When keyboardist Russ Irwin played with Aerosmith last night, you could barely see him because he was practically hidden behind stacks of amplifiers. Singer Steven Tyler did introduce him along with all the other band members, but Irwin wasn’t exactly in the spotlight. Talking to the soft-spoken guy backstage before the show, it was apparent he’s fine with playing that role when he tours with Aerosmith (no stranger to backing up big egos, he’s also played with Sting and Bryan Adams). He’s been Aerosmith’s go-to-guy on the keys for the last 15 years and even wrote on a song for the forthcoming album.
“I initially auditioned for Aerosmith along with a few other guys and Steven Tyler gave me a call afterwards and told me I had to be in London in a week,” he says, adding that he’s not permitted to discuss Aerosmith’s notorious past. “Steven is very personable so it was like meeting your best friend. It felt great from the very beginning.”
Irwin isn’t just a sideman, though. His solo career goes back to the early '90s when he issued his Phil Ramone-produced self-titled debut. “I had some small success but that album didn’t translate into a full-blown career,” he says. He then played with Mayfield, the band that featured Tears for Fears’ singer Curt Smith. Now, he’s just issued Get Me Home, a solo album of jazzy tunes that features cameos by Aerosmith’s Tyler and guitarist Brad Whitford.
“This new album has turned out to be the best thing I ever did,” he says of the release, which was recorded at upstate New York’s Old Soul Studios. “Everything was written in the matter of three months and some of it was written in the studio. It was very spontaneous. I love the way Elton John wrote Yellow Brick Road. They all lived in a house together and Elton would wake up in the morning and write some songs and the band would learn it and record it in the afternoon. By the end of the day, they’d have a song. That was what we wanted to do. That was the work process – super old school.”
Irwin says he’s put together a band and plans to do a short tour after the Aerosmith tour wraps up in August. No word yet on whether there'll be a Cleveland stop.