Got the chance to talk with Tom Keifer (yes, THAT Tom Keifer) recently thanks to my friend Doug over at New Ocean Media. For those of you living under a rock he put out a solo record earlier this year called The Way Life Goes. It’s the culmination of nearly a decade of hard work, and it really is one hell of an album, that I recommend highly. So I wanted to get some insights into the disc, his touring regimen, and cool stuff like that. Plus I was dying to hear about Nashville and Tom Keifer the Dad. It was a great conversation, and he’s such an awesome guy that I can see him making anyone feel at ease. I sure did. Hope you guys enjoy:
Amps: First of all, I have to tell you that “A Different Light” pops into my head several times a day pretty much EVERY day since I got the record back in May. That chorus has attached itself to my brain!
Tom: I’m glad. That’s good to hear. You know, different songs connect with different people, and it’s not predictable who’s gonna connect with which one. So that’s cool to hear.
Amps: How have the solo shows been? I was SO PISSED I couldn’t go here in Dallas!!
Tom: It’s been great. The first part ended up in June, and we’ve done a few warm-ups since then, so we’re looking to get back out on the road early next year. Tour till we drop!
Amps: You were in York, PA recently, too.
Tom: Yes we were, with Halestorm. Man, they remind me of everything I love about rock and roll. They’re just badass, and very nice people. Hardworking, too. They are truly great. And I don’t like much, but I like them!
Amps: So…Nashville’s a long way from Philly. What made you settle there when you were doing writing? I lived there for 14 years and I BLEED Eagle green!
Tom: I moved here in the mid-nineties and Cinderella had parted ways, lost our deal with Mercury and just drifted apart because we didn’t have an outlet for our music. And the whole scene was changing. It was just, you know, looking for a shot in the arm and that’s when I first started thinking about doing a solo record, something a little different. I started writing for it then, and I loved it here because there are so many great writers, musicians, producers and studios. It’s like music Disney World here, to be honest. I needed that change so I got here, started working on it, and for some reason or another, it got put on the back burner for years, but I kept writing songs. And then eventually I started recording and producing the tracks in 2003.
Amps: And nearly a decade later we all get to enjoy the fruits of your labors in a very, very good record.
Tom: Well, thank you.
Tom: No, no, not at all, you just gotta pick and choose. We tried to do about 50/50 in terms of Cinderella stuff and new material, and I think we had about 14 songs in the show, seven Cinderella and seven new. Which is a lot of new material to put into a show, but we felt good about it ‘cause we started off in smaller rooms and we knew it was more intimate, with more hardcore fans in the beginning. So I didn’t feel too weird about playing new material because that’s what the tour was about. To give them a preview of some of the stuff live, because we started months in front of the release. But there was no reason why we didn’t play that song, I love that song, we just picked different songs, I guess.
Amps: You played Trees, too. That’s my favorite room in Dallas, so I was gutted!
Tom: I enjoyed that room! I remember that show well. Very cool crowd there and a good sounding room. Generally I remember the rooms mainly by how good the acoustics are onstage, and I remember Trees sounded really cool. That and the audience is what inspires me, the fans, their energy, and the acoustics. That was a fun night!
Amps: What’s your vocal regimen now? Any do’s and don’ts as far as food/drink, etc.?
Tom: All the normal stuff applies; I try to stay hydrated and generally healthy. The big difference for me is the training and conditioning I have to do, which has taken years for me to figure out. A neurological condition like I have, there is no medical cure for a partially paralyzed vocal cord. You have to train it. And it’s not an exact science; it’s taken me years to figure it out. I’ve gone through a gazillion coaches and speech pathologists, picked up a little knowledge and technique from each of them along the way and finally figured it out.
So in recent years, I can say that it’s pretty strong and stabilized again, thank God. But I have to maintain it, that’s the big difference. I do a couple hours a day of voice therapy, even on a show day. Most show days my warm-ups and therapy are longer than the show. But hey, I don’t care, I’m just glad I can sing. And there were years that I couldn’t. From when I was diagnosed in the early 90’s I went through some dark times, and there were years I couldn’t get a note out. I’m just glad that I figured it out.
