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In my tenure at Invisible Oranges, I’ve made no effort to hide my fondness for the less-extreme side of heavy metal. Hair and glam records stay in my repertoire—there are no such things as guilty pleasures. When it comes to seamstress-approved 80’s records, my personal favorite is Cinderella’s Night Songs. Other bands had more shred, more pop, more bad-boy antics, but something about Cinderella just hits me square in the underbelly—I think it’s got something to do with Tom Keifer’s voice. The man’s scream had the same ball-busting intensity that Brian Johnson of AC/DC has, but with a wider range, and at times more clarity. Johnson never sold a ballad to me, but Keifer has a particular ability to do so.

Glam as a movement may be over, but Keifer is still making music. He independently recorded and released a solo album last year, and while it’s not metal it’s actually pretty darn good. Keifer’s been touring on and off behind that album, the Way Life Goes for almost a year. So when I had the opportunity to pick the Cinderella front man’s brain about the transition from major label to indie, the unique quality of his voice, and the creation of my preferred glam LP, I couldn’t resist.

—Joseph Schafer

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So, you’re still touring behind your debut solo album, and it’s an indie?

Yeah its been out, it came out last April, so its something I worked on for years. We recorded it without having a label involved so we really took our time with it, and it was really just about the music and trying to write some great songs and capture some moments. It took almost nine years to make the thing, so its quite dear to me. I produced it with my wife Savannah and a friend of mine Judd Turner, so we had a fun time making it.

Where was your emotional headspace with the writing of that record?

Well, you know, songs for me, its all influenced by life, life is the inspiration. So the emotional headspace can be anywhere from, you know the full range—from being pissed off to feeling happy, or feeling in love or falling out of love, all those things. My greatest influences as a musician are all people who were influenced by the blues and American roots music, so lyrically my songs are always about real things and real emotions, and obviously in life those emotions range pretty wide, so. I would say this record was no different for me in that sense from any other record I’ve been involved with. And the songwriting comes from real places, which can be different on any given day.

Did you feel liberated by not having a label involved in the recording process? Or I could see it being the other way, you could kind of feel constrained because its all your money. So how was the independent thing working for you?

Producing it independently was cool in the sense that you weren’t under the gun to have it done by a certain deadline or release date or something. It didn’t really make me feel any freer in the sense of, you know, the style. I always, when we were with Mercury with the Cinderella records no one really told us what style to play. We always kinda had free reign to do that, so it didn’t feel liberating in that way. The liberating thing was we could take as long as we want. That was kinda cool.

Are there any pieces on your solo record that you feel are exceptionally good, or songs that you’re particularly proud of and why?

Um, well, different ones for different reasons. I mean we really tried to make a record that was a full album and not just a couple great songs or tracks and the rest filler. So they’re all on there for a reason and I’m proud of all of them, so its kind of hard to pick your favorite child, right. Because we spent so long on it. They all have a different feel to them so its hard to pick a favorite.

Yeah, but perhaps there’s one particularly pleasant to play live then, or no?

Well we’ve been doing “Solid Ground,” which was the first rock single, you know, since we started touring last year. And that one’s really fun to play live, that one has a really great feel live, I would say currently, of the new material I think I like that one the best.

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And on your tour right now are you playing just material from the solo records or are you doing Cinderella material too?

No we do a lot of Cinderella material too. We do all the hits, or classics or whatever you wanna call ‘em. Tons of that stuff in the show as well.

Yeah you know I was particularly interested in talking about your past career as well just because Night Songs is 28, going on 30.

Is it?

Yeah it is. Take me back to when you were writing that record, what headspace were you in, what memories stand out to you from the creation of that record?

Well I had just kinda come out of the club scene, you know I was really young, and had been playing, doing cover songs. In multiple cover bands in the Philadelphia and South Jersey area, and I just got fed up with playing other people’s music. You know it was a cool way to cut your teeth in that environment, but there was a point where I just wanted to write music and just start doing your own thing. So that’s really what started Cinderella, and that’s when I started writing those songs for that. And you know, it was again, the headspace was writing songs from real life, things that I felt every day, that’s my influence and my inspiration from the artists I grew up on. It was always about real things in the lyrics. And songs always starts with the lyrics for me. Even the heaviest song with the heaviest riffs always start with a lyrical inspiration. So that’s always been my way of doing it, always waiting for that real inspiration to hit you and then you just sit down to write about it.

So did you find the writing of it particularly easy or difficult?

