Life, Guitars and Music: Tom Keifer Discusses “The Way Life Goes”
More than a year after its release, Cinderella guitarist and front man Tom Keifer’s debut solo album “The Way Life Goes” continues to ride a wave of critical success. The 14-song album takes an honest and often times introspective look at the man who’s written some of the most memorable hard rock songs of the ’80s.
For Keifer, the album’s title is a bit apropos. Especially when you consider the many personal and emotional struggles he’s had to endure over the years — including being diagnosed with a partially paralyzed vocal cord and being told he’d most likely never sing again. But through hard work, perseverance and an undying love of music, Keifer has regained his form. Delivering an album that stylistically may not be far from his work with Cinderella but still reminds us of his exceptional prowess as vocalist, guitarist and songwriter.
I spoke with Keifer about “The Way Life Goes” and more in this exclusive interview.
How has reaction been to the new album and tour?
It’s been really good. The reviews and fan response have been great and I’m thrilled. The record company is continuing to push “The Flower Song” in Top-40 and “It’s Not Enough” will be the next single for the Rock format. Last year, we started out playing in some smaller rooms and this year we’re approaching more festivals and bigger shows. The plan is to route into more of a full tour as the new singles start to click towards the end of the summer and into the fall.
How would you describe “The Way Life Goes”?
I’ve always had open artistic freedom in Cinderella, so it wasn’t like I needed to do a solo album to do something that I never got to do before. With this record, it’s kind of picking up where I was with Cinderella in terms of it being stylistic. A few of the songs push the envelope a little bit but for the most part it’s still hard-driving, high energy rock and roll with a blues influence.
What’s your songwriting process like?
My writing process has always been letting the song come to me. Sometimes I may even go years without writing a song, but I don’t consider it writer’s block. It’s only writer’s block when you’re trying to write.
Sometimes I could just be driving down the road or be in the Home Depot when a melody or lyric will come into my head. Whenever I get those ideas, I never rush to write them down or record them into a voice memo. The way I see it, if I can’t remember the idea a week or a month later then maybe it wasn’t all that memorable. It’s a natural process I use to sift through ideas.
Then there are times where I’ll have the seed of an idea for a song that will sit for months. “The Flower Song” is a good example of that. That was an idea that took a while to write. I had the chorus and concept stuck in my head for years before eventually sitting down to write it. I remember having a co-write setup with Jim Peterik when I finally pulled that idea out. Jim loved it and the two of us sat down and finished it that same day.
With all of the problems you’ve been through with your voice over the years, was there ever a time when you considered a career change?
I remember after they first told me I’d probably never be able to sing again they told me my only prayer was to work with speech pathologists and vocal coaches to try to train the vocal cord back. That’s not an exact science, so it’s taken me years of experimenting and working with many different people. Along that journey, I’d often think of whether I should be doing something else but just couldn’t picture myself doing anything other than playing guitar and singing songs. That goes back to when I first started learning how to play guitar. My teacher not only taught me guitar but he also made me sing the songs too. Being a singer/songwriter is what makes me feel whole as an artist and musician. I think that was what kept me on course to try to figure out how to sing around a paralyzed vocal cord.
How are your vocal cords now?
They’re really strong. It takes a lot of maintenance but I’ve met an amazing coach in Ron Anderson who’s really taught me a lot of things. Ever since I started working his technique it’s gotten stronger every year. I still have to do hours of exercises to maintain it, but it’s something that I’m happy to do.
Can you tell me the origin of the Cinderella song, “Coming Home”?
I had been on the road for a long time when I wrote that song — hence the title [laughs]. We were towards the end of a very long tour when Gibson had given me this very beautiful 12-string acoustic guitar. I remember I was sitting in my hotel room when the guitar arrived through Fed-Ex. I tore the box open and immediately started working on that song.
Is there one particular moment of your career that stands out as a highlight?
Looking back, it’s all been a highlight. But if anything were to stand out, The Moscow Music Peace Festival was a pretty cool gig to be a part of. That one was pretty special. Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe. It’s kind of been picked up by a whole new generation online. It’s become a really remembered show and was a blast to be a part of.
In your opinion, what gives hard rock bands and music from the 80’s such longevity?
There are a lot of great songs from that era and I remember even when it kind of fell out of vogue in the industry; the touring end of it was always very strong. The fans would always come out and sing the songs – and they still do. That aspect of it never really went away. It might not have been at the fore front of the industry but for the fans it was always there. But it all really comes down to the songs. They’re the soundtrack of people’s lives.
For more on Tom Keifer, Check out his Official Website: www.tomkeifer.com