Amps: Well, over the several times I’ve seen you, I never heard a single problem, that’s all I’m saying.
Tom: Well, thank you. That’s nice to hear, ‘cause sometimes it feels like I’m havin’ a problem (laughs). It always feels left-footed because it’s different now. It may not always sound different to people but it feels weird to me.
Amps: Yeah, in August, 2011 you guys did a show in Long Island at the Crazy Donkey, and I remember you saying from the stage, “I’m sorry I’m having problems tonight” to the crowd, and I didn’t hear anything wrong at all. You were awesome!
Tom: Oh thanks, I do remember that show. We were having a LOT of sound issues and low-end feedback, and I remember it being EXTREMELY hot in that room, and I actually like heat. I just felt off that night. We had been hittin’ it hard and I didn’t feel like my voice was in top form that night, but I just do my best when I’m up there. And the cool thing is the fans have been so supportive of me. I’ve had to cancel shows, cancel tours, I’ve gone through surgeries, and there are nights that I’m 100% and nights where I’m less than, and I am so appreciative of the fans because they always support no matter what. I really feel fortunate for that.
Amps: Well with that in mind, I have to tell you, vocal cord problems/surgeries be damned. “Live at the Key Club” is one of my FAVORITE live albums of all-time!! The fire and energy comin’ off that show is just ridiculous!
Tom: Wow! Thanks! That was another great night, I remember it well.
Tom: Well, it just changes your whole sense of things. Now you’re responsible for this little person and a parent’s job is to make sure that they turn out good. He was born with a lot of really great qualities and talents, and he’s a smart little guy. But there’s still that responsibility of parents to raise them. It’s everything, it becomes everything. You have to make it your priority, and it’s a joy to do that. People always say that kids change your life and turn it upside down but it’s in a good way, and it just feels natural. It’s awesome.
Amps: This album really was well-received. How’d that feel after all the work that went into it, to have it be something that everyone pretty much loved?
Tom: Well, obviously that’s nice to hear. The feedback’s been really, really positive from the fans online and people that we’ve met at the shows. There’s nothing else to say but it feels good, particularly after spending that much time on a record. You know, the last thing you wanna hear after spending ten years on a record is that it sucks (laughs)!
Amps: What’s next for you? Tour’s gonna run into next year, and then what?
Tom: The rest of this year we’re on a bit of a hiatus. We’re doing some one-offs here and there; we’re going out and doing a show with Sammy Hagar later this month, and then just planning the tour for next year. We’ll have more single releases as well. We’re very fortunate to have a label that’s very dedicated and committed to the record and just in it for the long haul.
Amps: One last question. Do you have a favorite on the record, or no?
Tom: It’s hard to pick. When selecting songs for a record to me it’s always about dynamics and trying to create kind of a journey. You pick each one for different reasons, but some of my favorites on the harder rock side would be “Solid Ground”, “It’s Not Enough”, and you had mentioned “A Different Light”. I really like that one for the reason that it’s very different for me, melodically, and even production of it leans a little more toward the pop side than some of my more current influences. I love Train and Buckcherry, and jet, so there’s some things creeping into that one that came from some newer stuff that I listen to. I like ‘em all for different reasons. But I don’t think I could pick ONE favorite.
Amps: (coughing) “Babylon”! Oh, excuse me, I was coughing! “Babylon”? What?
Tom: (laughing) oh, that’s a cool one, too! That’s a fun one.
Amps: I’m sorry, Tom. I’m not your typical interviewer; I have no idea what I’m doing!
Tom: It’s ok, it’s refreshing, man. You’re fun.
Amps: Tom, thank you so much for taking some time with me. This means more than you know, I really appreciate it.
Tom: Well it was great talking to you too, my friend. You have an awesome day.
Amps: Best of luck with everything, and we’ll see you back in Dallas ASAP.
I really enjoyed talking with Tom Keifer. As I said, he’s so unassuming and just a laid-back guy. One thing I love to do is go back and listen to a record after the interview with someone. I feel like I understand the tunes a little bit better now, and I sure as hell won’t miss him when he comes back to town.