Interview and Live Photos By Robert Cavuoto
On October 20th Tom Keifer released the Deluxe Edition of The Way Live Goes via Cleopatra Records. The deluxe version includes not only the original CD but three brand new studio tracks recorded with Tom and his touring band. Fans will finally get to hear the long-awaited studio recording of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which Tom performs at all of his concerts, plus two powerful new takes on the Cinderella classic “Nobody’s Fool” with Lzzy Hale helping out on vocals. One version is a powerfully haunting rock version that will make the hair on your arms stand up and the other is an alternate piano version that focuses on the perfectly blended vocals of Tom and Lzzy. There is also a 20-page booklet with one-of-a-kind unique illustrations depicting each song and a documentary video of the band in the studio.
I caught up with Tom to talk about his deluxe release, performing with Lzzy Hale, and how he is feeling after his collapse before a Pennsylvania show a few weeks back.
Robert Cavuoto: How have you felt since you were hospitalized before the Pennsylvania show and can you share what happened?
Tom Keifer: I’m recovering, thanks. It was pretty rough and scary night. We had a pretty heavy schedule with back-to-back shows coupled with press days in New York. We were on our fourth show in a row, and 15 minutes before show time I collapsed. I felt it coming on while I was warming up and ended up in the hospital for the night. It was heat exhaustion and dehydration that crept up on me over the course of a 10-day non-stop schedule promoting the Deluxe Edition of The Way Live Goes CD. It’s something I don’t ever want to relive again. I’ve played one show since that night in PA at a State Fair in Arkansas and now taking a little break. I’m getting my legs back and then we are off to Denver for a big Halloween Bash.
Robert Cavuoto: Does dehydration simply come from not from not drinking enough liquids the day of the show?
Tom Keifer: I sweat like crazy on stage as it’s a pretty high energy show. My performances have always drained me even in my twenties. A lot of people will say, “You’re getting older!” but this wasn’t for the faint of heart even in my twenties. You have a packed house with sold out shows, lots of bodies in the building, hot lights, and a high energy show. You do your best to try and hydrated along the way with tons of Gatorade, water, and coconut water, but it’s hard to keep up with it. What happened in Pittsburgh was different in the sense I collapsed before the show. Just this year I have been hospitalized after a run of shows needing IV fluids. It happens when you do two or three shows that are super hot; you get home, and you are just not feeling right, so you get your tank topped off. This time it was pretty severe as it happened before the show I was in pretty bad shape where they kept me overnight. This was the worst I have ever experienced it.
Robert Cavuoto: You are out on the road quite a bit, is eating healthy also a challenge?
Tom Keifer: I try to eat healthier and be mindful of my health. I always have; even back in my twenties due to the strain, the show puts on my body. I don’t drink or do drugs and try to lead a healthy lifestyle. It’s hard eating healthy on the road. I really can’t fast foods because I don’t feel good after I eat it. If that’s all that’s available I’ll decide not to eat unless there is a healthy choice which is not going to make me feel like crap. Sometimes it’s just a power bar. That may have played into some of what happened in Pittsburgh. During the press days in New York, I barely ate. I was either at a press event or sitting in traffic getting to an interview.
Robert Cavuoto: I’m glad you are doing well and on the mend. When we last spoke in April 2016 you told me about the release of the Deluxe Edition of The Way Life Goes; what was the delay in releasing it?
Tom Keifer: The Way Life Goes has been an evolution that started with the creation of the original record. As you know, that took place over 9 or 10 years in its creation. We finally got it released, and the label did a great job of promoting with the first single. The CD was well received, and things were blowing up, then there was a corporate shakeup with the people who owned the label. There were some business dealings that went down. The CD got caught in the middle of it, and it was pulled from the shelves and hasn’t been available for two years. The deluxe edition was something we discussed early on when the record was first taking off. When the shake-up happened, and the CD disappeared, we came back to the idea. We had done all the “lawyering,” got the masters back, and then decided to go back to the studio to record bonus tracks; the duet with Lzzy Hale on “Nobody’s Fool” and “With a Little Help from my Friends.” We were hoping to have it out last year like we talked about but in the true tradition of how we work;, we cut the tracks quickly and then ran into mixing issues. We went through a boatload of mix engineers. Also editing the documentary took a little bit of time. It’s a pretty amazing piece of us in the studio recording those tracks by Tammy Vega. A lot of the delay was editing, mixing, and making sure we were happy with the bonus stuff that we were adding. Also finding a new label to release it on took a while too.
Robert Cavuoto: Your and Lzzy’s voice blend nicely on “Nobody’s Fool,” tell me about the recording of that song.
