October 14, 2013 Interview – Tom Keifer of Cinderella
During the 1980s Glam Metal took center stage in the world of music. Many bands came and went and few remain active today. Some of the most recognized names from the era still active today include Mötley Crüe, Poison, and L.A. Guns. However, one of the biggest and most successful bands from the time were none other than Cinderella.
With a series of multi-platinum albums, hit singles, and music videos in heavy rotation on MTV, Cinderella were at the top of the mountain for nearly the entire decade. Having the ability to write memorable songs, along with deep roots in Hard Rock as well as Blues music, Cinderella had the talent and sound to withstand the changing of the guard in Rock music, remaining active and relevant to this day.
Now, all these years later, Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Tom Keifer shows he’s still got it with the release of his first solo album The Way Life Goes in April 2013. Overcoming struggles with a paralyzed vocal cord, Keifer’s determination and love for music helped him persevere and carry on. An inspiring story, recently Keifer sat down for an in-depth look at his work with Cinderella, his solo album 10 years in the making, conquering vocal cord issues, and much more.
Crypticrock.com – Cinderella had massive success in the 1980s with a series of multi-platinum records. You’ve toured all over the world and are the creator of some of the most memorable songs in Rock in the ’80s. Nearly 3 decades later how does it feel to achieved such accomplishments?
Tom Keifer – Well you know it’s something you don’t foresee. I guess that as musicians and writers we hope to have that happen. When you look back throughout the career you don’t realize it’s happening, you are kind of just in the moment. I think in more recent years the fact that our fans have been so loyal and stuck with us, the feeling that comes to me every time I think about it now that I look back over the years is gratitude. It’s just amazing how loyal our fans have been to us. To this day when we walk out on stage they make it feel like it’s 1987 all over again. Every time we play “Nobody’s Fool,” “Shelter Me,” or “Coming Home,” not to quote Foreigner but they make it feel like the first time every time, that’s a very great feeling and that is something I am very grateful for.
Crypticrock.com – That is amazing that the band has built such a strong following and it’s a testament to the music. Now Cinderella went on hiatus for a few years between 1995-1997. It’s well documented of the issues and surgeries you’ve had on your vocal chords. How difficult was it for you to overcome all these obstacles and did determination have a great deal to do with to you recovering your ability to sing?
Tom Keifer – That has been a very long up and down battle that continues. I was diagnosed with partial paralysis of the vocal chords in the early ’90s. It’s something that you normally just don’t sing again. There is no medical cure for it. The challenge becomes to try to teach and train it to work properly, and it’s not an exact science. From the diagnosis, I worked with every vocal coach and speech pathologist on the planet. I just tried to pick up whatever knowledge I could along the way, and try and piece together a method to a madness to try and get the chords back to where they need to be.
Slowly over the years they have become stronger and more consistent. In recent years I am in a very good place. I still have to maintain them every day with an 1 1/2 to 2 hours voice therapy. Even on a show day, that is longer than a show actually, I have to do it to prepare them. Again, I am grateful to overcome something that is not usually able to be beaten.
Crypticrock.com – That is a great deal of dedication and shows your passion. The band has been actively touring now since your recovery. Cinderella’s last studio album was Still Climbing in 1994. It has been nearly 20 years since that record. Can Cinderella fans expect to hear a full length record again?
Tom Keifer – For us, we would love to. It is going to have to be the right situation with a label that is serious about producing the quality records that we’ve made for our fans in the past. That is a situation, unfortunately to date, that has not really come along for us. We’ve had a couple of failed starts, one which actually ended up in a pretty nasty lawsuit. It’s not for a lack of desire on our part, there have been a lot of obstacles in the way, including my voice at times too. There were years I couldn’t sing at all, so there have been a lot of obstacles in our way. In the mean time we’ve been back out on the road quite a bit and been touring. That is something for us that is a pure outlet, for us to go out and share music with our fans with no record companies in our way. We love doing that, and if the opportunity for the record were to come along we would certainly consider that.
Crypticrock.com – That is something to definitely look forward to. In April you released your first solo record The Way Life Goes. The album is really a solid piece of work loaded with great tracks. You have been working hard on this record for a long time. What was it like recording the album after all these years of work?
Tom Keifer – It was like a relief, it seemed like it would never happen. When the record started we made the decision to produce independently from a label. We funded ourselves so there were no release dates, deadlines, and nobody was breathing down our neck when creating the record. The plan wasn’t to take 10 years but it turned out that way because there was no pressure. There were times where it was like is this ever even going to get released. I had problems with my voice throughout it, it was a real leap of faith making the thing. We didn’t know if it would ever get picked up or released. All that being said now that it has been picked up and we found a really great home at Merovee Records, they’ve done a really great job of getting the record out. The first emotion is relief (laugh)… it’s like wow we did it. It feels good.
Crypticrock.com – The title of the record being The Way Life Goes seems rather introspective Your voice sounds great on the record and it’s really inspiring to hear you sing at this level again after all the issues you have faced. Within all the vocal issues how did you manage your frustrations over the years, because I imagine it must have been difficult.
