Tom Keifer Interview

July 15, 2013

Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda

It’s been years — well, decades actually — since I first caught Cinderella live. They were opening for David Lee Roth on the ‘Eat ‘Em And Smile’ tour and got as close as you could to stealing the show from Diamond Dave with their stellar performance. It’s been a long windy road for Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer since then, who has just released his first ever solo album ‘The Way Life Goes’. We’ve been hearing about this elusive solo record for years and began to wonder if it was ever going to see the light of day. Well, it’s finally been released. “As we were readying up the liners for the album we were looking through the lyrics. It became clear that all of these songs were inspired by life experiences — which is what it is for me,” reflects Keifer on ‘The Way Life Goes’, which is heavily influenced by Keifer’s idols such as Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Sleaze Roxx: What inspired the title the album ‘The Way Life Goes’?

Tom Keifer: That wasn’t initially the album title but as we wrapped up the recording process we started reading at all the lyrics back — it just really seemed like these lyrics stood out. When I write I usually write from life experiences — that’s what my favorite songwriters and the artists that I grew up on do. My favorite artists like Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger were inspired by American roots music, rock and blues. My influences come from there so I felt that the title ‘The Way Life Goes’ was very appropriate.

Sleaze Roxx: I can hear all the influences you mentioned all over this record. “Solid Ground” has a very Stonesy vibe, then there’s a song like “A Different Light” which is as far removed from the previous song.

Tom Keifer Sleaze Roxx InterviewTom Keifer: Again I think that is a product of what I grew up on. I grew up with rock music of the late ’60s and the mid ’70s. I learned to play guitar and write music from a band like Led Zeppelin — they were a big inspiration for me. Led Zeppelin had so many different flavors in their soup — take for example a song like “Over The Hills And Far Away”, it had an acoustic Celtic vibe then it kicks into the heavy-duty electric rock part then back down. It’s that kind of contrast and blending of musical styles into a rock album that I’ve always loved. Those are my influences and I try to keep that alive as I write and make records.

Take a band like The Eagles, they’d do “Take It Easy” but they’d also do “Victim Of Love” or “Life In The Fast Lane” — they could get heavier and more rocking. Joe Walsh was that way too with his solo work. “A Different Light” has more of a contemporary feel to it – which is a result of the current influences I have with bands like Train, which I love.

Sleaze Roxx: When I discovered Cinderella in 1986 I was 13 years old. I don’t know that I would have liked a song like “A Different Light” then. I wouldn’t have understood the lyrical content and I probably would have considered it ‘too light’. Having said that, “A Different Light” could open some new doors if it gets a fair shake on radio.

Tom Keifer: Thank you. I try not to think about trends or write for a particular audience when I write songs. I mean this album took 10 years to complete and in that time I can’t even begin to tell you how many trends have come and gone. In the time that it took to record this album there’s just no way you can target any kind of audience or tap into a particular trend. It’s always been more about the music — that music comes from somewhere, it comes from the music that I listen to. Again, I listen to all my old favorites but I also listen to a lot of new stuff too. I’m always trying to grow as a songwriter — this is a natural progression for me.

Sleaze Roxx: As you stated ‘The Way Life Goes’ has been 10 years in the making and I’m sure there are songs on the record that have dated back 10 years and then there are ones that might be more recent. How much material did you have to choose from and how painstaking was it when it came time to select the tracks that made the final cut?

Tom Keifer Sleaze Roxx InterviewTom Keifer: There was a ton of songs to pick from. I started writing for the solo record in the mid ’90s when Cinderella had parted ways with Polygram Records and the musical climate had started to shift. I came to Nashville and started to write with other people — I just needed a shot in the arm. That’s when I got heavily into co-writing because up until that point I was the sole writer in Cinderella. We finally started cutting tracks for the album in 2003. Honestly I don’t recall it being that painstaking selecting the 14 tracks that made it onto the record. As we listened to the demos there were just certain songs that filtered through. What I look for in the song selection process is twofold — the songs that I like the best and then I want to have balance. I want some ballads or some acoustic tracks. Obviously you’ll get the blistering hard rock songs but you need to balance it out — those are the two things that I think about.

