Contributor’s Note: TOM KEIFER fans have been waiting six years for new music. That time is finally here.September 13, 2019 — KEIFER with #keiferband–Savannah Keifer, Tony Higbee, Billy Mercer, Kendra Chantelle, Jarred Pope, Kory Myers—released RISE on Cleopatra Records.It quickly jumped into the Top 40 on Amazon’s “Best Seller” list within hours of its release;
KEIFER previously released a lyric video for “Touching The Divine,” as well as a video for the album’s first single, “The Death Of Me,” featured on Apple Music’s “Breaking Hard Rock” playlist. His creative renaissance is fully on display via the eleven tough ’n’ tender tracks that comprise RISE. Produced by TOM KEIFER, Savannah Keifer, and Kyle O’Connor, RISE scales renewed sonic heights. From the tasty slide work that stamps “Touching the Divine,” the non traditionally arranged, heavy, dark jam of “Untitled,” the breakneck thrust of “All Amped Up” to the tender coda of “You Believe in Me,” RISE signifies the ongoing evolution of the former Cinderella frontman as a person, songwriter, and bandleader. It’s the aural portrait of an artist who, to borrow a phrase, is still climbing.
In touring news, TOM KEIFER and #keiferband have been on a vigorous trek ever since the 2013 release of his debut solo album, and they’re not slowing down anytime soon. Their current headlining tour began July 30 in Nashville, TN and continues through the end of 2019, with more shows being added in the coming weeks and already being planned for 2020. Fans can find Tom Keifer at the following locations:
- Photo Credit: Tammy Vega
A couple of years since we last sat down and chatted,I was recently afforded another opportunity to talk to Tom Keifer via Madness To Creation about his new album,touring and pretty much everything else.
Tom Keifer: I’m doing well. How are you?
Mark Dean : I’m good. Last time we talked, it was a couple of years ago, and you were out and promoting The Way Life Goes On. You’ve just brought out another solo album. Do you find that your work ethic has remained as strong as you get older?
Tom Keifer: Is it as strong?
Mark Dean : Yeah. Given that you have been touring relentlessly and now you have brought out this album, you never seem to stop. You seem to be constantly working.
Tom Keifer: Well, I don’t know if that’s work ethic or just not giving yourself a break, which it is. I think I love playing music live and the reason I think we’ve been working so hard the last six years or so is we’ve been really enjoying being out with the new band and the new energy and kind of building that out on the tour trail, and then as far as records, records kind of come when the inspiration hits you and you’ve got a pile of songs that you feel like you’ve got something to say. That’s what happened at the end of last year.
We’d been out on the road for quite a few years with this band and developing and growing our chemistry and we just … some song ideas came up along the way as we were on the road and we just felt like it was time to make a record last year, so we got into the studio and really buckled down and about a good five, six months straight really just kind of pounding out the tracks and, and creating this new record. It just felt like the right time.
Mark Dean : Given all your health problems and problems that you’ve had, all the operations with your voice, do you find that it’s a new lease of life, and that you’re just grateful that you’ve got your voice back?
Tom Keifer: Well, yeah, I’ve certainly have nothing but gratitude for that. It’s when you’re told that you’re never going to sing again because there was a neurological condition that’s not really, that doesn’t really have a medical cure … I’m very grateful to the vocal coaches and speech pathologists and all the people that I’ve worked with over the years who have helped me try to figure out how to make that vocal cord work again. It’s just really, it’s still something that it’s this fear in the back of your head because it’s that weakness is kind of always there and you have, I have to do lots of therapy to keep it strong. I think that there’s definitely a work ethic that has, that goes along with that because I have to really maintain it. But gratitude is the best word as you said. It’s all the maintenance is absolutely worth the … being able to have the, ability to do what I love to do.
Mark Dean : Returning to the album, then. The personnel involved, the band personnel. Is it the same as played on the last album or have you got some changes on there this time?
Tom Keifer: Well with the first record The Way Life Goes was created, there really wasn’t a band. Savannah and I were writing songs and recording and producing songs in our studio here, just kind of that we liked and it really wasn’t, thought really wasn’t that it was a record that was just kind of creating. One thing led to another and we ended up with a group of songs that felt like a record, but that was all recorded with session players and a lot of overdubbing and a lot of musicians not even being in the room at the same time and of an over dub process, which it came out great. It actually feels like a live band in the room.
