Interview and Photos by: Robert Cavuoto
Tom Keifer – Making Music is My Passion
Tom Keifer – Life is full of ironies, twists, and turns that you don’t see coming!
Tom Keifer – Re-energized and taking things to a new level
Tom Keifer is most notably known for being the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for the Cinderella. A hard rock band that burst on the metal scene in 1986 with their debut album, Night Songs. Throughout the last 30 years, the band has had their share of highs and lows within the ever changing music world.
In an effort to evolve and grow as an artist, Tom decided to put Cinderella on hiatus and released a debut solo CD in 2013 called, The Way Life Goes – a CD that was nine years in the making! Building on his new found success, Tom formed a touring band and hit the road. He isn’t showing any signs of slowing down and not looking back.
As a thank you to his fans, he is looking to sharing his experience while on the road and creating a deluxe CD/DVD version of The Way Life Goes that will include bonus tracks, new packaging, and interviews. If that wasn’t enough Tom also plans to head back into the studio in 2017 to start work on his next solo effort. Whether Tom decides to reform Cinderella will be a mystery to his fans, but I guess that’s just the why life goes.
I caught up with Tom during a break from his hectic touring schedule to discuss his life experiences on the road, the deluxe CD, and what we can expect from with his next solo CD.
Robert Cavuoto: I saw your show a few weeks back in NJ and was really impressed. You sang your heart out, played great, and ran the stage – you had to be exhausted when it was over?
Tom Keifer: It’s a high energy rock show that builds in the beginning and ends in a frenzy.
Robert: You performed Prince’s “Purple Rain” during the encore, what is it about that song that makes you wanted to pay homage to him?
Tom Keifer: It’s just an iconic song from our generation. I always loved that song. It’s such a good song to put in the encore and segue out of the “With a Little Help from my Friends”. We’ve been doing “With a Little Help from my Friends” the whole time on tour and “Purple Rain” morphs really well with it. It really takes it up a notch at the end of the show.
Robert: The Way Life Goes has been out for a few years and you are working on an expanded version, what can we expect from it?
Tom Keifer: It will have a 20 page booklet of unique illustrations depicting the lyrics, life situations, and song titles by an artist David Calcano. The cover has a collage of all the things that have been brought into my world since the release of the CD including caricatures of the new touring band. The original artwork was a gift from my tour manager. He commissioned David to do this collage and when I opened it up on the tour bus, I looked at it as if it was an album cover had the record been released today. It really got my wheels turning and I started thinking about doing a deluxe set that would include recordings of the new band, adding a few new songs, and a documentary. Tammy Vega is a photographer/videographer who travels with us a lot; she is another special person that has come into our lives since the release of the CD. It’s basically pooling all these creative people and their talents to do a commemorative edition that celebrates what we feel has been a couple of special years on the road together. Tammy has been filming us on the road as well as in the studio this past March while we were cutting the bonus tracks. It’s going to be an intimate look into the creation of those tracks, the band working together, and interviews. These are things that are above and beyond what would typically be in a deluxe set. It will also have some live footage as well.
Robert: Are the bonus tracks new song that you developed on the road or were they songs that didn’t initially make the CD?
Tom Keifer: I want to be clear that these are not songs that were left over from the record. I know a lot of time that is what deluxe packages are all about. These were songs that came about as a result of the re-release of the record. These songs belong with The Way Life Goes as they wouldn’t make sense on our new record. We haven’t announced what those songs as yet but we will soon. Once we do, all the fans will understand why they are in the deluxe version. There are two new songs and the deluxe version should be out mid-to-late summer.
Robert: I read the The Way Life Goes was record over many years, how did you keep the songs all sounding fresh and a cohesive unit?
Tom Keifer: They were recorded in different studios over the course of nine years. They were tracked in different rooms, with different kits, and on different mixing boards. At the end of the day, the art of making of all the songs work together is in the mixing. Mixing is always a struggle and it’s the thing that can knock it out of the park. If you don’t have a great mix then you really don’t feel the performance and the emotions. We spent quite a few years mixing and remixing it to make it sound like it all went together.
