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INTERVIEW: TOM KEIFER – December 2017

According to the most recent press release from Tom Keifer: “Best known as the singer/songwriter/guitarist of Cinderella, TOM KEIFER once sang, “You’re only going once around the ride.”  He’s proving that theory wrong with the highly anticipated release of THE WAY LIFE GOES – DELUXE EDITION, an expanded compilation of his critically acclaimed solo debut album, THE WAY LIFE GOES, chock full of bonus content and special artwork. KEIFER and his bandmates (#keiferband: Tony Higbee/guitars and vocals, Billy Mercer/bass and vocals, Savannah Keifer/vocals, percussion and piano, Kendra Chantelle/vocals and percussion, now along with new band members Jarred Pope/drums, Kory Myers/keyboards and vocals) have been touring in support of THE WAY LIFE GOES ever since its release and they’re still not showing any signs of stopping. THE WAY LIFE GOES – DELUXE EDITION was finally released October 20 on Cleopatra Records. The package includes the original album that has been remastered by Richard Dodd (Kings of Leon, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum). It also has two brand new studio tracks recorded in Nashville by three-time Grammy® Award-winner Vance Powell (Jack White, Chris Stapleton) with KEIFER and his bandmates. Fans will finally get to hear the long-awaited studio recording of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which KEIFER performs at all of his concerts, plus a powerful new take on the Cinderella classic “Nobody’s Fool,” newly recorded as a duet with Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. It’s wrapped in an all new six-panel digipak designed by artist David Calcano (creator of the Fantoons comic strip series) with 20 pages of one-of-a-kind unique illustrations depicting each song.”  I was able to jump on the phone with Tom to discuss the deluxe edition release and much more…

Photo: Tammy Vega

Toddstar: Tom, thank you so much for taking time out for us. I really appreciate it.

Tom: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Toddstar: I was lucky enough to talk to you back in April of ’13 when this album The Way Life Goes, the original edition, was just hitting the streets. Now I get the pleasure of speaking to you as the deluxe edition is out getting grabbed up by the fans.

Tom: Yeah, yeah. I remember talking to you. The name definitely jumped out in my email. I recognized it. So good to talk to you again.

Toddstar: Always good to speak with you Tom and as a fan it’s a huge pleasure. What was it about this album and the extra tracks that you felt deserved a deluxe edition instead of just throwing out an EP or something like that for the fans?

Tom: The record was initially released and was received really well by the fans and the press. And we had the first single, “Solid Ground”, was doing great at rock radio and “The Flower Song” was being played on several different formats from satellite to alternative and even some AAA stations. You know the record was doing really well that first year and we were touring and building a new band out there. And right in the midst of that, we were discussing a deluxe edition early on, but we had a bit of a legal issue that we ran into, for lack of a better word we’ll call it a corporate shake up or some business dealings that went on that the record got caught in the middle of. And the record was actually pulled from the shelves and online and hasn’t been available for two years.  So given the fact that we’d spent nine or ten years creating this album, if you remember from our first conversation, how the record was created. We had a lot vested in it and we believed in it and when it was initially released the reaction was beyond our expectations. And then it went away with this legal problem. So we had a choice, we could either just say good bye to the record and we felt like it was a bit of unfinished business, or we could fight to get the masters back. So we lawyered up and took a bit of time and a bit of haggling and it was a bit of a mess, but we got the masters returned to us the beginning of 2016 last year. And we thought before we shop for a new label and distribution and put the record back up on the shelf, as you will, we decided that we’d come back to the idea of the deluxe edition and add some of the things that we were talking about doing, or wanting to do, back a couple years prior to that. So that’s what we did. So it was really twofold, I guess, the reasoning behind it.

Toddstar: Well you put a killer version of The Beatles track “With A Little Help From My Friends” on there. What was it about that track that stood out to you? What made it that song you wanted to cover and put out there?

