Take me back to the early days of your career.
I didn’t know at the time that my strength was in creating songs. I moved to Manhattan. There was an open audition for the show “Hair.” I wound up getting the lead in the show. From there, I got recognized big time.
Tell me about your connection and friendship with Aerosmith.
[Steven Tyler] loved the way I wrote songs. I loved Aerosmith’s direction. I was going to record “Chip Away the Stone,” and he sang harmony for me. It turned out to be on the record. That began a lifetime relationship with Steven and the band. I spent years writing and co-writing with them.
Is there one song that really stands out to you?
“Amazing” is the one that led to where I am today. The fact that it was about addiction, and the thousands of letters we got over the years about kids struggling with drugs who said, “I heard the song come on the radio, and I didn’t get high.” I didn’t act on it then, but it always planted a seed.
Why did you start using drugs?
I was a drug addict for 25 years. It was a combination of this and that. It was the ’70s. Our motto was, “Better living through chemistry.” Several years later, people started [overdosing] and dying, and the dark side of addiction came out.
What changed you?
I went to jail … It stopped me cold in my tracks. I got out in 1988 and immediately left Manhattan. I came down to Florida. When I was a year clean … I had the idea of “Amazing.” I was at a [narcotics anonymous] meeting one night, and this girl stood up and said the first two lines of the song: “I kept the right ones out, and let the wrong ones in.” I told Steven about that line … and he said, “Yeah, had an angel of mercy to see me through all my sins.” That’s how “Amazing” got created. Now, I’ve been clean 26 years.
Why did you get involved with Recovery Unplugged Treatment Center?
I had been writing songs about addiction and playing at different treatment centers around South Florida. I saw clients start to cry when I played something serious; laugh when I played something silly about drugs and about the things we did. I saw them really being affected. [The] vision was to have a treatment center where the core of the treatment is based around music. It’s a passion of mine.