In part 1 of the interview with Tom Keifer, we discussed his latest album The Way Life Goes. In part 2, we discuss his relocation to Nashville, the vocal cord problems that nearly ended his singing career, his duet with Lzzy Hale and the future plans for Cinderella.
You’ve relocated to Tennessee now. How did you end up leaving the northeast for the south?
I moved here in the 90’s when the whole music scene changed. Cinderella had lost the deal with Mercury Records, and we didn’t have an outlet for our music anymore, at least, not the kind we were used to having. We started drifting apart, and I was looking to do something new. That’s when the idea of a solo record first hit me, and I moved to Nashville, and started working and writing with people here. It’s been a very inspirational town…the musicianship, the songwriters, engineers and studios here are just the best of the best, so it’s a good place to be. I was up in Philly and New Jersey when Cinderella drifted apart and we lost our deal. It was the first time in years that I wasn’t part of a band. We were constantly working, so I never really thought about my environment in terms of inspiration. I found myself just sitting in the house in Jersey, and decided that I had to get somewhere to get inspired.
Is there anything that you miss about the northeast?
(Laughs) Well, Tastykakes, cheesesteaks. It always comes down to food, right? Things that you grow up on as a kid, you think that they have everywhere, and then you go out and travel the world, you realize that’s not the case. I remember the first time that I had a cheesesteak in San Francisco, and it was like an open-faced French bread with a filet mignon on it. I was like…“that’s not a cheesesteak!”
So I definitely miss that stuff, but my family is kind of spread out all over the place. My dad and one of my sisters still live up there, but they’re kind of spread out too. It used to be about missing the family because there was a unit there, but since we’re all spread out, it comes down to the food, I guess (laughs).
Nashville’s landscape is actually very similar to what I’m used to, and we have the four seasons of weather changes, so in that respect, there are a lot of similarities, which is probably why I like it here.
You recently had an interesting trip back to the northeast singing with Lzzy Hale at the York County Fair. She’s clearly a huge fan of yours. What was it like doing a duet with her?
It was awesome! That was so much fun. We actually did two shows with them. We did the night before in Atlantic City at the House Of Blues. They’re just great people. I really love the band and their music, and her voice, so getting to sing with her was pretty cool. She’s a great talent. Her voice is insanely good. I really enjoyed doing the shows with them and getting to see them live because I’ve heard really good things about them over the years. That was actually the first time that I’ve gotten to see them live.
Are there any other new bands that you’re into?
I’ve been digging this “Radioactive” tune by Imagine Dragons. I love that track. I like Bruno Mars, and specifically of late, that piano ballad that he has is just classic, you know, “When I Was Your Man.” I just think that he’s an incredible singer. I’m drawn to really great singers because it’s an inspiration to me after what I’ve been through. It’s something to aspire to, when you hear someone like Bruno Mars sing like that.
How did you get into singing?
I kind of fell into it. I started off singing and playing together when I was really young on acoustic guitar…Beatles songs and American folk songs. That’s what my teacher taught me. And then as soon as I heard Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, I gravitated more towards the guitar, and then I came back to singing and playing when I started writing my own music.
You touched upon the vocal cord problems that you’ve had. Do you feel like you’re back to where you were before the problems with your vocal cords?
In a lot of ways I am. It’s not 100%, because where I once was, I didn’t have to maintain it for an hour-and-a-half every day. I have to do an incredible amount of therapy and voice exercises to keep it in this place. I thank God every day that I was able to figure out a way to get around this, but it’s not an exact science learning how to sing again. I was told that I would never sing again, so I’m more than happy to do the work in therapy that I need to do. It’s pretty much every day whether I’m on the road or not. And even on a show day, my warm-ups and exercises are usually longer than the show, but it’s worth it.
How do you usually feel when the show is over?
(Laughs) It depends on how I sang. Most nights pretty good, because it’s gotten more and more consistent. It’s not something that I have 100% control over. I can do everything right, get all the rest that I need, and eat all the right things, and hydrate and do all of the exercises. When I’m about to walk on stage, my voice can feel like a million bucks, and then at some point in the show, the neurological condition can rear its ugly head. It’s hard to determine night to night why that happens. Some nights I kind of struggle a little bit, but for the most part, it’s pretty stable. Most nights I come off feeling really good and really grateful, and then there are other nights I come off a little frustrated thinking… “man I thought I was gonna soar tonight” (laughs) and then it kind of just doesn’t happen.
Do you find that it’s more of a challenge hitting the higher notes on the Cinderella songs?
No, it really affects all areas of my voice. Really, the area most affected is the middle part of the voice more than anything. But overall, it’s really been stable in the last three of four years. It’s just occasionally still frustrating when you do all the therapy and exercises and you still have those challenging moments. And you never know when it’s going to hit. The same notes that you hit one night might not be there the next.
What’s going on with the legal issues that prevented you from making a new Cinderella record?
That’s clear now. It was a re-record restriction surrounding the record deal that went south, but that’s all behind us now. During the course of the re-record restriction period, we all started working on individual projects. Mine took 10 years, so in terms of new music, I was really just focused on this record. The band has just toured in recent years. Now it’s more a situation that if we were to make a new record, it would just have to be the right label and the right deal before we jump into that pool again.
You made “The Way Life Goes” before you had the record deal. Did you find the creative process to be more liberating without having to worry about what the record label thought?
Well, yeah. The reason that I made that decision was because of the record deal that went bad with Cinderella. I just didn’t want to deal with a record company, with lawyers or any of that bullshit. I just wanted to make music. This record really was about the music and having fun. I made it with Savannah. She wrote a lot of the record and it was co-produced with Chuck Turner and me. It was about just making music, and to make it as good as we could make it. We didn’t care how long it took, and we didn’t care if it ever came out.
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and the direct connection that artists have with fans now through social media has allowed bands to bypass the labels altogether if they choose. Is that something that you ever considered?
I didn’t want to do that for the release or the marketing or any of that, so the idea was, if we ever got the record finished (laughs) – like I said, we took a long time making it – that once we got it to something that we felt was something, the idea was to eventually take it to a label, and find a home for it with a label that believes in it, and really wants to go to the wall for it, and we found that with Merovee Records. They’ve been incredible. They really believe in the record, and have really supported it, so we’ve got a great home there.
What are you future solo tour plans?
We’ve just been doing some one-offs here and there right now, but we’re looking to get back on the road full bore at the end of the year or early next year, and tour through the year supporting “The Way Life Goes.”
I’m looking forward to catching the show when you come around next time. Congratulations on finally getting your record out there. I think that I speak for all fans when I say that it was definitely worth the wait!