The mixing on it really was well done to pull that kind of feeling out of it. But with this one, when that record was released or when we got the record deal for it, we kind of looked at each other and we were like, “Oh, well, now the label wants us to go support this.” So that’s when the band was formed that we are currently this and that we recorded this family.
So it was a very different process making both those records because the first one was not really a band and this one is a band that’s toured for six years. This record, we approached it setting up in actually a small room, very tight room, all in the room together, headphones on, hit record and just jam the songs out. We were really going for performances and the energy, and that was a very natural and easy thing for us to do because they don’t know who I was for six years. That came across in that room and we really tried to preserve that live kind of spontaneous energy and didn’t try to overdub it to death and fix things that didn’t need to be fixed. We tried to preserve that live feel.
Mark Dean : Yeah. Does it make it any, is it easier or more difficult to have your wife involved creating music?
Tom Keifer: It’s easier because we work so well together, and then she’s such a talented songwriter. I mean, probably the best I’ve worked with. We get … I was actually asked this question yesterday. What are the pros and cons or the challenges or difficulties in there, and there’s not really It’s more the challenge in balancing home life because we have a son so we try to pace our touring schedule where we can still have, since we’re both out on the road together, where we have normal family time, too. We try to balance the touring schedule where we have lots of breaks and we’re home with our son, so that’s actually the biggest challenge.
But in terms of working together, we get along really well and we write really well together. When you approach writing in the same way, it’s really cool to write with somebody who you’re living the same life with, so you experience the same things. So she hands me a lyric, I can relate to it immediately because I know where she’s coming from with it and vice versa, and we’re able to contribute to that story. If I have a lyric that’s half-written, she knows what the other side of it is.
Mark Dean :Yeah. Are you playing many of the new songs, The Rise songs out on tour at the moment?
Tom Keifer: At the moment we have three and we have the title track. We have the single, and we have the opening track on the record, Touching The Divine, so it’s The Death Of Me, Rise, and Touching The Divine we open the show with because it’s got that kind of Gothic intro that’s a natural kind of intro tip for the show. When we, I remember when we created that in the studio, we all looked at each other and was like, “Well, that’s kind of a natural opener for the set. It has a built-in intro tape.”
So I think it’s … we’re talking about adding a few more, but that set list was put together before the record was released and we’d been out touring for about six weeks prior to its release, so we only put a handful in. We’re talking about adding a few more, but we have limited space there because, you know, we still do the Cinderella saves or classics or hits that everyone wants to hear, and we also still have some stuff from The Way Life Goes in the set, too. We try to keep it to a cozy 90 minutes that to protect my voice, but currently we’ve got three and I think we’re probably going to be adding two more.
Mark Dean : Do you think it’s difficult, though, to get that balance? I’m sure you find that a lot of people respond more to the old stuff than the new stuff, and as an artist, obviously you want to focus on what you’re doing now.
Tom Keifer: Surprisingly and pleasant … we’ve been pleasantly surprised since the release of the first record The Way Life Goes, we were fortunate on that record that we had a label that really spent a lot of money on radio, and Solid Ground charted and did very well. That was our first single off of The Way Life Goes. People are very familiar with the solo stuff, and honestly and within the set, bouncing back and forth between new and old stuff, it’s pretty seamless. The response is equal, which has been really cool. But we’ve had … the labels involved with these releases have really gone to the wall and made videos and worked radio, and then we’re currently working the single at radio. We’ve got some great videos out there, so people are aware of the music and it has obviously my voice and guitar stamp on it, so it’s similar to-
Mark Dean : What you’ve done before.
Tom Keifer: … obviously has that stamp, so it’s not like they’re hearing something in between two Cinderella songs that sounds completely unfamiliar to them. It has the same type of energy. It’s actually pleasantly surprised that it’s … the new stuff has gone down very well in the show alongside the old classic. Even the unreleased, the three that we just put in from the new record before it was even released, people have been responding to them incredibly. I mean, we’ve been standing on stage just looking at each other going like, “Wow.” So it’s a thank you to the fans on on that. They’ve been really appreciating it and we do, too.
Mark Dean : Notice,? Now, your touring seems to be more focused on the US. Do you have plans, I think probably I asked you this the last time we talked a couple of years ago, to bring the band over to Europe and the UK?
