerosmith kicks off the second leg of its “Global Warming Tour” at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Unfortunately, Underwood won't be there to harmonize with the bad boy from Boston.
“Believe it or not, Carrie and myself, our relationship had nothing to do with ‘American Idol,'” Tyler said in a recent teleconference with journalists from across the country.
Underwood's career was launched when she won the “American Idol” competition in 2005. Tyler — to the dismay of fellow Aerosmith band members — became a judge on the reality show for the 2011 and '12 seasons. Tyler announced his departure from the show in July.
The Aerosmith frontman and the Checotah native first were paired during the 2011 Academy of Country Music Awards, and their performance of “Undo It” and “Walk This Way” was one of the night's highlights. In February, the two were teamed again to perform a medley of “Just a Dream” and “Dream On” on the special “CMT Crossroads: Steven Tyler and Carrie Underwood From the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam.”
That one brought them a nomination for CMT Performance of the Year. They didn't win, but that didn't stop Tyler from tapping Underwood for the new duet.
“It really stemmed from Marti Frederiksen, who I co-wrote the song with,” Tyler said. “He wrote ‘Undo It' with her. So actually it was Marti who, three years ago, and Kara (DioGuardi), who was an ‘Idol' judge, said why don't you just be one of the judges on ‘Idol'? and so after talking to Marti about it I went away for a stint somewhere (in rehab) for a little while to get in touch with my wild-a- - self.
“And I came out and we wrote this song, ‘Can't Stop Lovin' You,' which was going to be on my solo record. Marti and I also wrote ‘It Feels So Good Loving You.' And so I was on that roll with that side. It was going to be something for my solo stuff, but I showed this song to the band and one of the guys in the band said, ‘You're singing it too country.'
“I said, ‘Well, that's how I wrote it.' I kind of wrote it like I did ‘Crying.' There was a time when I was so brokenhearted I evoked my country roots, which I think a lot of people don't realize I'm from the Everly Brothers. I'm not from Elvis.”
Tyler recalls when he was growing up in New Hampshire and picking up a country station in Fort Wayne, Ind., at night by running a wire from the antenna of his radio to the top of an apple tree outside of his house.
“And that's a true story,” he said. “And so I was born and bred with country music.”
Affinity with Oklahoma
Maybe that's why Tyler feels so at home in the Sooner State, to which he recently returned for a sad occasion.
“My ex-wife's father just passed away four months ago,” he said. “Frank Barrick. But the family's there, and it's all my family. I love every one of them, and we went and cried for two days and just had a real down-home family funeral, and it was beautiful.
“I love Oklahoma. I love Tenkiller. I got baptized there. My wife tried to drown me, but there's something.”
Along with the country touches, Tyler assures that there are plenty of full-on rockers on the new album, such as “Oh Yeah,” “Luv XXX” and “Freedom Fighter,” the latter featuring Johnny Depp on backing vocals. The album also reunites the band with Jack Douglas, producer of some of Aerosmith's most enduring long-players, including “Toys in the Attic” (1975) and “Rocks” (1976), which rank as two of Rolling Stone's “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
And while the band has a well-known history of infighting, sudden departures of members, substance abuse, Tyler's accident-prone tendencies to fall off stages and break bones and mess up his feet, and all the general dysfunctionality, the singer considers this 15-song, nearly 70-minute-long album to be a united group effort, with songwriting contributions from guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer, as well as prolific lead guitarist Joe Perry and Tyler.
But Tyler seems especially proud of the duet with Underwood, which he expects to become a crossover hit on country radio.
“I learned harmony and singing and my passion from the Everly Brothers, so she was the first one we thought of,” he said. “The song was beautiful. I thought maybe the guys would like the song. I brought it to them and one night while we were here in L.A. four months ago, Carrie was here.
“I called her up. I go, ‘Where are you? I'd love you to sing this song.' She goes, ‘I'm in L.A. but I'm leaving in the morning.' I said, ‘You gotta come over.' So she came over to the studio and sang it in about two hours. I sang it with her and voila, man, it's just so good.
“You know, it's funny. You write a song, and if you pay homage to the way it's coming out and not deny it — it's not like we wrote a country song for it to be a crossover, which is an easy thing for people to think. The song kind of wrote itself and turned into this.”