The record started off as not being a record, it was on the heels of a record deal that had gone south with Cinderella. The record was never made and then end up in courts with lawsuits. So I was at a bad place in terms of the industry and the business. My wife, Savannah, was in the same place and felt the sting of the music industry from some people who signed her in Nashville. We started writing and recording songs with friends in Nashville. They are really incredible session player and most of them I’ve met through Savannah because when she had her deal and she worked with them. For us it was about making music for the sake of making music. It was a healing process for the both of us. We didn’t have to deal with labels, lawyers, or any of that bullshit! We worked on it piece meal. I would go on breaks for four or five months while touring with Cinderella and thank goodness for ProTools because you can close a session out then come back to it five months without a hassle. I woke up one day and realized there was pile of songs that felt like a record. We got brave enough and started shopped the finished product to labels. We didn’t play it for anybody while we were making it. My manager barely heard it. We were making it just for fun. No ambitions we just backed into a record.
Robert: I speak with so many artists and musicians like yourself living and recording in Nashville, what is the attraction to Nashville?
Tom Keifer: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I moved there in 1997 when Cinderella had drifted apart. It was the first time in my live that I wasn’t in the bubble of being in that band. We were a self contained unit and I started thinking about making a solo record back then so started writing with people in Nashville. My roots have always been based in country, blues, gospel music, and R&B even dating back to Cinderella. Nashville has all of that from the players to the writers who have a deep understanding of that. So I just picked up and moved there overnight. It was a great place to make this record from a lot of aspects not only the songwriters and musicians-o-plenty out there but producers and engineers. It’s a concentration of musical talent and inspiration in a small city. I love it there.
Robert: I have to wonder what Cinderella would sound like in 2016. Are you developing songs that you’ve tucked away for a possible reunion CD?
Tom Keifer: I’m going to do a follow up CD to The Way Life Goes and going into the studio next year. This solo record with the band playing it live has taken on a new life coupled with the Cinderella material everything fits the set nicely. It has a new energy and in terms of enthusiasm and takes the show to another level. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing and taking one thing at a time. I think I’m going to continue down this road.
Robert: What are the pros of being a solo act vs. being in a band like Cinderella?
Tom Keifer: At the end of the day, the goal is to write and record new music. At every performance you give it all you got so when the people leave they know they got your all. Making music is my passion and I don’t approach things any differently now than I did with Cinderella. It’s all about the music and trying to make each performance better than the last; trying to write a better song than the last one with truer production values and mixes. One of the differences with this record is that we didn’t make it under the gun of a label. Plus I wrote with other people like my wife Savannah who is an amazing songwriter, along with Jim Peterik of Survivor, and Doug Gordon.
Robert: My interruption of the CD title, The Way Life Goes, represents you as an artist growing and evolving since Cinderella. Tell me what it means to you.
Tom Keifer: To me it’s about the uncertainly of life. One of my favorite movie lines is from Forrest Gump when he says life is like a box of chocolates. Life is full of ironies, twists, and turns that you don’t see coming. It’s all great and that to me is what the title is all about. Before the CD was released Savannah and I were reading and proofing all the lyrics that would be on the booklet and realized how much life is in them. It’s always different when you read the lyric vs. sing them. It dawned on us that the title track should be that song. It sums up the whole record.
Robert: What is it like writing, performing, and touring with your wife?
Tom Keifer: It’s really great and we work well in the studio whether recording, producing or writing. Our approach is not to force things like some writers do by saying, “We have to have a song done by 3:00pm today!” Any time you force something it feels like it. Some of the songs on this record took a year and half to write as we kept coming back to it. We would write a verse of a song and if we didn’t have a section for the chorus we would come back to it when we had a good idea which could be a couple of months later. Having her out on the road with me is great as she is my other half and being able to do this together is the coolest.
Robert: You have some great stage guitars like the white and black Gibson Explorers, are there any interesting stories behind them?
Tom Keifer They were actually both gifts. The black Explorer was from my guitarist Tony Higbee who is an incredibly talented musician and surprised me with it one day in 2014 for no reason [laughing]. I played a white Explorer in the clubs and had lost it before Cinderella was even signed and he knew that.
The two guitars are actually connected because the white Explorer is the Lzzy Hale model which was a gift from her. I told her the story of losing my white Explorer while I was looking at her guitar during the tour. Gibson wasn’t in production with her signature model at that time as she only had the one she played on stage. 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!