Today, however, Tyler’s overjoyed that ‘Idol’ viewers are responding to his admittedly wacky but genuine persona, away from the arena-rock hoopla of the band he’s fronted for four decades.
Tyler says he’s glad that he’s being accepted as something other than “this ominous guy in Aerosmith who does all this,” he said. “I wear my heart on my sleeve out there and I'm more that guy. I am that part. My whole career has almost been pain and a certain amount of suffering and my addictions and up and down and marriages and breakups and all that stuff, but it helps with music. And now stopping and putting on the brakes and doing 'Idol' it just gave me an arena to be who I really am.”
Steven Tyler on Why He Joined "American Idol"
“This is just how I am - always have been,” he continued. “It's just been kept under the hood of rock and roll and all of that stuff that you know. This has given me the chance to be who I really am. And I love 'Idol' truly for doing that.”
The ‘Idol’ producers homed in on Tyler after looking at about 40 other potential possibilities when habitually late Fox executive Mike Darnell showed up in his office to discover Tyler there playing the piano. But it was an ex-‘Idol’ judge, songwriter Kara Dioguardi, who first planted the seeds of possibility in Tyler’s head after a lengthy Aerosmith tour.
“We were off and I thought ‘What am I gonna do?’” remembered Tyler. “And I was speaking with Kara – who I wrote a song with for this Japanese movie while I was in France on the way over to America – and she said ‘Did you ever think about being on American Idol?’ And when it came time to do this, they were looking for a personality and I just sat down and played piano and after meeting them it was love at first sight.”
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After the producers fell for Tyler’s unfiltered approach to the judging table, he said, “Randy [Jackson] was actually the first one I had lunch with, and I thought ‘This is beautiful.’ And on the way from England to the States on our tour on the plane in first class, I watched this movie called ‘The Backup Plan’ with Jennifer Lopez, and the heart that she showed while playing in that movie – I thought ‘If I can sit next to that, and have Randy on the other side, this is going to be a beautiful thing.’
“Even at the risk of Simon Cowell not being there – I thought America wanted this disgruntled, cut-your-head-off thing which he was so good at – I wanted to take a major risk with it. I wasn’t sure if this was going to flatline my career embarrassment. It sounds dumb to me now, but I wasn’t sure if I could step out and do ‘Idol.’ But in two minutes, it was like ‘I’m doing it!’”
It helped that the producers put very few restrictions on exactly what Tyler could get away with saying on television. “Nigel [Lythgoe] said, 'Don't worry – you can say whatever you want.' And I said, 'That's f*cking great!' And he goes, 'It's a family show, dude.' And I said 'And..?'”
“StevenTylerisms” – those wacky turns of phrases he fires off for the contestants – have now become a staple of the show. And the rocker, who doesn’t use a writer to craft his lines, says his offbeat comments come from filing away wacky wordplay he notices in his everyday life in the same way he did for ages to craft song hooks for Aerosmith.
“I work hard to remember things, because of all the things I’ve ever lost, I miss my mind the most.”