Gary James' Interview With Neill Byrnes Of
Draw The Line
Draw The Line is the only officially endorsed Aerosmith Tribute Band in the world! Based out of Boston, Massachusetts, the group has taken their act all over the world. Draw The Line's Neill Byrnes talked with us about the group and what it's like to look so much like Steven Tyler.
Q - Neill, it must be fun these days to be Steven Tyler because of his high visibility on American Idol. Do people mistake you for Steven Tyler when you're offstage?
A - You know, I've been doing this for twenty years and I cannot go a day without somebody thinking that I'm him or mistaking me for him, even if I have my hair under a hat or I haven't shaved and dressed in grubby clothes, it always seems to happen on a daily basis.
Q - You mean when you're walking down the street, going into a restaurant or going into a grocery store?
A - I can be pumping gas. I'll do it with a baseball cap on and sweat pants and people would still do a double take. They they'll get up close, "Are you related to him?" It's been going on for a long time. Then when I tell people I'm not him, I'm not related to him, they go, 'You look just like him" and I go "really? I don't see it." I try to make a joke of it at this point because you can't be upset by it. Some people would be, I want to say aggravated with it after awhile, but it's what I do and I might as well have some fun with it.
Q - When the fun really begins is when you step into a bar.
A - (laughs) I think sometimes it makes people nervous. If I walk into a club and see the bands onstage, I'm going to check out a friend's band or just going to see some band I haven't seen before. I walk in and I'm close enough where they can get a glimpse of me and they get nervous. They think it's him that's there.
Q - When did lightning strike and you said I'm going to get an Aerosmith tribute band together?
A - When I was in high school I used to get teased a lot that I looked like him. I really didn't see it that much. I never thought of myself as looking like him. I wasn't a huge Aerosmith fan back in high school. They were local to the area. I was local to the area. You could not grow up around here not liking Aerosmith. I wasn't a huge fan. There was a band that already existed in the area called Mass Production. They weren't a full tribute band. They were like a Classic Rock cover band playing Aerosmith, Guns 'n' Roses, Rolling Stones, Black Crowes. Bluesy Rock. Their singer was leaving. Someone got a hold of me and said "you should come down and audition for this band" because I was a musician and I wasn't in a band at the time. I said "Well, you know what? I'll come down and check it out and see what happens." So I come down and went for the audition and they said "Oh my God! You look just like the guy! We could make this a full-blown tribute if you wanted to come in. We could just focus on Aerosmith." So, we got to talking about it and we all seemed like we wanted to head in the same direction. So, they hired me into the band and like a month later we hooked up with an agency based out of Connecticut and then we just changed the name at that point to Draw The Line and went full-blown with the Aerosmith tribute.
Q - Did the agency specialize in the booking of tribute acts?
A - Yeah. It was strictly tributes. They were handling some big acts of the day back in the early '90s like The Machine and this Led Zeppelin band Physical Graffiti. Those guys were kind of like the pioneers of the whole tribute thing around this area. They were doing some big show. Some of those bands were grossing half a million dollars a year back then.
Q - Wow!
A - Yeah. It was crazy. So, to be taken in by that agency and going from just a local cover band to all of a sudden being put on the road doing shows up and down the East Coast, I just turned twenty-one years old and it was pretty insane. It was like being in a national act, like immediately. Just going from playing in someone's basement to being a national act.
Q - What year were some of these bands grossing half a million dollars?
A - It was the early '90s. It was like 1993, 1992, 1991, maybe the late '80s. The Machine, which was a Pink Floyd (tribute), they're still around. They still play and command up to $25,000 a show. It's crazy. You can't see Pink Floyd anymore. You can't see Led Zeppelin anymore. It's a little different for those guys than it is for us. Now with the layoff of Aerosmith the last, I want to say yeah, I mean they did play last summer, but they haven't been very active on the tour circuit this past, say nine months. The demand for us goes right up.
Q - I've heard they're doing shows in November and December. (2011)
A - I don't think they're doing any United States shows. I think they're playing like Brazil, South Africa, maybe Australia. Some other international market. But the album release is next Spring I think they're shooting for. Then they're gonna tour next Summer if they're healthy enough to do it.
Q - Have you read Steven Tyler's autobiography?
A - I've read parts of it. I've read like maybe half of it.
Q - Would reading that book in some way help your stage act in any way?
A - Oh, sure. Any time you can learn more about the character that you're emulating, it's only gonna help your performance. You know, it's a constant character study. It's more like a theatrical kind of position than say just a strictly musical position in like a creative, songwriting position. You're trying to be somebody. You're trying to be an actor, but you also need the musical talent in order to do this position. So, it's almost twice as hard. But anytime you can learn more about your character, any information I can get to learn more about my character is completely beneficial.
Q - So, what was it like the first time you stepped onstage in Draw The Line?
A - The first show that I did, I was in the transition. The guy that was leaving the band, who was a great help to me, they were doing the show for a benefit. The drummer's brother had just come home from Iraq, the Gulf War, the first one. They were having a big, sort of benefit party for him and the band was playing. There were a ton of people there. It was during the transition and the guy who was singing wanted me to come up and sing a couple of songs. Being the first time I was to come up on stage, I just remember at the time I was so nervous. So nervous to get up in front of all these people and do it. To go out and sing in front of somebody being so young and never doing that before, it was really nerve wracking. I remember being very relieved when it was over.