Tom: Well, actually Savannah suggested it when we started touring… or actually we hadn’t even played a show yet with my new solo band. We were in rehearsals and Savannah just threw it out there referring more to the Joe Cocker arrangement as being possibly a cool song to do in the encore because of the theme of it with friends and all of that. And my reaction to it initially was I was reluctant to really tread in the territory of Joe Cocker because he’s a hero to me and an idol. You know, I’m reluctant to cover things sometimes for that reason. But I got my arm twisted a little bit and we started playing it in rehearsal one night and it really started taking on its own energy from the Beatles or the Cocker version. It’s based on the Cocker arrangement but we kicked it up into a much more hard rock version or high energy. We definitely made it our own.  So that was the first creative collaboration that we did together as a band, with my touring band, because the record itself had been made over, as you know, over a period of nine or ten years with different session players and stuff. So that was our first creative endeavor. We’ve been playing it every night in the encore ever since and have had countless requests for a studio version of it. It’s often reviewed as one of the highlights of our show, even over the Cinderella classics or hits. It’s kind of become a thing for us. It was a real natural to pick that one as one of the bonus tracks.

Photo: Todd Jolicoeur – ToddStar Photo

Toddstar: Well way back in 2013 when you started touring for this album, I was able to see you at The Magic Bag here just outside of Detroit, Michigan and that was definitely a high point. Let alone watching you and your face when you got to sing with Savannah every night, you know. Getting to see that was a pleasure as a fan. But you mentioned Cinderella and you also have a cool version of “Nobody’s Fool,” you’ve got a piano version, which is a great break down version. But you’ve got a rocking version with Lzzy Hale who is, in my mind, one of the most underrated singers in music today. How did that come about that you were able to finagle and get Lzzy on the album with you?

Tom: She’s actually on both versions. The piano version is also with her, too. Lzzy, yeah, she’s an incredible singer, I mean like the best really. She’s got more gears in her voice, she can go from the most subtle, soft passage to like take your head off like nobody else can, and everything in between. So, yeah, she’s amazing. And the same thing. That song, we thought about what would be cool bonus tracks. “With A Little Help From My Friends” was no brainer. “Nobody’s Fool” really was, too, because it was something that happened along the tour trail. We did some shows with Halestorm when we were supporting The Way Life Goes the first year and Lzzy and I ended up on stage singing that song together and the fans just loved it from night one. And we’ve done it many times since on stage. We’ve done a lot of shows together since then. The reaction’s always the same. Just like “With A Little Help From My Friends”, we’ve had countless requests of people wanting a studio version of that. So that was another one that felt special or unique to this project, you know that collaboration.  So that’s what we wanted to do with the bonus tracks. We just didn’t want to go back to the original sessions and say here’s a couple tracks that didn’t make the record the first time around, which is a lot of time what expanded editions are. We wanted to record something new and different, but not necessarily new material because we’re working on a follow up record so we didn’t want to put new stuff. You know these songs made sense with the record because of how well they’ve gone down live and people have been wanting the studio version. So, yeah, the thing with Lzzy, the chemistry with us singing together from night one on stage has been just really amazing and everyone really reacted to it. So it was an obvious choice as well.

Toddstar: With this album, The Way Life Goes – Deluxe Edition, what are the songs on there that you think maybe because of the truncated shelf life of the album the first time around, what songs out there do you think didn’t get the attention or the life span that they should have that you’d like to see get some legs with this release?

Tom: Well, you know, there was a lot of attention on obviously the first single, “Solid Ground,” and “The Flower Song,” like I mentioned, got a lot of air play kind of on random formats, which was unique and kind of cool to see. And beyond that, I think I’ve seen a lot of different songs mentioned on line. One that hasn’t received probably a lot of mention is the title track. When we decided to release the deluxe edition and we were talking about what song we’d like to do as a video, music video, because we wanted to do a new video for the release, rather than doing the obvious like a single or that kind of thing, we did the title track because it kind of calls back the whole project. So we did a music video for “The Way Life Goes” and we put that in the set this year. And it’s been going down really well live and the video that we did has gotten very good, been received really well.  So that’s one that I think I didn’t see a lot of talk about the first time around and this time we’re pointing at it a little bit more and it seems to be being very well received.

