The Great Southern Brainfart recently conducted an interview with Tom Keifer, best known as the singer/songwriter/guitarist of the Philadelphia-based blues-rock band CINDERELLA. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The Great Southern Brainfart: [Your debut solo album] "The Way Life Goes" really feels like you had a lot of cooped up energy and just let it all go on this album. At times, I can even hear some of your anger/frustrations come through the songs which I love. Would you go as far to say that some of these songs were born out of your frustrations from CINDERELLA and life in general?
Keifer: Oh yeah, certainly. There's been no new music from CINDERELLA since 1994 for a number of reasons. Vocal problems, changes in the industry, life in general. We did have a failed attempt with a major label who, around '99 or 2000, was going to a record with CINDERELLA and it got very ugly and the record was never made and we ended up in the courts. On the heels of that was when I started actually recording the solo album. That record deal with CINDERELLA is actually what put my solo record on the back burner. Shortly after I had got to Nashville, I got the call to put the band back together and that we'd got a major record deal and they were going to resuscitate us and it all got really fucked up. [laughs] We were restricted legally from recording for a number of years and that's when we all started working on stuff, oddly enough, independently. All the things I just mentioned, between the voice and the frustration from the labels, are a huge part of what went into this record and some of the angst you hear in the lyrics are all about life. That's why I wrote the title track, "The Way Life Goes". You never know how life is going to go, and sometimes things that you think are one thing turn out to be something completely different. Life just keeps moving and changing and it's something that you've got to keep up with. That's what the song "Solid Ground" is about.
The Great Southern Brainfart: Tom Keifer as a writer and even performer really grew over the years into this very rootsy, stripped down artist. I always loved that you took the risk to do acoustic, almost Americana kind of material in a time when it wasn't really cool yet. Was that a very natural transition for you as an artist?
Keifer: Oh yeah. I always try to stay true to the music that I love, and I think that progression started as early as the "Long Cold Winter" album. My roots are bands like [LED] ZEPPELIN, THE [ROLLING] STONES, AEROSMITH, JANIS JOPLIN, THE EAGLES, THE JAMES GANG, I grew up on all that stuff. Those bands had contrast and used many different instruments. It wasn't just a wall of electric guitars. I think we really grew in the studio learning how to paint that picture a little bit broader and bringing in different instruments. We started doing that on "Long Cold Winter" by bringing in acoustic guitars, pianos, horns, dobros, and harmonicas. That just grew even further into the "Heartbreak Station" album and this solo album reflects back to that same kind of vibe where there's a lot of contrast to it. As the years went by from "Night Songs" to this record, I think I learned how to paint the picture. The thing that I've learned about more and more as the years have gone by is really getting down on tape what represents who you really are and what your roots are. It's like, what are the elements that I really need to have coming out of those speakers that really speak to who I am and what I grew up on. That's the thing that I learned the most about over the years and it is natural. It just kind of progresses as you go. We were green as green could be going in to make that first record. Thank god [producer] Andy Johns was there and was able to paint some kind of picture with us. [laughs] "Night Songs" is a very good one but it's very basic. It's much more straight-ahead and basic. There's nothing wrong with that, but we grew our production and studio skills as the years went on.
The Great Southern Brainfart: Over the years, CINDERELLA has definitely been performing the hits and blowing everyone away but as a huge fan of the band, I always loved the "Still Climbing" album. Why do you guys kind of ignore that one when it comes to making setlists?
Keifer: Well, we've done some stuff from that album on past tours, but I guess the biggest reason is that Mercury/Polygram at that time was changing, the industry was changing, and nobody was putting any money into promoting '80s bands at that point. They did nothing for that record, so very few people really know the record. When we go out on tour, there's always this demand to play stuff that the people know and are familiar with. Once in a while we'll throw in a song from that album, but for the most part, we try to keep the set because obviously you've got to play the hits. With my voice issues, I can't do a two-and-a-half-hour show any more. The show is about an hour and half and we want to get those hits in. It's a hard decision to make sometimes, but I'd like to do more off of that one sometime. When we did the actual tour for that album in '94, we did a lot of stuff off of that one. We did "All Comes Down" and "Free Wheelin'". We did "Bad Attitude Shuffle", and I think we even did "Through The Rain" on that tour.
Read the entire interview from The Great Southern Brainfart.
"Solid Ground" video: