Aerosmith Touring Member Russ Irwin on Being a Working Musician, Making His New Solo Album
If you've seen Aerosmith live in concert in the last two decades, the guy in the photo above might look familiar. Russ Irwin has been been part of Aerosmith's touring band since the '90s, performing keyboards, guitars and backing vocals for the Beantown bad boys. It's an undoubtedly sweet job, but that doesn't mean the New York native hasn't worked hard for it.
"I grew up on Long Island and started playing drums at 6 and took up the piano at 8 and guitar at 12," Irwin tells Noisecreep about his prodigious musical beginnings. "In my teens I played in a cover band that played a lot of Rush stuff. I fucking loved that band! My older brother turned me onto them and a lot of other cool bands. But yeah, I didn't start playing professionally till I moved to Manhattan to study at New York University at 18," says Irwin.
After toughing it out on the NYC club circuit for a couple of years, Irwin scored a major label deal with SBK Records and in 1991 recorded his self-titled debut solo album with legendary producer Phil Ramone: "It was so cool to work with him since I was a huge Billy Joel fan and Phil worked on all of his classic albums. I just think the record we made together wasn't the right one for the time period. I wanted to make a '70s-styled singer-songwriter album and he didn't."
Even though his album didn't end up selling boatloads of copies, Irwin charged on and kept busy lending his keyboard talents to an array of projects: "After the album, I spent years playing in all kinds of bands. At any given point in my 20s, I was probably playing in 10 different bands. Whatever it took to pay the bills and get better as a player. Then right before I turned 29, I scored the Aerosmith gig and my life changed," says the keysman.
Irwin has been living out his childhood rock 'n' roll dreams with Aerosmith since then and he'll be back with the band when they head out on the Global Warming North American Tour later this week. Oh yeah, Irwin also co-wrote "What Could Have Been Love," the group's next single from their forthcoming Music From Another Dimension! album: "It's a hard rock ballad and it's very McCartney-ish. I think people are gonna love it."
Watch Russ Irwin's "Manhattan" Video
Listeners can get an even fuller picture of Irwin's songwriting talents on Get Me Home, his new solo album. Featuring guest performances from Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Brad Whitford and Stone Temple Pilots' Dean DeLeo, the 10-song collection is the album Irwin has always dreamt of making: "On a lot of the other EPs and solo projects I've done in the past, I've played all of the instruments, but I definitely didn't want to do that this time out. I wanted to open up and do something new and focus on my singing and piano playing.
"Having Dean play on the album was an honor. Stone Temple Pilots are one of my favorite bands and I actually became close with Dean when they opened for Aerosmith years ago. The album was done very old school in the sense that the instruments were cut live. I think that comes through even though the sound quality is so good. I'm really happy about the way everything came out and I really want people to hear it."
Russ Irwin's new solo album, Get Me Home, is available now via iTunes.