Toddstar: Because I’ve had time to absorb this album, I did pick it up way back when, that has become one of my favorite songs. And I think, in my opinion, “Ain’t That A Bitch” and “The Way Life Goes” is one of the better one-two punches on an album. It’s so funny to me that it falls near the end of the album because it is such a strong one-two punch. It could have kicked off the disc in my opinion.

Tom: Well sometimes the songs towards the end of a record, you know, it’s just by nature of the fact you’ve got to put them in some order. But, yeah, I like both of those tracks that you mentioned. We felt that with the record having a deluxe release that doing a music video for the title track, which is kind of a call back to the record itself, was cool. And it’s one of my favorites on the record and live it’s really been going down great.

Toddstar: With 2017 coming to a close and 2018 looming, what are the plans for you guys with this? I mean do you plan on taking this full boat, doing another big tour to support this? What can the fans expect from Tom Keifer this go around coming 2018?

Tom: Well the record just being put back out as the deluxe, just about a month ago, October 20th was the release. And that was a long time coming between the lawyering and the battle over that and then creating the new deluxe edition and the documentary. We spent the better part actually recording those two tracks and mixing them and doing the alternate version of “Nobody’s Fool” and editing the documentary and all the art work. I don’t know if you have the actual physical package there, but it’s quite extensive what went into it, so we spend the better part of last year to make sure it was very special before we released it. Now that it’s back out we’re going to tour probably into next summer. We’re starting to pick dates for next year behind the record.  Because we’ve been touring for two years in support of a record that wasn’t available. Which made sense for us because we were building a new band, too, on the road because the first year was like starting over. You know, you mentioned the theater that you saw us in was some smaller venue, which is what we started out in and a lot of them we were lucky if they were half full. And over the last four years of being out there we’ve gone from that to being top of the bill, we had our headline or direct support on all the festivals and fairs. And we’re still playing smaller clubs and theaters but we’re selling them out now or really packing them. So it made sense for us to stay on the road even though we were having this trouble with the record. But it was really hard to see comments constantly online the last two years, “Just saw you live. Love the new stuff. Can’t find the record.” Or even worse, “I bought the record in 2013 and it disappeared from my iTunes.” It was really a mess.  Like I said earlier, combine that with the fact of how much time we put into creating the record and then having it very well received upon its initial release, to have that happen. This band just loves touring and playing shows so we’re going to stay out behind the deluxe release a little bit longer.  And we want to make a new record. We’ll be in the studio. We’ve got our eyes kind of set on the end of next, like the Fall of ’18, to get started on the follow up to The Way Life Goes.

Toddstar: So we don’t have to wait another nine or ten years for a new album?

Tom: No, I don’t want to wait another ten years. And don’t get me wrong, I mean I’ve loved the whole process of making The Way Life Goes. That’s a luxury I think any musician would like to have to just say, “The hell with it. I’m going to take as much time as I want to make a record.” And really the record started out with just Savannah and I and our friend Chuck Turner working in our studio. It didn’t even feel like a record. There wasn’t a label involved, there was no pressure, we were just making music. And one thing lead to another and we kept working on it and working on it off and on, taking breaks. I was still touring with Cinderella. And the next thing you know we have a record. And that was really cool because we backed in to it, there wasn’t the pressure of a label and a release date.   So it really felt like no stone was left unturned. So very creatively happy with it, even listening to it now you know it has very few creative regrets which is nice but I don’t think I want to make another record that way again. When we went into the studio last year to do the bonus tracks, Savannah and I both said, “Let’s just get like a really amazing producer to come in and call the shots, put our trust into them.” There’s two schools of thought. Do your own way, which we did and we took a long time to do it. But with the bonus tracks it was like we had a limited amount of time that we were available and our band was available and Lzzy was available. Around everyone’s touring schedule we had about three days to pull off the tracking. So we brought in Vance Powell and approached that very differently than the original tracks. Just had someone in there cracking the whip. In that situation you just put your trust in them and that’s a great way to make records, too. And I think that’s how we’re going to approach the follow up so that it gets done a little quicker and has a different flavor of production.

