Interview by Christine Thompson
The new rock doc OUT ON A LIMB featuring Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler will be out on VOD and Digital HD tomorrow, May 15th. For Aerosmith fans, this is a chance to see the famed lead singer in a whole new light as the guy who crossed over to country music. It’s filmed and directed by Casey Tebo, a lifelong Aerosmith fan and personal friend of Steven Tyler. Casey Tebo first met Tyler in 2004. Since than, Tebo has directed two live concert films for the band and their “Legendary Child” music video. In 2016, Casey wrote and directed his first feature film Happy Birthday starring Steven Tyler, Tristin Mays and Matt Bush.
This documentary shows Tyler up close and personal and features interviews with him as well as people who know him well – The Loving Mary Band, Slash (Guns ‘N Roses), Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Jaren Johnston (The Cadillac), David Hodges (Evanescence), singer/songwriter Chris DeStefano, and songwriter Nathan Barlow and Adam Green.
We spoke with Tebo a few days before OUT ON A LIMB opened the Nashville Film Festival. Tebo talked with us about the man and dispels some misinformation about the legend.
AMFM Magazine: Hi Casey, I was stoked to see the amazing Jenee Fleenor the violinist in some of the live portions of OUT ON A LIMB.
Casey Tebo: Yeah! My five year old daughter walks around the house saying (southern accent)” I’m gonna play the vi-o-LEE-in,” she has been saying that since she met her at a show. (laughs)
AMFM: I know you’ve been working with Steven Tyler for awhile, but how long had the idea been percolating to make this film?
CT: Well, it wasn’t really an idea, as I said in the movie I had kind of sworn off working with those guys ‘cause I had exhausted the Aerosmith well, I been working with these guys for years. But then he called me to come up to Vancouver to help with a solo show. He said he wanted me to come and change some things and whatnot.
I had never seen this in his face before. He was so happy and so unfettered. Then he asked me to film one show at the Ryman Auditorium (In Nashville) and the atmosphere was nothing but positive. I thought “Oh man, if I don’t start interviewing people and put together a special for him, no one is going to see him the way that I do.”
It wasn’t until I’d already had a cut of the movie that I had to go back in and add a voiceover because there wasn’t that much of a story until I went in and added my relationship with him and why I wanted to make the movie.
AMFM: So the genesis of the film was the fact that you were amazed by the transformation of Steven’s behavior and vibe?
CT: Yes. Listen, Aerosmith is a business, and being in Aerosmith is sort of like being in a 40 year marriage, there was a lot of stress, accountants, lawyers and managers…it gets to be a bit much.
But to see him in that atmosphere…it’s not about me trying to champion Steven as a person, but I just get tired of people saying “Oh, I worked with him and he’s this type of guy or that type of guy” …he’s not. He’s one of the most generous, sweetest, selfless people I’ve ever met in my life, and to see him so happy, I was happy for him. I wanted to put it on film. “Hey, this is the guy that’s become my friend and this is who he really is.”
AMFM: Well, yes we all know the music industry can be a hard one, but it’s really refreshing to see something positive for a change, because a lot of people just want to dish the dirt and get their name out there. It’s terrible. But the people that you’ve got in the movie…Adam Green, Slash and more, I’m guessing it wasn’t that hard to get them to talk about him, right?
CT: Adam was a unique situation, I had met him through other friends when he was helping me on my first narrative feature. I was literally staying on Steven’s couch while I was making my film “Happy Birthday,” and Adam came over to the house. I didn’t realize what had happened until a week later, when Steven had helped Adam get through the toughest time in his life.
But that just goes to show you, this is who Steven is. This is the guy who spends extra time with kids that are special needs or handicapped people…and it’s never about “Hey look at me, I’m spending time with these people,” it’s genuine and it’s touching.
AMFM: Yes, Adam actually credits him with saving his life.
CT: It’s funny that you mentioned that the movie is uplifting. We actually had a couple of passes from certain distributors. I don’t know if it was Showtime or HBO. They literally said to my sales agent “Well, we thought there was going to be a little bit more about Aerosmith and the fighting.”
But that’s not what it’s about. When E1 came along, they said they loved the fact that it’s uplifting, positive and inspirational. I didn’t set out to make an inspirational film, it just ended up that way.
CT: I think you did a great job! People that are fans of his already, but don’t know him, are going to love this. They’ll get a chance to really see him. I have this quote from Adam Green.
“He’s a true gem in an industry where there are a lot of rotten things.”
So you weren’t uncomfortable putting that bit in there about Joe Perry saying you don’t have to be “friends” to be in a band? ‘Cause that’s as nasty as it got.
CT: Steven and I had that conversation. I didn’t put it in there to make Joe look bad. It’s something that Joey Kramer said to me, and I’m pretty sure it’s in his book. If anybody has a problem with it then they have a problem with the truth, and I don’t know what to say about that.
AMFM: Well, it was juxtapositioned between all the positivity. So you said just enough and didn’t need to say any more.
There’s a fantastic cover of a Janis Joplin song, and in his introduction to the song, Steven said he stole his clothing ideas from her.
CT: One of the cool things about the movie is you get to hear Steven talk about his influences and what inspires him. So if my idol is Tony Scott, say, then Janis is like that to him.
AMFM: Was there anything you wanted to put in the film but couldn’t because of time limitations…is there more?
CT: There’s always more. You sort of have to cherry pick what works in a story and what doesn’t. Steven had actually mentioned adding things in, taking things out…and I just kind of said “no.” (laughs).
AMFM: This is your baby, right?
AMFM: What’s next for you?
CT: A big action narrative movie, which is a big shoot-em-up. I’ll probably start filming it in the fall. It’ll hopefully bring me to the next level of filmmaking, which I’ve been working my butt off to get to.