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Steven Tyler to Kid Rock: 'His Comments Don't Mean S--t'

The new 'American Idol' judge says "bring on the scrutiny!" As someone who was "beaten up and spit at," Tyler, like the thousands of would-be contestants, has something to prove.

Steven Tyler Publicity 10
Tony Duran / Fox
Steven Tyler

Who knew that maverick Steven Tyler began his musical career singing hymns to the Virgin Mary?

Tyler reveals in a recent interview with Billboard that part of the reason he was drawn to American Idol is because he sees himself in the contestants. Like the hundreds of hopefuls, he sang in church, performed off-Broadway, and was completely untrained in the field that would later define his life -- all he had was a passion for music and nothing to lose.

And he insists that’s all you need. "What inspired me? Church, and the lunchroom in high school," he tells the magazine. "I got beaten up for having long hair, spit at, peed my pants and all that stuff. But I'd show them in the lunchroom. And this is America's lunchroom. Everyone turns [the TV] on after dinner and watches American Idol."    To someone who seems like they’d be impervious to criticism, Tyler is not wholly immune to the occasional throwbacks of his celebrity status, admitting that he is haunted by fear. What’s amazing, however, is how he uses fear as a feeding source for his ambitions. In that way, it's an advantage. “I take fear -- fear of getting onstage, fear of writing a song, fear of living together with a bunch of guys -- and turn it into the most positive things,” he says.   Being on the biggest show in America that's watched by some 25 million people doesn't intimidate him, either. “I'm so used to being under the microscope," says the Aerosmith frontman. "Whether it's falling off a stage -- I'm not sure if the public really wants to know that I had surgery on both feet -- or that, yes, I'm a drug addict and alcoholic from the '70s with a problem... You have the band finding another lead singer, and all that goes with that. But the scrutiny? Bring it on! I live for it.”    That goes to Kid Rock, especially, who slammed Tyler in November, calling his decision to join Idol "the stupidest thing he’s ever done in his life." Said Tyler: "His comments don't mean shit... It's television. I've never done this and it's going to be fun, and if he thinks for a minute that it's going to take my career down.... I want what he's smoking."

Read the rest of Tyler's Q&A with Billboard here.