The Way Life Goes: Cinderella Guitarist Tom Keifer Discusses New Solo Album
For guitarist Tom Keifer, The Way Life Goes is an appropriate title for his first solo album.
The Cinderella frontman has had to endure many personal and emotional struggles over the years, including being diagnosed with a partially paralyzed vocal cord and being told he’d likely never sing again.
Having battled back from vocal injury, and now finding himself at the right place in life, Keifer has delivered an album that takes an honest, introspective look at the man who’s written some of the most memorable hard rock songs of the ’80s.
Although production for The Way Life Goes began in 2003, the real roots of the 14-song album can be traced as far back as the mid-’90s, when Cinderella parted ways with their record label and Keifer first began considering a solo project that would eventually take years to complete.
Fans who’ve been clamoring for new Cinderella music will no doubt find comfort in The Way Life Goes, but the album also has Keifer exploring new ground and brings a sound that immediately conjures images of a young Rod Stewart or the Rolling Stones. Even more important than the vibe or showcasing the roller coaster ride he’s been on, the album exposes the refreshingly deep writing style Keifer shares with his wife Savannah (who co-produced the album with Keifer and Chuck Turner).
It may have started out as an idea during the Clinton administration, but The Way Life Goes is a testament to Keifer’s perseverance and love of music. There’s an old adage that says good things come to those who wait. For those who’ve stood with Keifer during his trials and tribulations, this wait has certainly been worth it.
I spoke with Keifer about The Way Life Goes and also got an update on the future of Cinderella.
GUITAR WORLD: Was there more personal satisfaction in having finally completed this album, as opposed to a Cinderella album?
It’s a big relief to be finished with this one, only because it was so long in the making. In terms of the creative process, I’ve always had tons of freedom with Cinderella and this project. This one took longer because it was produced independently and there were no deadlines or release dates to worry about. It also allowed us to leave no stone unturned in terms of the performances and arrangements.
What was the songwriting process like?
I’ve never been an appointment writer. I always wait for the song to find me. Sometimes I’ll be out shopping, on a plane or just driving around and I’ll get an idea. It’s usually a lyric idea and maybe a melody that comes to me. From that point, I’m usually racing to get to an instrument [laughs]. I also never use a voice memo recorder or anything when I get those ideas. If I can’t remember the idea, maybe it’s not worth pursuing. But if a song idea sticks with me for weeks or months, eventually it will get written. From the first Cinderella record through this one, that’s what I’ve done. It’s what I like to call my natural filtration process [laughs].
Your wife is also an accomplished songwriter. What’s it like working with her?
It’s great. Savannah and I are from the same school of writing where you wait for that really great lyric inspiration to strike. It works because when you do finally sit down with guitars or at the piano, you have something that feels real and honest to write about.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new album: “Solid Ground.”
I had the spark of an idea for the guitar riff and chorus and one night, Savannah and I were sitting around the living room and I started playing it. Before we knew it, we had completed the rest of the song.
“The Flower Song”
That was something that had been kicking around in my head for a long time. I originally had the idea for it back in the late ’90s. I had just started writing with Jim Peterik (Survivor, Ides of March) and pulled the chorus out and played it for him. He liked it and the two of us finished it up. The end result is what you hear on the record.
Can you give us an update on Cinderella?
We’ve toured the past three years in a row and decided to take a break for a little bit. That’s not to say there won’t eventually be new music. It’s a question of the right opportunity presenting itself.
Speaking of guitar riffs, where did the inspiration come for the one in “Gypsy Road”?
Most of the Long Cold Winter album was written while we were on tour. There’s a lot of imagery on that record that feel like moving. That particular riff always sounded like “moving down the road” to me. It was inspired by the lifestyle of being on the road and constantly moving.
Did “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” have that same kind of vibe?
“Don’t Know What You Got” was actually written in the studio when we were working on the Night Songs album. Life was pretty good at the time, and I remember being on my way to the studio one night and started wondering what it would feel like if it all went away.
What’s the story behind Jon Bon Jovi “discovering” Cinderella?
Jon was in Philly when we were coming up in the clubs. They were recording their second album, 7800, and he wandered into a club one night after a session. He really loved the band and talked us up to his A&R guy, Derek Shulman. Derek signed us to a six-month developmental deal, and after that he was all in and signed us to a full deal. Jon was the “X factor” who mentioned us to Derek. I remember he told him “Forget about any demo, just go see them live!”
A lot of artists have written books about their careers. Have you ever given thought to writing one about your own experiences?
About six years ago I was approached about writing a book. I thought about it for a minute, but the conclusion I came to was that I’m going to wait a while longer before I write it. My story’s not over yet.
Photo: Thomas Petillo
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.