Russ Irwin Accidentally Wrote a Record: Aerosmith's Pianist Talks Lyrics, Tours, and The Biz
    • TUESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2012

    • Posted by: Amanda Scherker

    Russ Irwin's new album Get Me Home began as just a couple of songs recorded for a demo tape when Russ, fresh off an Aerosmith tour, had a little too much down time. The pianist's off-handed side project snowballed into a full-fledged album in which a merry crew of the musician's friends eagerly played along. Now, Russ is prepping up for next week's music video shoot with Brad Whitford and Penthouse Model Chanel Preston, a September gig at the Rockwell, a High Hard Radio show with Aerosmith. Then, he's heading right back on the road with the band, who he's played piano with for 15 years.

    In case you're wondering, Russell no longer has too much free time.

    The process of making Get Me Home was organic, one of those artistic happy "accidents." Russ wasn't "planning on making a record." But once he had a bunch of "great musicians in a room" the "magic in recording" became hard to deny. Russ decided to "keep doing it, and one thing led to another." You know how the story goes; press fast forward, next thing, "Steven Tyler was singing on it."

    Russ didn't have any grand plans for what felt like a casual jam sesh, and this worked to his advantage. "Because I didn't have any expectation of it being out in the world, it gave me the freedom to do something really artistic and creative. I kind of fell in love with it." He wrote a record he would have liked to hear, and it's well suited to many other ears; not least of all, the rockers of Aerosmith.

    The individual songs started complementing one another, and he and his team "realized that we were making an old school record" of songs that "would work really well together." That's a craft too often overlooked in today's MP3 age.

    Russ's comfortable with the evolving music world, both in the business and in the craft itself. He takes a laid-back attitude to technology -- no vintage record player snobbery here. As all good artists must, he finds ways to incorporate the old and sample the new. One area he won't compromise? Every song was performed live in the studio "with the same musicians, and the same piano -- an old baby grand from the 1920s." He explains that "there's something about [musical] interation between humans that sounds amazing. You can try to get that sound using computers, but if you're a good musician you don't have to try. I'd rather just play it." The overarching chemistry between the musicians is what makes the album "one complete thought."

    While Russ has been in the music game since he was very young, beginning with a solo record deal and being lauded as a critic's darling in his band "The Mayfield," much of his education about the business was garnered on the job. And Aeromsith, who he's toured with for 15 years, has ben his main guru. He credits the band with teaching him "how to deal with people, how the industry works, what makes a successful artist."

    And while today's music industry is radically different than the one in which "Dream On" debuted, Russ is not clinging to the past. He explains that today's musical landscape "has a lot more upsides," though it can be " a little tricker and you have to do more of the work yourself." The creative control he maintains makes it worthwhile, though.

    Russ has written songs for a host of other artists, but writing music for himself presents the biggest challenge. When he's writing for, say, Meatloaf, he's able to "really able to be objective about them as an artist and how they shine." It's easy then to "come up with those musical ideas that kind of sound like them." Writing for yourself comes with a host of self-judgement and identity questions

    Still, the anxiety seems to only fuel Russ's creativity, "I'm always writing music, and I'm always thinking of lyrics, songs ideas and song titles."

    So yes, Russ is already dreaming up his next installment, in between producing his music video and gearing up for his role as loyal Aerosmith pianist. But then, nobody who really enjoys free time ever became a rock star.

    Check out Russ's first music video, off his new record.

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