Written by: Frank Iacono
Draw The Line, the Aerosmith Tribute Band, hails from the city that boasts the Red Sox, the New England Patriots, and the Celtics as well as musical groups such as Boston, The Cars, Godsmack, and of course Aerosmith. With over 2,000 performances in over 100 cities Draw The Line, together as an Aersomith tribute band for more than twenty years, has performed in all but two U.S. states including shows in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other U.S. territories. Additionally, they’ve also toured other countries such as England, Canada, South America, and Japan.
In January of 1998, during an interview, legendary Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler singled out Draw The Line as the best of the Aerosmith tribute bands. On Boston’s biggest rock radio station 104.1 WBCN, disc jockey Nick Carter was quoted as saying, “I’ve seen Draw The Line! They ARE Aerosmith!” The band is very popular on the college circuit and has been interviewed by several Boston-based college radio stations over the years including Brandeis University’s 100.1 WBRS. Equally, Draw The Line has also appeared in several Boston area newspapers such as The Patriot Ledger, The Boston Globe, and The Mariner.
Draw The Line is the only tribute band who has been featured on the Official Aerosmith Website as well as that of Aerosmith’s Official Fan Club. With support and accolades from Aerosmith themselves, as well as top DJs, journalists, and fans worldwide, it’s no wonder that they’ve been recognized as a one-of-a-kind. If you love Aerosmith, then the Draw The Line tribute show is one you truly don’t want to miss!
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Neill Byrnes from Draw The Line an Aerosmith tribute band and asking him a few questions about his musical influences, his career in a tribute band, their set list, and their past and upcoming performances.
The Creative Spotlight: Can you introduce us to the Draw The Line lineup and tell us how you decided on the band name?
The Draw The Line band lineup consists of:
- Neill Byrnes – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Percussion (Steven Tyler)
- Gino Caira – Lead Guitar (Joe Perry)
- Jim Dennis – Lead Guitar (Brad Whitford)
- Phil Cefalo – Drums (Joey Kramer)
- Justin Hunt – Bass Guitar (Tom Hamilton)
Back in 1991, at the request of an agency that just picked us up, we changed the band name from Mass Production to one more Aerosmith recognizable. So after long discussions we decided on Draw The Line. We felt that the caricature on the front of that album cover was one of the bands most iconic images, and we could represent ourselves in a very similar fashion. This would be unmistakably recognizable to Aerosmith.
TCS: So how long has Draw The Line been playing together and how did you get started?
As mentioned, I originally joined a band called Mass Production. It was a semi-Aerosmith tribute, but not serious. about two months after I joined, we decided to go full on Aerosmith tribute and change the name to Draw The Line. That was back in August of 1991. Here we are 24 years later.
TCS: At what age did you become interested in music? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as a musician?
My first influences in music were from my parents. They were from the big band era. They were into artists like Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk, Sinatra, and Slim Whitman. It was the Lawrence Welk Show that turned me on to my first instrument; the trombone. I was exposed to rock and roll through friends and cousins. The Beatles, KISS, Rolling Stones, The Who, and etc. Great 60s and 70s bands. I was probably 8 when I started on the trombone. After being exposed to great theatrical rock bands and the response from the audience these people were getting. I knew that was what I wanted to do.
TCS: Early on Neill did you think that you looked, sounded, or moved like the legendary Steven Tyler or was it something that you discovered over time?
My friends used to tease me on how much I looked like Steven Tyler, but I just shook it off not really paying attention to it. It wasn’t until the same friends convinced me to enter a local Boston area Radio Station (WAAF) sponsored Steven Tyler lookalike contest that I paid attention to it. After winning the contest, the notoriety from it made it impossible to dismiss. It wouldn’t be until a year later that I set on the journey of transforming into him. I studied from a vocal coach that he studied with, worked out constantly, studied hours of video tape, took aerobics classes, gymnastics classes, piano classes, and I worked my butt off in order to be able to do this at the level at which I thought I needed to be at.
TCS: Let’s talk about the music for a moment. When you’re in a tribute band, obviously your music will be picked apart and compared to the original. So how did Draw The Line sculpt its sound and its stage performance?
Well when we started, I made sure that we were going to go all the way with it or not even bother. Meaning the look, sound, and mannerisms had to copied to a tee. Each band member had to dedicate themselves to this level of excellence. They had to do an in depth character study. Those that didn’t, ended up being replaced. We wanted to be the best.
TCS: What do you guys feel is the hardest aspect of re-creating an Aerosmith show?
The hardest part is the attitude and the energy. Being from the same stomping grounds of Aerosmith gives us a similar vibe. We naturally have the same sort of environmental factors that have shaped out personalities. Therefore in some respects, as performers, we come from the same place. Other Aerosmith tributes from other areas do not conjure the same energy. We are authentic being from Boston. Musically, Aerosmith is a tough act to follow. We have dedicated our selves to learning this material to the highest level.
