For the past ten years, Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer has been at work on his solo album, The Way Life Goes. Now, in advance of the album's April release, Keifer has embarked on a short tour to preview some of the material from the forthcoming disc. The solo material is a bit of a departure from his hair metal days with Cinderella, and it suggests Keifer's blues and early rock influences. Keifer, who suffers from vocal paralysis that has made it difficult for him to sing, recently spoke about the ups and downs he's experienced in the last decade as he's tried to finish The Way Life Goes.
Talk about the rollercoaster ride you've been on for the past 15 years.
Well, a lot of it has to do with struggles I've had with my vocal chords. I was diagnosed with partial paralysis in my left vocal chord years ago and that's a constant struggle because there's not really a cure for it. I was told I would never sing again and the only chance of singing again is to retrain it to do what it's supposed to do. That's a daily struggle. Just life in general. Over the past 15 years, there's been lots of tours with Cinderella. Lots of great family life. Our son was born during that time. Working on this record, so many things have gone on that it veered me off the track of making the record. That was a good thing because it provided objectivity. For example, we started cutting tracks in 2003 and shortly after that, we had our son and took a break just to be parents. A lot of things—good and bad—took me on a path that ultimately led to this record taking ten years.
Talk about your new single, "The Flower Song." It has a bit of a retro or even country vibe to it.
I would say acoustic. Maybe a bit of a country flavor with some of the slide guitar. That song for me, and the inspiration for it in terms of its style, comes more from singer-songwriters like Rod Stewart that I really admired while growing up. On [1988's] Long Cold Winter, we had "Coming Home" that has a little bit of a country feel to it. I always thought the Rolling Stones had a country element mixed with blues. That song is just one aspect of the record. There are a couple like that in terms of being more intimate or acoustic. On the other end of the spectrum is some pretty hard-driving, blues-infused hard rock. There are a lot of things in between. My goal is to make an album that takes you on a bit of a journey instead of being the same thing all the time.
You've always been a big fan of the blues, right?
I was introduced it to through rock players like Jimmy Page. My heroes as a kid before I knew what blues was were playing blues-inspired rock and a lot of times just straight up blues, like Led Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Loving You." I didn't know what it was called but I figured it out. I delved back into their influences. In my late teens, I started checking out what my heroes were into and started getting into Little Richard and Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter and Son House and James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis and Robert Johnson. I got into all that stuff. It's cool when you go back and listen to what your influences were into and hear it first hand and put your own twist on it.
I read that you were shy and originally didn't want to become the lead singer in Cinderella. Is that true?
Well, all through my teen years, I didn't sing that much. I mostly played guitar in all the cover bands I was in. There would always be a front person. I would sing some songs. I would sing Zeppelin and Rush and a lot of stuff in the higher register. When I started to write music, I reluctantly took that job on. I didn't hear anyone in the scene who had the right sound I wanted for the songs I was writing. I started to develop my voice more and more. In the early demos, I wasn't that great. Getting the opportunity to work with [producer] Andy Johns really helped me a lot. I learned a lot and grew as a singer through each record. I was then hit with the voice paralysis. There's a silver lining in everything. I've learned things I wouldn't have known by going to voice teachers. I was told I would never sing again and I'm still singing. That's the good news.
With Cinderella, you were a really engaging frontman. Talk about taking on that role.
That comes naturally when I get on stage. I'm different off stage than when I'm on stage. You get that rush of adrenaline when you hit the stage. We played some high-energy music and you get caught up in it. The best thing you can do is let the crowd and music come through you and do what you feel. It's not like I had stage fright. After I had the voice problems, I started to get nervous. But originally, it just felt natural.
Are you playing Cinderella songs or solo songs on this tour?
It's about half and half. I'm trying to strike a balance between the show having some good, ripping high-energy rock and showcasing the songs off the new record and giving everyone some of the old favorites. It'll be dynamic and diverse, everything from an acoustic sit down section that will feature some old songs and some new songs that will have a storyteller's vibe. I'll talk about how some of the songs were written and that's new for me because I don't talk much on stage. The idea of going into some smaller venues to preview the record and maybe do some acoustic stuff provides a chance to for fans to hear the new songs before they're the record is even released. The idea is to let our hair out and rock a little, strum a little and tell some stories and have a good time.