The idea stems from an acoustic performance he did last fall as part of PBS' Front and Center series, with an emphasis squarely on the fans.
"What would I not pay to go see (Paul) McCartney, but instead of playing with whoever he's with now, actually do (a show) where he tells you what he was thinking when he wrote Yesterday?" says Tyler, 68. "That's what I'm doing. I figured I'd talk about Sweet Emotion and Dream On and where I was when I wrote it, and Seasons of Wither and how I played it."
Fans got a sneak preview of Out on a Limb in New York Monday, where Tyler hosted a benefit show at Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall for Janie's Fund. Created by the singer in partnership with Youth Villages, the initiative offers financial support to young women and girls who have been abused or neglected. It's a cause that's been important to Tyler since writing Aerosmith's stirring Janie's Got a Gun, about a girl who takes revenge on her incestuous father.
"When I wrote the lyrics to Janie's Got a Gun, I didn't really know who or what it was — it was just a phrase off the top of my head that worked in the particular piano riff I was writing," Tyler says. "But soon after, I found out about how many girls get abused in America and around the world." With his charity, which launched in November, "it was a way to lend my voice to girls that have no voice."
Since touring with Aerosmith last summer, Tyler has played a handful of one-off concerts and festivals, and recently bought a home in Nashville. So far, he has released two singles as a country artist (Love is Your Name and Red, White and You), and is currently finishing up a still-untitled album with renowned producer T Bone Burnett.
"It's a full-on country feel," Tyler says. "People ask me, 'Why'd you go country?' It was almost a shoo-in. I always wanted to do Everly Brothers." Playing onstage with the six-piece Loving Mary, "it really is beautiful getting out there and singing with a band, where I can look at all the guys and go, 'Stop playing right now' and we'll just sing a cappella. I've never been in a band like that, so it's a whole new thing for me."
Although the project hasn't been embraced by everyone (including his Aerosmith bandmate Joe Perry), Tyler says the change of course is just what he needed right now.
"Look, I don't expect to hit like The Beatles or be the second coming of Aerosmith," Tyler says. After four decades with the band, "it was time for a little break. I'm such a passionate person that if I don't go after my muse like that, I'll wind up on drugs again. I'll wind up arguing with people and just no good."
Tickets to Steven Tyler's Out on a Limb tour go on sale May 14 on livenation.com. The full list of dates:
2 — Las Vegas, Venetian Theatre
5 — Los Angeles, Dolby Theatre
8 — Seattle, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall
10 — Vancouver, Orpheum Theatre
14 — San Francisco, The Masonic
20 — Phoenix, Comerica Theatre
23 — Denver, Ellie Caulkins Opera House
26 — Austin, Bass Concert Hall
29 — Houston, Brown Theater at Wortham Center
1 — Dallas, Music Hall at Fair Park
13 — Chicago, Chicago Theatre
17 — Nashville, Andrew Jackson Hall at TPAC
23 — Washington, D.C., Warner Theatre
29 — Clearwater, Fla., Ruth Eckerd Hall
1 — Atlanta, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center
4 — Boston, Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre
7 — Philadelphia, Academy of Music
10 — Providence, R.I., Providence Performing Arts Center
13 — Toronto, Sony Centre for the Performing Arts