Tom Keifer –It really was a roll coaster of emotions throughout. Like I said there were years I couldn’t sing at all. There was a lot of struggle trying to create the actual music. That is probably another reason I decided to produce independent from a label so there wouldn’t be that pressure. A lot of the vocals were pain staking recorded (laughs)… everything and anything to get line down on tape the way it needed to be. I produced the record with Savannah, my wife, and a good friend of Chuck Turner from Nashville. The fact that we are all very close and get along very well really helped in the process of making it because there were a lot of challenges that I was facing. Savannah produced a lot of my vocals and we did it in our home studio. That was really cool and that was another aspect to do it without a deadline/release date was important. It was kind of crazy trying to create a record when the singer has a paralyzed vocal cord.
Crypticrock.com – I imagine it had to be very difficult. I imagine these songs have a great deal of sentimental value to you.
Tom Keifer – Yea a lot of them are very personal. They are all true life inspirations, whether it’s something that I actually experienced or a lot of it is observation of things you see people close to you going through. I think that style of writing comes from my influences as kid coming up in the ’70s. All the bands I loved were inspired by American Roots music, Blues and Country. All the lyrics and songs of that kind of music are real, it’s about real things. My heroes were inspired by that. I love the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart. They were my early teachers in song writing. That is what I’ve always gravitated toward, the real lyrics that people can relate to.
Crypticrock.com – Being involved in the Rock scene in the ’80s had to be a very memorable time. Rock was larger than life during that time and so were the band’s which made the music. What was that experience like for you?
Tom Keifer – It was a very colorful era. It was the advent of MTV, suddenly there was this visual that was attached to every song. That helped to kind of define the musicians and artists vision or at least their perception of the songs. I think that created a very visual time, a very over the top flamboyant imagery and attitude really. I think that was across the board not only in the Hard Rock but also in Pop.
You look at artists like Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, and Boy George, everybody was pushing the envelope. Obviously adding that visual to it just created a scene where music was exploding. Literally when we released our records everything happened so fast back then because of the new outlets that were available, it’s quite different than today. I just literally felt like a whirlwind picked you up and took you on this ride.
Looking back on it now it almost seems like a whole other world. It was a blast, I have nothing bad to say about it at all (laughs). It was nothing but fun, being able to do what we love to do, and create music. It was a very explosive time in the music scene. I think a lot of that I would contribute to the visual aspect that came into the music at that point. Unfortunately, that visual aspect is also the thing that toppled the ’80s pretty hard. It caused it to go up through the roof, and you know what they say what goes up comes down, there was a backlash to it all. It was a huge flash of light and it was a good time. You see whose left now, floats back up to the top, and fortunately we’ve been able to survive and tour. Our fans have stayed with us and it was great to be a part of all that.
Crypticrock.com – It was a great time in music. Now being from that era of Rock-n-Roll and your experience of nearly 30 years in the music industry, what do you think some of the key elements which have changed over the years?
Tom Keifer – I think the flash of light theory is different now. I think that what we experienced back then, that just picked you up off the ground like a tornado, is a slower build now for new artists. Even me with my solo record, it’s a longer game I think. There is a lot more noise to cut through out there, we have the internet now. I think society in general is pretty over stimulated with media and media sources. I think that is a big difference. There were fewer media outlets back then, and each of them possessed far more power. If you were able to get the opportunity to be presented on any of them the impact was huge. I think that is the different now, it’s more fractioned and splintered now. It’s a long game when you get your music out there to seep in and even reach your own fans.
Crypticrock.com – It’s very interesting you say that and it makes a lot of sense. With all the social medias and everything we have now a day does make it a little more difficult to reach an audience because it is so splintered. That is a very good point.
Tom Keifer – Yea and then you have other challenges of obviously the piracy of music and streaming mentality where less revenue is being generated on the music side. That really effects the commitment of record companies and rightfully so. Not because they are trying to be bad guys, but they have less money. Artist development and what they are able to put into developing an act or a record is getting less and less. The window of opportunity through those larger outlets like record companies, be they independent or majors, revenue is down. That effects investment in music and new artists, so that’s another challenge. Things have changed drastically, it’s a completely different world. That is a couple of aspects from my perspective. Being someone that has lived through both worlds, and lived through the transition too, those are aspects that are vastly different.
Crypticrock.com – Agreed. Many are still a strong component of physical format music and not a fan of digital downloads myself personally.
Tom Keifer –Yea I think a lot of that is coming back more and more. I think physical sales are more and more gravitating towards so that is kind of a cool thing.
Crypticrock.com – I hope that trend continues. I’d like to know more about what some of your musical influences are?
Tom Keifer – Formative years were ’70s Rock and some ’60s stuff too. I love Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, The Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Heart, and Yes. There was just so much amazing music in the ’70s. That was really my formative years that really defined me as a musician where I learned how to play and write. You are what you eat right (laughs). The list goes on and on. I could name bands from that era forever that were pretty amazing and inventive. We all have our decade that we grew up in that we are partial to. Everyone thinks my music when we grew up was the best, that’s normal I guess.
Crypticrock.com – That is very true. My last question for you is regarding films. Are you a fan of Horror films, and if so, what are some of your favorites?
Tom Keifer – I love Pet Sematary (1989), that’s a great one. The Shining (1980) is a great flick. I used to watch a lot more when I was younger, I haven’t seen any recent ones.
Also keep up to date with Cinderella at www.cinderella.net