Top 5... - July 14, 2016

Steven Tyler's We're All Somebody from Somewhere (and five other artists who went Country)
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Steven Tyler's We're All Somebody from Somewhere (and five other artists who went Country)

There are a handful of things you would instantly associate with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler; his penchant for silk scarves, his actress daughter Liv Tyler, his love of country music... wait, what?

That's right. Steven Tyler, lead singer of one of the world's biggest rock bands, has not only launched a solo career with his new debut album We're All Somebody From Somewhere, but he's donned a pair of dusty boots, put on a cowboy hat and headed to Nashville to record his first solo LP with T-Bone Burnett and the members of The Cadillac Three.

So what prompted the change of direction? Well, to hear Tyler himself tell it, the music of Nashville has always been a part of his writing, citing The Everley Brothers as a formative influence, but while you might be able to detect traces of country vibes in Aerosmith's music over the years, for his new album Tyler has immersed himself in the Nashville culture completely – so much so that he's bought a house there and reportedly plans to stay.

Tyler first started talking up plans for a solo album back in March 2015, confirming rumours that he was in the famous Tennessee city cutting tracks for Dot Records, releasing the album's lead-off single 'Love Is Your Name' a couple of months later in May. It's a bold move that has ruffled a few feathers in among country aficionados and Aerosmith fans alike, but this isn't the tokenistic offering that some had feared.

Tyler's co-writers on the album include Chris DiStefano, Rhett Akins and the Warren Brothers, so while some of the songs on the album like the title track and 'The Good, The Bad, The Ugly & Me' are a little more southern rock than all-out country, he really has put a lot of work into making this an authentic Nashville record. From the relatively understated 'My Own Worst Enemy' to the soaring 'It Ain't Easy', everything from the arrangements and instrumentation to the lyrics has a genuine country vibe that could wrongfoot even the most hardcore fans of the genre.

Another highlight of this often surprising record is a well-executed cover of the Janis Joplin hit 'Piece of my Heart', which Tyler attacks with some of his trademark swagger. It'll be interesting to see what he does next, but all the indicators point to a man who has genuinely fallen in love with all things Nashville, so there may well be more of this to come.

He's not the only artist to suddenly switch up their style and go country though; you can find his video for 'Love Is Your Name' below, beneath that we've picked five other artists who surprised their fans by taking on the Nashville vibe. You might be surprised...

 


Lady Gaga

Not the most likely candidate for a country conversion, you might think, but Gaga has always taken delight in confounding expectations and she certainly did that when she went full country on her Queen-sampling hit 'You & I'. The track was co-produced by Mutt Lange, a man who also produced – and was married to – Shania Twain, so it's no surprise that there's a very Shania-like feel to this track and while it's very different from pretty much everything else on Born This Way, it really does work.

 

Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi's most successful period came during the 'hair band' era of the 1980s, but he's continued to score the odd hit here and there since then and one of the biggest of these came with 'Who Says You Can't Go Home'. Originally included on the band's ninth album, the original version of the song was released as a single in 2006 with moderate success, but a re-recorded version featuring country star Jennifer Nettles got a lot of airplay in American country radio stations and the song's success led to a much more country-feeling album in Lost Highway.

 

Nelly

One of the first rappers to emerge into the mainstream from the southern hip-hop scene that also produced acts like Outkast and The Goodie Mob, Nelly's debut album may have been called Country Grammar, but it was by no means country music. However, a hook-up with country star Tim McGraw in 2009 produced the surprise hit 'Over and Over', which was accompanied by a video which parallels the similarities between their lives, despite their very different styles and social backgrounds, and in which they both seem to be pining for a girl. But is it the same girl? Or are they actually pining for each other? Judge for yourselves below...


Bret Michaels

Let's be honest, the signs were there early on; Poison may have epitomised the hair band trend of the 1980s more than most, but one of their biggest hits was the ballad taken from their second album, 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn', in which, you may remember, frontman Bret Michaels tells us that “every cowboy sings his sad, sad song.” Sure enough, in 2015 he released True Grit, a compilation of sorts featuring re-recordings of Poison songs performed in a country style, as well as some covers like Lynard Skynard's 'Sweet Home Alabama'. Yeah, we probably should have seen this one coming.


Lionel Richie

Considering that Lionel Richie first rose to fame as part of the Commodores, who produced some funky classics like 'Machine Gun' and 'Brick House', he's one of the more unlikely artists to go country, but his 2012 album Tuskegee paid tribute to his upbringing in the Alabama town the album is named after by reinterpreting many of his biggest hits in a country style, drafting in some big country stars to help. Kenny Rogers, Shania Twain, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw and Jennifer Nettles are among the album's guests and while not everything works in a Nashville style, but songs like 'Deep River Woman' featuring Little Big Town sound like proper country originals.

We're All Somebody From Somewhere
We're All Somebody From Somewhere Steven Tyler

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