Steven Tyler's 'attitude of gratitude'

By Rick Mitchell

Tyler has sampled his share of addictions. Some nearly killed him, but he's conquered them all.

Well, all but one, and it might be the most powerful: rock 'n' roll.

"There isn't a day that goes by where I don't think to myself how lucky this band is to still be here, and to be able to rock 'n' roll as we're still doing." said the Aerosmith frontman.

The group, which formed nearly 30 years ago in Boston, also includes guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer.

"Dream On, or Sweet Emotion, or I Don't Want to Miss a Thing ... Whatever song we're playing, we really love to be live," Tyler said. "We love to be on the road, and we love to rock 'n' roll. And there are a lot of people who love to hear it."

About 13,000 of those people will be on hand Tuesday for Aerosmith's sold-out concert in The Woodlands. The band has been on tour almost nonstop since its last Houston-area appearance in October 1997.

"Believe me, when you've been around as long as we have, there are a lot of fans that were around 20 years ago that just don't get out anymore," Tyler said. "But it's OK, because there's 20 million other kids from the ages of 8 to 19 that have now fallen in love with Aerosmith simply because they love the music.

"Forget that I look like Mick Jagger, or that we've been around 20 years, or any of the rest of that. It's about a good song, and I thank God for a couple of good songs."

One of those songs is I Don't Want to Miss a Thing, which Aerosmith recorded for the soundtrack to the movie Armageddon. The power ballad written by Diane Warren became a huge pop hit, spurring sales of the album past 3 million. As recorded by Mark Chesnutt, it also became a No. 1 country hit.

Some rock fans and critics have accused Aerosmith of selling out and going soft. Although he sounds a bit ambivalent about the song itself, Tyler has no regrets about recording it. The fact that his daughter, Liv Tyler, co-starred in Armageddon was a factor in the decision.

"We decided to do I Don't Want to Miss a Thing. We weren't talked into it. Coupled with Liv and all the rest of the things going on around the movie, it was a great career move for the band. It was a great song, and we were there at the right moment. I like a good action movie anyway."

Liv Tyler grew up believing that her father was stepdad guitarist/producer Todd Rundgren. She and her biological father didn't meet until her 13th birthday.

"From that moment to now, we've been really close," Tyler said.

"Her mom had so many boyfriends at the time that I didn't know what to believe. I was on the road in Europe, still getting high a lot, and just didn't pay a lot of attention to it. When I saw her, it was one of those obvious moments. You know, `My God, she is my daughter!' "

Tyler says he tries to see his Liv as often as possible, but it's difficult because she is so busy with her acting career.

"She's getting me back for all the years I wasn't there," Tyler said. "I get time off, and I call her up, and she goes, `Daddy, I'm in Budapest.' Yeah, I love her dearly."

Aerosmith's last studio album, 1997's Nine Lives, was widely viewed as a commercial disappointment following the multiplatinum success of Get a Grip. Tyler disputes this view by pointing to international sales of 4 million.

Although Get a Grip did better in the United States, Nine Lives has sold more in the rest of the world.

"I've run out of space on my walls," Tyler said. "We've received 20 platinum albums from this. Every country -- Canada, Japan, the U.K. -- has its own standard for measuring what is platinum.

"We're about 1.3 million short of Get a Grip in the States. If you think about it, in a time of rap and alternative music, I think we did really good. We've just been trudging along."

Tyler says he has nothing against rap -- indeed, Aerosmith helped introduce hip-hop to the suburbs back in the mid-'80s by teaming with Run-DMC on Walk This Way. But the fact that rock has been losing ground to other pop-music styles gives him something to fight for.

"I can't wake up in the morning and not have a fight," he said with a laugh.

In its early years, Aerosmith was often derided as America's low-rent answer to the Rolling Stones. But over time, the band's stature has grown. It is now regarded as one of the greatest live rock acts of all time, on the same level as the Stones.

"We've managed to stay around forever, and that, in and of itself, is kind of like the litmus test," said Tyler. "Some people don't like Aerosmith because we weren't a Janet Jackson, a Michael Jackson, a Madonna, Stones, Beatles ... We never had that `wowism.' But I guess from being around a long time, people are giving us credit, and it feels good.

"To get a chance to do I Don't Want to Miss a Thing and follow it with Train Kept a' Rollin' or something by the Bluesbreakers, we love to get that one-two shot. And if it means putting out another soppy ballad, which I happen to love, to be able to turn those kids on to some great rock 'n' roll -- that's what we live for."

Last week, Tyler donated the rights to Aerosmith's Where Do Fallen Angels Go -- written after the Oklahoma City bombing a few years ago -- to Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network.

"There is so much hate and anger in the world, because it's such an easy emotion to cop. You don't have be very smart to get angry," Tyler said. "Oprah is going the other way. She's bringing to the forefront people who are giving up a lot of their lives to help others. So Joe Perry and Richie Supa and I, who wrote that song, decided to give her that song if she wants it.

"I also bought a house for this family in Boston that Oprah's people found: a grandma, her daughter and the daughter's 3-year-old child, who were living in a closet."

Tyler said he's learned through his own experience in overcoming addiction that the joy of giving can be as infectious as hate and anger.

"I'm just a rock 'n' roller at heart. God gave me a lot of money, and I'm so grateful for that. I got an attitude of gratitude. To be able to give a little bit back is a beautiful thing."