Liv Tyler: ‘My fathers are both unconventional’

The actor talks about meeting her real father for the first time, and how she and her partner have blended their own young families

My mom was 23 when she had me. When you are a kid, you have feelings and make judgments about wanting your parents to be a certain way. Suddenly, you are a parent yourself and you think: “Wow, how could she have done that, at 23, a single mom living in New York City, without all the tools she needed?” She always had a very optimistic, positive approach, which is trendy nowadays. But way before there were self-help books about it, my mom always followed her heart. I really admire that.

She was a young model and the lifestyle in New York was crazy. I think, ultimately, she was a bit overwhelmed, so she brought me to Maine to live with my aunt and uncle and cousins, and I would also live with my grandparents sometimes. So I had a very family-rich childhood. I learned that you lean into your family, ask for help, and show compassion. My grandmother is still my best friend. It could have been a different road – I could have grown up alone in an apartment with a nanny.

I’m so grateful to Todd [Rundgren] for choosing to be a father figure to me. It’s a big thing for a man to say, “I know this kid might not be mine, but I still want to be her father.” Although he and my mom weren’t together, he was always a very stable, loving force in my life. It was so cool to visit Todd in Woodstock in the 1980s. I would get up early and go find him, because he stayed up all night working with his computers and went to sleep later in the day. That was just his normal artist’s schedule. He would have big parties every summer. I was 12 when I first met Michael Stipe at one of them, and he is now one of my close friends. That summer, my mom and I moved from Maine to New York and I was fascinated by the city. It was a different time, and she let me walk around our neighbourhood on my own. She had a lot of street-smarts, so she showed me the ropes. And I looked 22 when I was 12.

When I realised that Steven [Tyler, Aerosmith vocalist] was my father, it was a moment that was bigger than me, it was almost spiritual. When you meet kin, there is an energy and sparkle between your bodies. It must be chemical somehow – DNA and genes. I felt a connection in a very strong way when I met him as a little girl and I didn’t know why at first, but I figured it out rather quickly.

Steven and I look so alike and we do things in the same way. It was fun getting to know his side of the family. My sister Mia will just move her hand in a certain way and the mannerism is so like mine, it’s crazy.

Both my fathers are unconventional. They are like unicorns or wizards. They are musicians through and through. The way they think is just different. Their eccentricities have made me more practical and more normal, in a way. As a parent, my fantasy is to cook every meal, read every story, do everything, and also work all day. I’m overly hard on myself.

I’m celebrating my new family coming together. Sailor is two, Lula is six months, Milo [Liv’s son with Royston Langdon] is 12 and Gray [her partner David Gardner’s son from a previous relationship] is nine. We’ve gone on this crazy adventure together of blending our families and moving to London. It’s beautiful.

I never expected to give birth with my sister and my dad in the room. Sailor surprised me and came six weeks early, which was pretty scary. David was on a flight. I called Mia and she came straight to the hospital, and she also called Steven. He walked into the room moments before Sailor was born, and cut his umbilical cord. It was wild.

Liv Tyler is brand ambassador and creative contributor for modern British heritage brand Belstaff. Her spring capsule collection is available now.

Steven Tyler and his daughter Liv Tyler in New York.
Steven Tyler and his daughter Liv Tyler in New York. Photograph: Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic
Interview by Sophy Grimshaw

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