TCS: How many gigs does Draw The Line play annually and what and where are some of the venues in which you’ve performed?
Draw The Line plays anywhere from 75-100 gigs a year. We have traveled all over America, Canada, Central America, parts of Europe, and all over the Caribbean. Most of our gigs these days are festivals, casinos, cruise ships, corporate, and private events. We still do a few clubs here and there locally in Massachusetts to ensure that our original fans can still see us often.
TCS: If Draw The Line could perform in any venue in the world right now, national or international, where would that be and why?
It would be one of the legendary venues or festivals like Knebworth, Isle of Wight, Donnington. Just to be on the same stage as some of the greats is a tremendous feeling. The Whiskey in LA is one of those places. I could feel legendary Jim Morrison from The Doors when performing on that stage.
TCS: Tell us about how special it was to participate in the Aerosmith Legacy Show, hosted by Ray Tabano the original Aerosmith guitarist?
The legacy show was a culmination of what we have been trying to do from the beginning. Make what we do, a big produced show. Our manager Tricia Byrnes, also my wife, and I drew up the ideas and plans to create this. A show that was a retrospective of Aerosmith’s career. With video, costumes, etc… With Raymond being an old friend we thought what better way to do this, than having an original member tell the story. Someone who was there, on the inside. He came aboard and the show was set. One of the coolest things with Ray, besides the true stories, was playing Train Kept A Rollin’ with him. That is a song that Aerosmith took and made their own. He was part of that. After playing with him, you could clearly see his influence in the early sound of Aerosmith. An epiphany of sorts for us.
TCS: Share with us the most requested Aerosmith songs at a typical Draw The Line show?
Making the set list is the hardest part of the show! So many great songs. The catalog is so extensive. We always make our set based on our audience. We do a little demographic research to see which albums did best where. There are certain songs in the show every night. Dream On, Sweet Emotion, Walk This Way, etc.. We try to add a few deep cuts for the diehards. One song that gets requested more than any other is Seasons of Whither. It’s not one of their biggest hits so it doesn’t get in the show every night.
Below, please find an example of a recent set list where we were able to do a lot of deep cuts:
TCS: Of the songs that Draw The Line plays from Aerosmith’s extensive library which ones are your most and least favorite? Equally, is there a song from Aerosmith that you guys really love that is not currently included in your set list? If yes, then why.
There are certain songs like Back in the Saddle, One Way Street, Pandora’s Box, and Seasons of Whither that are group favorites. We may not like all the songs before we learn them. But to a man I can honestly say that after learning a song, we come to like it very much. There isn’t a song that we don’t like. Even the ballads. Lol! A song we haven’t done yet… That we would love to do…. would either be Cheesecake or Spaced. They are very obscure but great songs. It’s just a matter of time before we get to them.
TCS: What would you say has been the toughest challenge Draw The Line has faced to date, and do you think it made you stronger as musicians and performers?
I think the toughest challenge was in the beginning. When we first started, we weren’t that good. We really had to face the criticism and It was very difficult. This is a very difficult band to emulate. But we kept at it and we knew that if we just worked hard we would get there, but it wasn’t easy.
TCS: Tell us about how proud Draw The Line was to be named one of The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands Awardee?
Beside being recognized by Aerosmith as the best, this was our crowning moment so far. To be recognized as the greatest at anything is very humbling. It was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. It was just such an honor. And what a privilege to showcase the band on live TV!! Just an amazing experience. We really couldn’t be more proud. Thanks to all the Aerosmith / DTL FANS THAT MADE THAT HAPPEN!
TCS: How do you market Draw The Line songs, merchandise, and appearances?
TCS: Has anyone in Draw The Line met any of the members of Aerosmith?
Yes we have a professional relationship with the band. Steven came to our show at the whiskey on AXS TV. Brad was at our gig for NASCAR. Joey played a gig with us. Aerosmith has been really supportive of us over the years. Steven has gone so far as to publicly endorse the band and allow us to use that in our promotion. We are licensed to sell their merchandise as well. They have really been unbelievable.
TCS: Have you played with any other Aerosmith tribute bands and if so what type of reaction have you received?
I was invited over to England once to sing with an English Aerosmith tribute band for a couple of gigs. The response was fantastic it was a great experience
TCS: Besides Draw The Line, if you could individually play a set with any artist alive or dead who would you choose and why?
I think it would be either The Doors or Led Zeppelin. Jimi Hendrix a close third. The late 60s and early 70s was just a time that was magical. All this creative music was coming out and blazing the trail for everyone to follow. It would have been amazing to have witnessed that.
TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Draw The Line?
We have never been busier. I thank my lucky stars every day that I am able to make a living playing music. I am truly a blessed person. There’s no reason why Draw The Line cannot continue into the far future. As long as we have our health and they’re still callin’ we’ll be there to rock your world!
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.