Tom Keifer

an interview with Cinderella's Former Frontman
by Tommy Rage
October 2019

Tom Keifer Band - photo by Facebook #TomKeiferOfficial

Tom Keifer Band
photo by Facebook #TomKeiferOfficial

Tom Keifer is Nobody’s Fool. Sorry, had to do it. But it’s true. Never has a band fit their name more-so than Cinderella. Formed in 1982 by singer-songwriter, guitarist Tom Keifer and bassist Eric Brittingham, the band later added guitarist Jeff LaBar, and drummer Fred Coury to complete the lineup. Touring the club circuit, the band received interest from both Gene Simmons and Jon Bon Jovi to sign a record contract. The overlooked and shunned stepsister of the east coast had found her fairy godmother and was on top of the record charts with their 1986 debut album, Night Songs. Three hit singles “Nobody’s Fool”, “Shake Me”, and “Somebody Save Me”, along with supporting tours brought the belle to the ball, and propelled Cinderella and Tom Keifer to the front of 80’s rock. Tom shares what it was like for him when Cinderella first started out, “I describe it as if a tornado came down and picked us up and took us on this wild ride; that continues today. It was an incredible time. The 80’s – music was really exploding at the time with MTV coming on the scene and the art form of videos, and it was a great feeling. It was both exciting and overwhelming, and tiring [laughter]. We went from playing very small clubs to touring non- stop and it was really cool.” 

The whirlwind of music from the 80’s along with Tom’s own personal struggles led to many ups and downs in Tom’s life. Overcoming his struggles and settling down with his wife, singer-songwriter Savannah, Tom released his first solo album in 2013, The Way Life Goes. “Savannah and I worked on that album about 9 years on and off, songs here and there. We didn’t set out to make a record, it just came together naturally. We took our time, and next thing we knew, we had an album.”

Releasing this second solo album, Rise, in September, Tom talks about how his new album came about. “It all starts with the song-writing. Over the last six or seven years, when we have been out touring, Savannah and I had co-written some songs. Savannah and I have been, what I like to call, ‘filling-the-well’ of new experiences and getting new song ideas. This last fall, when we came off the road, we felt like it was time to make a record. We had been collecting a lot of song ideas, so the band had grown, and it felt like the right time. We went in and recorded them as we were finishing the songs.”

The first single from Rise, “The Death of Me”, is a salty, sultry modern rock track with Tom’s mix of dark vocals and familiar soprano cries. Tom shares that “The Death of Me”, isn’t just about himself. “The lyrics were actually written by Savannah. It’s about not only my life and her life, but about what’s going on in the world. The beautiful thing about the lyrics is that when she handed it to me, not only did I relate to it, but I knew that a lot of other people would relate to it too.”

Throughout Rise, Tom mixes the older Cinderella classic sounds with a new multi-layered feel on “The Touching Divine”, and on “Breaking Down”, along with the harder rock tracks of “Hype”, and “All Amped Up”. Tom stays true to his blues roots with songs such as “Taste for the Pain”, and “Untitled”. Tom explains the familiar steel guitar feel on the rock-ballad song, “Waiting on the Demons”. “It’s got that country-blues Rolling Stones mid-tempo, ballad-ish vibe. We cut it almost 100 percent live, from the drums up to my vocals. Very few overdubs on that track. It’s a song about overcoming the things that hold you back in life. Those things come in many forms, and it’s a song about trying to overcome those things.” 
             
Perhaps it was Tom’s long-time interest in the blues that caught the attention of fans worldwide when Cinderella released their second album in 1988. Achieving triple platinum status, Long Cold Winter provided Tom the comfort and creativity to explore a wider range of musical style within the 80’s glam metal genre. Featuring four charting singles, “The Last Mile”, “Coming Home”, “Gypsy Road”, and “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”, which is the band’s highest-charting single. Tom shares where he drew his inspiration from as the band’s primary songwriter. “I grew up in the 70’s and cut my teeth on bands like the Stones, Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, Bad Company, Skynyrd. That hard rock stuff that formed in the late 60’s and 70’s, when I was in high school that was inspired by American-Roots music. The British Invasion was inspired by blues and R&B, country and gospel. I listened to blues, like B.B. King and Muddy Waters, and I was a huge James Brown fan. I used to see him a lot when I was young. We had Little Richard in a video of ours, he was the ringleader in our ‘Save Rock n’ Roll Telethon’ video, and that was a huge moment for me because I love Little Richard. He is one of the few of that I never got to see live, but I got to meet him on the set that day for “Shelter Me” and that was a big moment for me.”

With the success of his first solo album in 2013, The Way Life Goes, Tom released a deluxe edition in 2017 with a special guest duet appearance by Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. Tom laughs as he reminisces about recording “Nobody’s Fool” with Lzzy Hale. “That was a lot of fun to record, but it predates the studio recording. We were asked to do some shows with Halestorm in 2013. One thing lead to another, and Lzzy and I would do an encore of “Nobody’s Fool”, and still to this day, people seem to really like it, and it got a lot of attention on YouTube and social media. So, we recorded it as a bonus track.” Tom would later give Lzzy the costume jewelry pin he wore on his right shoulder for the Night Songs album cover. Lzzy wore the same pin on her right hip on the album cover for Halestorm’s 2015 Into the Wild Life, as a tribute to one of her rock idols. 

Thinking about his new album Rise, Tom shares what he has experienced in putting together both a great album and a successful career. “It’s about finding the strength in your adversity and overcoming your challenges. With all song writing, it’s something that you observe, or you are a part of. The lyrics inspire you to where the music goes. Sometimes it’s in the oddest places ever. I’ve joked, that you can be in aisle seven at Home Depot and song idea pops in your head. A lot of times, for me, it’s when I’m traveling. I remember the title for the blues track and title track for Long Cold Winter came to me on an airplane [laughter].” 

Tom Keifer plays the Green Bay Distillery on 10/24 and in Milwaukee’s Northern Lights Theatre on 10/31.

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CD: Rise Record Label: Cleopatra
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