Tom Keifer: It came about on the road during a tour we did together. What we decided to do was to go to the studio to record songs that were inspired by the release of the CD and what we did on the road during touring. “Nobody’s Fool” came about while we were on the tour trail supporting The Way Life Goes. We did some shows with Halestorm, and we took the stage during the encores to do that song together. The parts we did in the studio are what we worked up a few years ago live. She took the first verse, I took the second one, and we sang together on the choruses. It’s pretty much the same arrangements. We changed some things musically and updated it a bit in the studio when we recorded it. This was the first time we recorded together with my touring band. They brought a lot of really cool new parts to that song. I wanted us to make that song our own and put our own stamp on it along with Lzzy’s help. Lzzy is a pretty amazing singer, she is so much fun to sing with, and her voice is a great inspiration to me. The power she has just blows me away every time I sing with her.
Robert Cavuoto: Did you and Lzzy record any additional songs together and are there any plans to collaborate in the future?
Tom Keifer: The only other song we recorded was with my band which was “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Lzzy wasn’t on that one. It was one of the first creative endeavors with my band in making a song our own. I would love to work with Lzzy again. We will see what comes down the road.
Robert Cavuoto: I understand Lzzy gave you a white Gibson Explorer guitar that you use on stage.
Tom Keifer: It’s the Lzzy Hale model and a gift from her. Lzzy is an amazing friend, and the guitar is very special to me. I told her the story that I used to play a white Explorer in the club days, and it was either lost or stolen. During the tour, we became really good friends. One day she showed up at my door with a big Gibson case [laughing] the same day her guitar was released. She had me open it, and there it was, a white Explorer. In a way, she brought my white Explorer back to me!
Robert Cavuoto: There are two versions of “Nobody’s Fool,” how did the piano version come about?
Tom Keifer: That is actually the same performance; it’s an alternate mix of the rock version. It has a lot of creative editing by the mix engineer. He added some loops to the breakdown. As I mentioned, we struggled a bit with the mixing, as that is something I’m very particular about. The recording of those tracks went very quickly, and Vance Powell did a great job of producing and knocked the tracks out in two or three days. When we got into the mixing, we weren’t happy with what it sounded like. We went through a bunch of mix engineers and finally ended up with Kyle O’Conner who mixed the tracks. He is actually our front of house engineer. When I got frustrated with all the mix engineers, I asked him if he could make these tracks sound the way we sound live. I told him you mix us every night [laughing]. He was honest and said he hasn’t done a lot of studio mixing but said he would give it a try. We loved what he did on those two songs and one day on the tour bus; he said he has something else he wanted us to listen to. He said he wasn’t sure if we were going to like it. It was a nice surprise where he had taken the initiative to do an alternative mix. I loved it! It is so intimate that you can hear the emotion in the vocals where they are covered up in the louder rockin’ version.
Robert Cavuoto: Are there plans for a new solo studio CD?
Tom Keifer: I’m hoping it won’t take as long to make the follow up [laughing]. The other one took a long time and expended a lot of energy. When it was finally released, it started the process of getting out of the studio, getting back on the road, living life, and having those life experiences. Those things bring up song ideas. That’s always where the well gets filled; not locked up in a studio. Over the last four years, we have been touring and building the band, so we have a lot of ideas that are piling up. We would like to get into the studio the end of next year. We will do that with the touring band. The chemistry we have live translated very well to the studio, and that’s not always the case. Everyone worked well and contributed creatively. The live Keifer band will try and break some new songs as a follow-up the end of next year.
Robert Cavuoto: Can you see yourself carrying on for countless more years with this band? Is this the future for Tom Keifer?
Tom Keifer: Yes, I’ve made the transition and have been out with this band for a long time, and we have grown. The collective creative talent, vocals abilities, chemistry, and musicianship is something I have never felt with any band I have ever been in on and off stage. I’m very happy where I’m at, and we will be continuing with this. The tour schedule to promote the deluxe edition will probably take us into the summer again before we hit the studio to work on the next CD. We are not complaining because we love touring. It has been a bit unconventional the amount of time we have spent touring but the band was going in popularity and if that energy is building it’s a mistake to pull back on it, so we just continued to book the band.
Robert Cavuoto: One of my favorite memories of Cinderella is seeing you open for David Lee Roth on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour in 1986. What do you recall from that tour?
Tom Keifer: That time felt like magic! It was our first big arena tour and opening for this bigger than life frontman who in high school I was riding around in my friend’s Camaro drinking beer listening to Van Halen [laughing]. I was like “How did I get here?” Getting that support slot right out of the box was amazing and felt like a tornado swooped down and picked us up and took us on this wild ride. It continues today. That launch era with MTV, the amount of radio airplay, and touring that was done built a fan base that is still there today. I’m very grateful to walk out on the stage now, as it continues with my new band. We play all those songs live and feel really fortunate to see people singing every word. They have changed my life, and we all became friends starting back from touring in the 80s’.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you have any interesting stories about Dave from that tour?
Tom Keifer: I didn’t have a lot of contact with him on the first tour. When co-headlined together after Hearth Break Station, I would hang out with him many nights after the show. He was funny smart and really great time to hang out with. Very intelligent and real great hang.