Last year for another online publication I contribute to, I had the greatest privilege to speak with the lead vocalist and main song-writer behind a successful Rock band called Cinderella.
It was the highlight amongst many others for a year that brought us his solo debut studio album 'The Way Life Goes'. Loaded with 14 tracks that shared varying styles like the blues, hints of gospel and some light country flair, alongside some traditional-feeling rockers that may have proved familiar thanks to his work with Cinderella, 'The Way Life Goes' was a top album without a doubt.
With other scribes here at MetalTalk Towers being snowed under with their respective workloads, the boss had no other choice but to give me the assignment. What would a second encounter with a guy known for such great songs as 'Shelter Me', 'Gypsy Road' and 'Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)' have to share I pondered?
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On the first meeting of our minds, he came across slightly distracted and a little weary as he tackled one set of interrogations after the next. The circumstances were very much the same; a set duration in which to ask as many interesting and eye-opening questions as I could muster! This is what I found out and have to share with you as a result of this second conversation.
"When a single gets picked it's usually a collaborative discussion between label, artist and management and I'm a person who likes to hear everyone's opinion. I like to surround myself with other people who are of that same thinking."
This is Tom's response to my probing curiosity over why 'The Flower Song' had been released as the debut single in the U.S., yet how the UK received 'Solid Ground' as the opening single. He also explained how they approached the single release across the Atlantic, which meant that they distinguished between the Rock chart and the mainstream Top 40.
'Solid Ground' opens up the album in fine rockin' form whilst 'The Flower Song' is lighter in vibe; a foundation of acoustic guitar and some subtle country-ish moments with the big hook-laden chorus to top it all off.
Getting the sense that Tom had some involvement within the business side in conjunction with his talents as a creative entity with his music, I enquired further.
"The business keeps changing. I think that's a constant learning process, the world of business and certainly the music business is changing constantly. I feel like not just myself, but everyone's trying to keep up with it." As he thinks more about the learning curve he's on, Tom adds: "It's been a long time since I've had a record out, and you want to talk about coming into a whole new world, because for years I've been touring with Cinderella and then all of a sudden I have a record out, that is in like a whole different world. It feels like a different planet from when I had records out in the 80s and the early 90s. It's definitely about you know, sit back and learn a bit."
I pushed a little for Tom to provide a specific example of something he had learned about in relation to 'The Way Life Goes' release.
"Well I'm definitely learning about social media. I was never really on social media before this record and when I signed the deal with the label; you know I knew what it was, but just was never really active on it. Didn't have a Facebook or a Twitter, and the label helped me get that set up and gave me a little education in it. I love it, it's a great way, another creative outlet almost you know and I enjoy being involved with that."
This debut solo album began in 2003, and throughout the following years on and off Tom would work away on his ideas. An integral accomplice to these sessions was his wife, Savannah.
"We write in a similar way in terms of, I've always been even going back to the early Cinderella records, whether it's a ballad or even a really hard driving song, much to a lot of people's surprise, some of those heavier songs start with a lyric idea from me; which to me is the true heart and soul and the essence of any song."
Carried by the momentum of his response, Tom explains how ideas can come to him at any time and any place before bringing in his thoughts about Savannah's approach: "Savannah writes in the same way. She likes to start with the true initial inspiration, the lyric; and grow the song and the music out from that. So, in that respect we're very similar in writing, and she's an amazing song-writer and also she co-produced the record with Chuck Turner and I. She brought a lot of creativity to that aspect too."
Reiterating Tom's point about how important and valued a contributor Savannah has been with 'The Way Life Goes', within the inlay card of the album you can read:
"To: Savannah, My love, my life, my inspiration! Give up my last breath if you were dying. Meant every word - Thick and Thin."
This is a reference to one of the ballads on 'The Way Life Goes' which is titled 'Thick And Thin', and incorporates a sweeping melody line that wraps itself around a gentle and tender piano before other instrumentation join the celebration; romance and creativity going hand in hand.
Noting the inclusion of high profile song-writer Jim Peterik, known for co-writing credit on songs for Sammy Hagar, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick and Survivor, including their mega-hit single 'Eye Of The Tiger', I asked Tom how he became involved in this solo venture?
"I was introduced to Jim Peterik when I was actually working with Cinderella, started to write songs with him then. When I got into this solo record, when I started the recording it was actually a period of time when Cinderella was legally not permitted to record together because of the lawsuit. But I continued to write with Jim for years after that, and three songs we wrote together; 'The Flower Song', 'Cold Day In Hell' and 'Ask Me Yesterday' ended up on the record."
Due to the length of time it had taken for him to accumulate the songs for this solo album, and judging from his response on our first encounter, I headed down the route of enquiring about any of the excess material and completed songs that hadn't made it on to this album.
"They could become part of another record at some point, or they may not. They could go by the wayside because new songs are written. I mean, before the first Cinderella record I had 60 or 70 songs and we picked ten or whatever that was on 'Night Songs', and I guess the thinking was we've got a whole bunch left for a second album and really not one of them made it. I wrote a bunch of stuff between you know, when we made 'Night Songs' and 'Long Cold Winter' that were perhaps more current, or better or I don't know."
Tom sounded quite upbeat as he thought about such things and added: "There is some good stuff laying around, none of its produced or recorded, it's just kind of song work tapes and stuff; there are some good songs and I haven't listened to any in a while but, this will depend on what I write between now and then as well."
Talk between us then headed on to promotional activities as he revealed that a whole new cycle of promotion was taking place throughout 2014 for this solo album. A lot more touring and perhaps some singles to be released were mentioned. Regarding a tour in the UK, Mr Keifer had this to say:
"I really hope so. I think when you have a new project and a new record out that the music kind of takes you where you're going to go, so that's a kind of a wait-and-see. I would love to, I really would. We've talked about it."
With the thoughts focussed on the live shows, I asked him what the set-list had contained during the touring of the U.S.? "Last year the show was comprised of about 50/50 old Cinderella favourites, or hits, and about half of the new record. We were doing about six or seven of the new songs."
Sounding more relaxed and composed than our previous chat, Keifer came across as somebody who was sensitive and thoughtful, open-minded and humble. It was a pleasure hearing him talk about an album that he'd evidently invested much thought and love in, and whenever he referred to his older band Cinderella, a subtle moment of excitement would rise within me. Surely it'll be a matter of time before we see something new from his band?
Possibly his biggest issue isn't whether to make new music with Cinderella, but how he's going to continue contributing and investing his energies in both a successful solo career and his band Cinderella simultabeously? One thing is for sure, he's not 'Fallin' Apart At The Seams' and he's 'Nobody's Fool' as he has a 'Second Wind' and knows 'The Road's Still Long'... (apologies, I couldn't resist it!)