Tom Keifer: Yes. We’re talking about that for next year. We actually did come over for about a three and a half week tour in 2015 and had a great time, and then we’ve been wanting to return ever since, and it looks like next year we will be coming back.
Mark Dean : It is difficult. Obviously it’s changed times since you first first started touring the UK in terms of finance and stuff. It must be hard to actually get the financial support to get some dates together and actually tour further afield? .
Tom Keifer: Well, that’s certainly part of it. I mean, it’s more of an expensive endeavour to come across the ocean and set up shop and tour, but we had a very good tour in 2015 and that was in support of The Way Life Goes, the first record, and now that we have something new out, we are working on putting something together for 2020.
Mark Dean : Do you envisage maybe headlining dates or maybe as a major tour support to somebody else or a mix of both?
Tom Keifer: I’m thinking that I don’t know exactly, but what I would guess is that we would probably be on some festivals with some headline dates in between. This is typically the way they route things over there, particularly in the summer, which is what we’re looking at.
Mark Dean : Okay. Last time we talked, I asked you had you any thoughts of writing an autobiography, and I think you mentioned at that time you had a couple of offers, but it wasn’t something that you felt you wanted to do at that time. Has that situation changed or is it still the same?
Tom Keifer: No, not really. I’m not really interested in that. I mean, I feel like the story is continuing. Let’s see where it ends up and see if it’s actually is an interesting enough story to tell. But I think we’re still in the midst of it. I don’t really have any desire for that at the moment.
Mark Dean : Okay. What would have been your first musical memory? Can you recall? Maybe a song on the radio or something?
Tom Keifer: I would say that probably the Beatles, seeing them on TV. That’s … yeah, I think that’s my first big kind of wow moment. Not that I hadn’t heard music before that, but that was one of the things that, wow. Hadn’t really heard or seen anything like that before.
Mark Dean : Who would have been the most influential musician that you have worked with? Somebody that’s taught you the most as a fellow musician?
Tom Keifer: Musician? I would put that more in the category of … I mean, I played with a lot of great musicians. I think in terms of learning about the craft of making records, I’m going to say Andy Johns. I’m going to put that more in the producer court. Working with Andy on the first two records was a lesson in how to really dig in and make a record and how to get it right and how to put that time into it, and really taught us the art of crafting a record, which is something we knew nothing about. Prior to that it was like, “Oh, we got a gig at this club up the street” and you set up the gear and you go and you play.
I think when you go into the studio for the first time, you think, “Well, we’re just going to set up and play, and there you go. Isn’t that great?” You find out that it’s a very different perspective coming through in the studio monitors, and that’s why you have a producer. I just learned everything about making records, and even … he really pushed me on lyrics from the first, from Night Songs, The Long Cold Winter. When we were working on Night Songs, he just really pushed me on the song writing thing and said, “You’ve got to dig deeper and you got to, you always have to top your next thing,” and really encouraged me to not take the foot off the gas on that and to keep digging and improve as a writer and a player. He was one of the biggest influences for sure for that.
Mark Dean : Okay. Fans generally turn to music to get in through the difficult and dark times in life. Just thinking of what we talked about earlier, when you were going through all those health problems, health major scares, where did you turn to? What got you through those difficult times? Was it the support of family or maybe music?
Tom Keifer: I think it was a combination of support of family and friends and faith, prayers, the love of music, the will inside to want to continue to be singing and playing, and just a lot of faith, that … with that condition, I’d worked with a vocal coach and feel like I was making some progress, but it’s a very, it’s kind of like quicksand when you have a paralysis. You feel like you’re getting somewhere and then you realise that you don’t. It’s very, very up and down and rocky, and that’s why, like I was told, most people don’t sing again or at least anywhere close to how they used to sing. So there’s just a lot of making progress two steps forward, four steps back for no reason and you can’t figure it out and just kind of head down and kind of keep doing the work and keep looking for answers, and having that faith that around the corner the next day is when things are going to turn and change.
It took a long, long time, and finally I think that at one moment that I can point to that were things really changed and I rounded the corner. I started working with an opera teacher who taught the opera technique. His name’s Ron Anderson. I started working with him in 2009, and that’s when things really rounded the corner. When I walked into his studio to work, he said, “I know your stories and I know you’ve worked with everyone” and he said, “I’m sure you’re frustrated” and he’s said, “I’m sure you probably think that I’m full of shit, too.” now,” but he said, “I promise you if you can master the technique that I’m about to teach you, that we’ll get you through this.” And he was right.