Toddstar: Regarding using a different producer, other than the fact that the songs are tacked on the end, you really can’t tell. Organically they sound like they fit with the original material from the album that Chuck did produce way back between 2003 and 2012.

Tom: But that always comes down to the mixing to me. So this was no different. Those two tracks we mixed over and over last year. I mean we went through probably eight different mix engineers and the usual crap because at the end of the day you can have the greatest performances and the greatest song in the world but if it’s not mixed where you’re hearing everything and it has the right energy, you might as well not even recorded it. I’ve always been pretty picky about mixing and so part of it was just trying to bring out the energy of the tracks but also make them go with the original tracks too, which is why we remastered the whole thing, too, because that’s a big part of it as well for that continuity.

Photo: Tammy Vega

Toddstar: We have both mentioned Savannah a couple times. How much fun is it still for you? Three years ago you loved it, you thought it was a blast – she’s your wife and best friend. But what’s it like to be able to do what you love with the person you love? Is it still such a pleasure for you?

Tom: It’s amazing. I mean it’s so effortless with us. From the creative process, we approach things the same way in terms of writing and working in the studio. We don’t force it. We have the same approach to that, which could be very annoying if we didn’t because there’s been people that I’ve written with that have a very different approach to writing maybe and it’s great for one or two times but you know, with us, since we approach it the same way, it’s just always very effortless. And so from the creation standpoint it’s cool. And then you know being on tour it’s just the best, you’ve got your best friend and soulmate as part of the band and touring. We’re also being able to sing together on stage for a couple of songs. All of it. I don’t think either one of us ever saw this coming and now that it’s here and we’ve got this new band that we built and we’re doing it together and new music being created together, it’s just the best.

Toddstar: That’s awesome. Well, Tom, I know you’re busy so I’ve got one more for you before we cut you loose. Previously I asked you about the meaning of life and what you thought life meant and all that stuff. Now I just want to know, looking back professionally, Tom, if there was one or two things that you could redo, or something you view as a misstep, what would it be and why?

Tom: The way I live my life is to not have regrets. I think that that’s the way to remain happy is you try not to live in the past and you try not to live in the future. You try to be here and now and I work very hard on living my life that way because I think it is the key to happiness. So that’s a really hard question for me to answer because I have let go of anything. You know there’s times we go, “Oh, crap.” But then you just got to let it go. You can’t beat yourself up. So, I don’t know. I don’t want to answer that question.  You can’t change the past so I don’t think about what I should have changed or shouldn’t have changed, you know, because everything leads to where you are today. There’s things that I could maybe go back and say, “Wow, I wish I would have done this sooner. Or I wish I would have not done this or that.” But you never know what that would have lead to. It’s really hard to try to erase those things from your history.

Toddstar: That’s true. Well listen Tom, as always my friend I appreciate you taking time out for us. I can’t wait to get you back up in the Detroit area. I hope every fan of yours reaches out to their local CD store or online retailer and grabs a copy of The Way Life Goes – Deluxe Edition, and they can appreciate the same thing that I have done for years.

Tom: Cool. Well I appreciate you talking to me today, supporting the record and the music, it really means a lot.

Toddstar: Awesome. Well, hopefully we’ll get to see you soon in Detroit, Tom, and we’ll talk to you then.

TOM KEIFER LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INTERVIEW: TOM KEIFER - December 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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