Sleaze Roxx: What’s the story behind the song “Thick And Thin”? How long has that song been in existence?

Tom Keifer: I wrote that around 2002, just before we started cutting tracks. All the songs on the album were written before 2003, before we stared cutting tracks. Once I start recording I don’t go back into writing mode — that’s just my preference. That’s a song that I wrote for my wife Savannah who had been going through a rough time and had been burnt by some situations in life. It was my way of saying to her that I’d always be there for her. That’s basically the story behind that one — its one of the most personal songs that I’ve ever written.

Sleaze Roxx: Your wife Savannah was also instrumental in the making of the record. Can you tell us about that?

Tom Keifer: She co-wrote a lot of the songs on the record. She’s a singer and an artist in her own right — she’s great. She’s been in Nashville for years and she’s actually worked as a professional staff writer at a publishing company. She also helped co-produce the record with a friend of ours by the name of Chuck Turner. The three of us were like the three musketeers and were thick as thieves in the three years it took to produce this record. This was a lot of fun to make — Chuck is one of my best friends I can spend all day in the control room with him.

Sleaze Roxx: I imagine it’s too early to ask, but is there another solo album in you? And if so I don’t foresee it taking as long to write and record.

Tom Keifer: I don’t even want to venture to say that it would take as long as I took to do this one (laughs)! We’ll see what happens. I agree it’s too early at this point to talk about that. It could very well happen.

Sleaze Roxx: You did something a little bit unconventional in the sense that you did some touring prior to the album’s release. What was the idea behind that exactly, were you trying to create a buzz leading up to the release of the record?

Tom Keifer Sleaze Roxx InterviewTom Keifer: Yeah it was a little of that but part of it was getting together a solo band. Nothing whips you into shape better than going out on the road and playing shows and that was a great opportunity for us to do that. I thought it would be nice to have the fans come out and hear some of the new songs. The show was half Cinderella and half of the new record so it was the old stuff that people like to hear and about 6-7 of the new songs — which is a lot of new material. We had a blast.

Sleaze Roxx: How do you keep your voice in shape? I know you’ve had vocal issues in the past.

Tom Keifer: My condition is a neurological condition that never goes away. I was diagnosed with it in the early ’90s — its partial paralysis on the right side of my voice box. When I received that diagnosis I was told I would never sing again because it can’t be ‘cured’ with medication or surgery. The only way to get around it, which very few people have been able to do, is to retrain it. It screwed up my singing voice which didn’t work at all — the onset was literally overnight. It even affected my speaking voice. I started the rebuilding process with speak pathologists to make sure that your consonants and vowels are pronounced correctly when you speak. They help you get your vocal cords to work the right way and then you’ll start to hold pitches. It’s not an exact science, most people are not able to overcome it and sing the way that they used to. I work on it for hours every day, and I have since the early ’90s, and I have had bouts with it. Over the course of the past few years it has become more consistent. In the last 2-3 years it’s gotten very strong and almost I’d say reliable (laughs)!

Sleaze Roxx: Last question, in the mid ’90s Cinderella was signed to John Kalodner’s label through Sony Music. Did you ever record music for a new album that is in the Sony archives somewhere? And if you can’t release those recordings have you ever thought of re-recording them to release on your own?

Tom Keifer: We actually never recorded the record — we never even got into the song selection process. I don’t want to get too far into the details but it just got very ugly and it ended in a lawsuit. We were tied up for years because of re-record restrictions. So it was during that time that I started working on my solo record and the rest the guys in the band were working on their own music independently from labels. We had worked pretty hard on that record and then the rug got ripped out from underneath us. Eventually they wound up folding the label — that’s the way life goes, right?