Joe Perry’s Advice to Young Musicians from Nearly 20 Years Ago Still Rings True Today

Rock legends Aerosmith have embarked on their farewell tour, with more U.S. dates coming in September. The bad boys from Boston have maintained their popularity across a more than 50-year span, and their music video savvy helped keep them in the spotlight during the golden MTV era and beyond. Now in the social-media age they have built up a robust number of followers. But back in the ‘70s when they started out, none of that was really on their minds, including documenting those early days.

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“Keep It Real, Man”

In 2005, when I asked Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry about the most important piece of advice he could give to up-and-coming rockers, he replied, “Keep it real, man. Keep the video camera going all the time. Keep the home movies going because you’ll want that stuff down the road. It may seem like a pain in the ass, but get your hands on a video camera or a digital camera and at least take a lot of pictures because you’ll want them later on.”

Added Perry, “I wish that we had taken a lot more pictures back in the day because it would have been fun to see more of that stuff.”

Of course, having a scarcity of some images or live footage makes them that much more valuable today. With smartphones just starting to become ubiquitous in 2005, Perry and other musicians had no inkling how far many modern artists would go even in oversharing their lives and demystifying the image of the rock star. Maintaining a little mystique can help with one’s image. At the same time, the new social-media paradigm means artists can interface directly with their fans in ways that did not happen back in Aerosmith’s early days.

“Stay True to Your Heart”

Looking back, the guitarist also offered some other sage advice that applies today. “Don’t lose sight of why you get into this,” Perry told me. “It’s really easy to get sideswiped and get overwhelmed by some of the extraneous bulls–t and the hangers-on. It’s a cliché, but keepin’ it real means stay true to your heart and that’ll see you through. For whatever success you have, you’re going to get kicked in the ass, and that’s when you’re really going to need that strength inside. So stay in touch with that because it’s tough.” He further mused, “If I had stayed a little bit more in touch—a lot more in some cases—with what we really got into it for, I could have avoided a lot of the hassles and problems.”

“Find Somebody that You Trust”

One final bit of wisdom he offered was of the more eternal variety: It’s imperative to get outside of one’s bubble and seek advice from trustworthy people.

“I know it’s hard when you’re young because there are a lot of people around trying to get in and hold on,” Perry explained. “Whatever level you’re at, whether you’re moderately successful or totally just starting out, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to want to hang on and get a little piece of it for themselves.

“It’s really important to find somebody that you trust, even if they’re not in the business. In fact, it’s better that if they’re not in the business—somebody who can give you some feedback that you can stay close to. That’s why I think family is so important.”

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Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images

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