When 62-year-old rock star Steven Tyler announced that he was becoming a judge on Fox’s reality television series, “American Idol,” fans throughout the country had one question in mind. Could the Aerosmith front man and his new partner, Puerto Rican pop starlet Jennifer Lopez, channel their inner Simon Cowell and get tough on thousands of contestants all hoping to be the latest music sensation? Despite critics declaring that the star-studded makeover couldn’t save the show in time for its 10th season, audiences put the rumors to rest. Last Thursday night, “Idol” drew 22.9 million viewers, proving that both native New Yorkers, along with longtime judge Randy Jackson, were ready to spice up the country’s top-rated entertainment program. However, will the new panel continue to revive the aging franchise? Tyler thinks so. NocheLatina chatted with the legendary rocker during a conference call about joining “American Idol,” falling for Lopez, and living on the edge.
nocheLatina: What were some of the concerns that you had in stepping into ‘American Idol?’ What was it like to find our own identity as a judge?
Steven Tyler: I have such an identity with Aerosmith. And for all the videos that I’ve done I figured it’d be a shoe in. The part that’s a little difficult is judging young kids that I think have a voice, but actually being honest and open. It took me a couple of minutes to get into the role of that, but I’ve grown accustomed to it and it’s fun. I get to sit next to J. Lo and Randy taking the you know what out of everybody, and it’s been good. I don’t take whatever happened to me this morning, last night, with the band, or exes with me. I don’t take that into judging kids like some other people might have. I kind of take what I’ve grown up with, which is being a very harsh judge of myself, and kind of laid that across the talent that comes to view.
nocheLatina: What does being a part of ‘American Idol’ do for you?
Steven Tyler: I’m not sure. I think there’s love up there you’ll never see. Certainly, there’s camaraderie that you haven’t seen in 10 years. I’m really happy that I get along with Randy so well. J. Lo is a fox. She’s also street and she’s got a good, big heart. We’ve seen a lot of people this year and we’ve got our top 40. We’re ready to go.
nocheLatina: Have you said anything to the contestants during the auditions that you’ve regretted afterwards?
Steven Tyler: Yes. I made some harsh comments the first week. They snapped back and said, ‘What do you mean?’ But I only did two of those. I didn’t want that to happen again. I couldn’t say that you were no good without substantiating why, and a couple times that I said, ‘You know you just don’t have it,’ they asked me why. I couldn’t tell them. I just heard—it’s like I’m looking for that certain something. Well, I heard that something in a negative way. I didn’t see the star. I hadn't ever really watched the show and I wasn’t versed in that type of judging. I’ve got three daughters, so it’s hard for me. Those two times after that I was ready to go.
nocheLatina: You have one year sober. Do you have a new outlook on life?
Steven Tyler: Yes. I’ve got no regrets. Everything that came my way has cut me into what I am today. What I am today is a grateful, recovering drug addict/alcoholic. I’m not without my faults, marks, and scars. I’m proud of them. I show people them. I have for 40 years. That’s why they love my music because I’m honest and I got no regrets. Things have been good. Look, I’m always ready to take it up a notch. I still like a good challenge, and ‘Idol’ was with the best people. Someday, I’ll have my own show called—different type of ‘Survivor.’ They’ll put me in a barrel and throw me into the ocean. It’ll be called ‘Message in a Bottle.’ They’ll put me in a giant bottle and see what shore I land on. Then I’ll marry the person I meet and we’ll see what the kids look like. Yes, Aerosmith is getting ready to launch a tour November/December. It’s already booked. The songwriting starts next week. Everything you hear is just hearsay and a lot of muck that’s been thrown around. There’s no validity to it. I’m here to tell you that.
nocheLatina: Do you feel adding someone of your stature gives the show an extra layer of credibility it might not have had before?
Steven Tyler: I like to think so. I’m not bringing some grumpiness or something in my life that’s not good. I’m not bringing that to the table, and letting that cloak my judging of these kids. I’m taking what they give me, cutting it up in three different pieces: One is can they sing? Are they in pitch? Two, do they have character? Three, do they have a star quality about them? Kind of folding that all into one, but that would be my expertise and J. Lo’s got her own singing style. But don’t forget I’m a drummer. I think I’m going to take it up a notch.
nocheLatina: How long is your contract with ‘American Idol?’
Steven Tyler: I have more than a one year contract, but as you know things are what they are. I’ll give you that one. Can I elaborate? No, I can’t.
nocheLatina: When you were deciding whether or not to be part of ‘American Idol’ last summer, did it matter who else was in or out? Did Jennifer Lopez’s involvement influence your decision?
Steven Tyler: It did at first. I was told she was out, and I was a little bummed, but I met Randy first before, and…I loved Randy. It was like we were separated at birth. We had so many similarities. Whatever he’s been through I’ve been through. On the way from England to America, I saw J. Lo’s movie, Back-Up Plan, and I fell in love with her. I’m watching and going, ‘Oh my God, it’s Jennifer Lopez.’ I could so relate to the way she played her part. All I can tell you is when I met her she was exactly all that. I was grateful that she got the part.
nocheLatina: What kind of reaction do you expect from longtime Aerosmith fans as you venture into this new part of your career as a judge?
Steven Tyler: It’s been 15 weeks already I’ve been in it, and all the TV’s getting is just that other side of me. It would be like if there were reality cameras in the house when my kids were growing up. I get to be more vulnerable, honest, open, and more in the moment and less colored by the songs I wrote and listening to the songs that contestants sing.