He was a really, really amazing teacher. Really was a great way about him in terms of being able to really instruct and make you understand what the right way supposed to feel, how to find your way back to that path that was lost. I’m very grateful for him.
Mark Dean : Yeah, because it must have been so, so difficult because it just wasn’t a physical thing. I assume it obviously had a significant mental impact as well because your voice was your life.
Tom Keifer: Well, yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s … yeah, a lot of mental aspect comes into it and psychological aspect. I suffered from all of that as well as on top of it the actual physical part of it.
Mark Dean : Yeah, sure. Looking back, you obviously prefer to look forward, but how do you view what you’ve created musically? Your own musical legacy from the solo albums, the Cinderella albums, what you’ve actually contributed and what you’ve done musically. How do you view it? How do you look on it? Is it, does it fill you with pride, a sense … little bit of self satisfaction?
Tom Keifer: Well, I’m proud of the records I’ve been involved in and the songs that I’ve been involved in the writing. I have always tried to, I think not force music, if that makes sense. Always … it all starts with a song, so I think as much as we all want to say, “Hey, we’re going to get up and just write a song today” and I’ve watched people do that, that’s not always how it works. Sometimes patience and waiting for the right inspiration and kind of being able to sort through what is a good thing to write and not to write. Sometimes it takes patience and kind of waiting for that inspiration as opposed to just like, “I need a song. We’re going to write it right now. I’m going to write it right
I think when you are patient and you wait for a real inspiration, hopefully you get, hopefully you’re writing something that’s meaningful and that touches people, so when I looked at the records that I’ve been involved with or the songs that I’ve been, that I wrote or had been involved in writing … I’ve been co-writing obviously much more with my solo project, I hope that it’s just something that’s real and meaningful and that has touched people. That’s your hope.
Mark Dean : Yeah. Are you still in touch with the Cinderella guys? I don’t mean a future reunion thing. I don’t mean that. I mean, on a personal level. Are you still in contact?
Tom Keifer: Yeah, on occasion. I actually just saw Fred, was at one of our shows in LA and we played, and talked to Eric once in awhile, and yeah, we’re still in touch. Everybody’s kind of doing their own thing now, but yeah, we’re still in touch.
Mark Dean : What about the next generation, then? Just wondered. You mentioned though, your son. Is he showing any signs of musical talent? Obviously he’s got a musical mother and a musical dad.
Tom Keifer: Well, he certainly has some musical talent, but his passion is sports. When he was very young, I mean, he had a small drum kit and he was very good on the drums. He’s taken, he’s picked up everything from piano to saxophone, he played for awhile.He showed some musical talent, but he just turned to sports at a fairly early age and that’s been his passion, so we just, we let him do his own shit. That’s his love and passion, and he’s a very talented athlete. Soccer is his game. He loves soccer. He’s a goalie.
Mark Dean : That’s great, Tom. Thank you very much. Hopefully I’ll get to see you in the UK. You said maybe next summer.
Tom Keifer: Yes, absolutely. We are aiming for that.
Mark Dean : That would be fantastic. Thank you very much for chatting and thanks for the music, which has been a strong feature, a strong part of my life from that first album and right ] up to the present day. Thanks for that.
Tom Keifer: Well, thank you and thanks for listening and thanks for having me on, and I appreciate your support. Really good chatting with you again.
Fans can check out Tom Keifer at the following gigs:
Fri. 10/11- Cotton Eyed Joe in Knoxville, Tennessee
Sat. 10/12- BMI Indoor Speedway in Versailles, Ohio
Tue. 10/15- The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan
Thu. 10/17- Jergel’s Rhythm Grille in Warrendale, Pennsylvania
Fri. 10/18- Seneca Niagara Events Center in Niagara Falls, New York
Sat. 10/19- The Goodyear Theater in Akron, Ohio
Wed. 10/23- The Vogue in Indianapolis, Indiana
Thu. 10/24- Green Bay Distillery in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Thu. 10/31- Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Fri. 11/1- Medina Entertainment Center in Medina, Minnesota
Sat. 11/2- Club Arcada Speakeasy & Restaurant in St. Charles, Illinois
For tickets and further information, click here.