“People ask, ‘Why are you doing country music?’ And I say, ‘Why not?’”

Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler spoke those words at a very intimate gig at Melrose Ballroom in Queens in New York City recently. And even though his debut solo album isn’t due until sometime next year, he previewed his vision for the country-themed record for an audience gathered at a taping for the Front and Center Concert Series (in conjunction with CMA Songwriter Series).

Tyler sported a top hat as he graced the stage with vagabond swag and charisma. At the start of the show, he announced, “My mother used to say, 'Don’t worry about biting off more than you can chew, because your mouth is probably bigger than you think,'” before kicking into acoustic versions of Aerosmith's “Sweet Emotion,” “Pink” and “What It Takes.” A dark, haunting version of “Janie’s Got a Gun” filled the venue along with other band favorites like “Jaded” and “Livin’ on the Edge.”

But the question on everyone's lips had to do with Tyler's journey into country music. He explained how moving to Nashville inspired him musically, and then performed the first single from that upcoming solo album, “Love Is Your Name.”

He also chatted about the Aerosmith hit “Cryin'," and noted how several of the band's songs could be considered country. He recited a verse -- "There was a time when I was brokenhearted / Love wasn't much of a friend of mine / The tables have turned, 'cause me and them ways have parted / That kinda love was the killin' kind" -- before performing the song and noted, “If that ain’t country, I don’t know what is.”

Tyler worked every part of the stage, including the couch positioned in the background (when a fan asked to lay on the couch with him, he took her up on it). But this unplugged show wasn't all twang and downbeat. A funky version of “Walk this Way” got audience members dancing in their seats. The 90-minute performance concluded with “Dream On,” featuring Tyler on piano, and a cover of “Piece of My Heart,” which may end up on the still-not-recorded album.

Because Aerosmith have worked in several genres over their long career, Tyler's onstage moves from rock and soul to pop and country were effortless. At 67 years old, he's getting ready to launch a new career. And if his past is any indication, he has nothing to worry about.

Check Out Photos of Steven Tyler Performing at the Melrose Ballroom in NYC Below [Courtesy of Bill Bernstein]:

Bill Bernstein
Bill Bernstein

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