It was very easy. Writing’s always very easy for me because I don’t force writing, I don’t get writers block because the only way you can get writers block is if you’re trying to write when you’re not inspired. So I always wait for an inspiration and then write it, if I don’t write a song for two years then I don’t care. You know, that’s just how I’ve always approached it, I don’t like to force it. I find when I have in the past that its usually not as good of a song as when it kind of hits you.

So that being your first record of all originals, what was influencing you at that time. Was there anything that you remember you were listening to a lot.

Well musically, the things that I was listening to ranged from stuff that I grew up on, you know stuff that I still listen to to this day, stuff like the Stones, Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Janis Joplin. A lot of stuff like James Brown and the Eagles, my musical taste would vary, so all of that. It kinda went into the pot and came out with kinda my own sound. And also AC/DC, I was a big big fan, I loved AC/DC, that was one of the things I was listening to a lot at the time. So, many influences went into what ultimately came to be the sound for that first record.

You were unique in that scene in a couple ways. One of them being, I think a lot of people, I can’t think of another 80s hard rock band that used saxophone in the way you did. What’s your relationship with that instrument? And did people give you guff for using it or was it like, ‘cool! you’re using saxophone!”

I don’t know… The love of that instrument for me probably comes from the Stones more than anything, and Bobby Keys, but also Bruce Springsteen. Growing up, the E Street band, that sound was pretty popular in the 70s when we were growing up, so I always loved the saxophone. So we used it as rhythm parts, it would kinda blend in with the rhythm section which the Stones did a lot, but Aerosmith did that a lot too, so I probably was influenced a lot by those bands. I think that people were probably surprised when on our third record the single “Shelter Me” went into a full-on sax solo. But I think people liked it, I mean some people might have been turned off by it, but for the most part that record got really great reviews and fans love "Shelter Me" still to this day. its one of the more popular songs live. And you know, when you try new things sometimes people don’t like it, but by-and-large I think most people accepted what we did.

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When you started, how did your voice feel? Your voice is still kind of gruff compared to a lot of your contemporaries.

You mean compared to them back then?

Yeah.

Well, my influences as a singer were all kinda rough singers. I loved Rod Stewart, I loved Janis Joplin, I loved Steven Tyler. I always liked singers that kinda had that edge, Steve Marriott. And as I mentioned before, James Brown. Those were always the people that I kinda latched on to and tried to emulate. Robert Plant too, that upper-register scream was one of the first things that I loved and tried to emulate as a kid.

But you never hurt yourself at all?

Have I? Oh yes, I’ve had six surgeries, and I lost my voice and was told I’d never sing again years and years ago in the early 90s which was a result of a paralyzed vocal cord, which really doesn’t have anything to do with screaming or anything, there’s other medical reasons that that happens. So that condition, long story short, makes it very difficult to sing and most people never sing again when they have it. There’s no medical cure for it so you have to train yourself and work with vocal coaches and speech pathologists to try and figure out how to make the chord work right. And along the course of that process I injured myself many times because its so difficult to sing with that condition and I’ve had six surgeries to repair that damage on my vocal chords.

Well Im sorry that that happened that sounds awful, but there’s a lot of rock singers that have had to have vocal surgeries in their careers. And it does seem like the ability of the human body to compensate is still remarkable to me.

Yeah, the damage on the chords themselves is usually repairable through surgery. The neurological condition that I have is not fixable through surgery or medicine, and like I said most people do not recover from it and I was told I would never sing again. But I have worked with countless coaches and figured out how to make it work. But there were years I couldn’t sing at all, you know? Not a note.

Looking back, which songs remain in your repertoire to this day.

From Night Songs?

Sure.

The title track ”Night Songs” is currently in the show with the solo band. “Somebody Save Me” is, “Nobody’s Fool,” “Shake Me,” I think those four.

That’s still a pretty serious chunk of the record. What do people respond to about those songs, is it just because that’s what they heard first? Or is there like a particular flavor about them that you think is powerful in some way?

I think that they’re just songs that people caught onto back then, you know obviously three of those songs are singles and quite popular. And ”Night Songs” being the title track and one that we, an album track that we always played live, they’re the singles, they’re the favorites, they’re the ones that people really respond to live and that I really enjoy playing. So you know I think that’s the main reasons.

So what kind of musical directions are you going for in the future? Are you gonna record another solo record or no?

It’s hard to say. I’m a person that really takes life one day at a time. And right now we’ve been out touring supporting this record since last February. And you never know what’s around the corner with life, I didn’t really see being out this year with this record, but we’ve had a lot of success with it and its been well-received. So this project’s been kinda growing, so you just never know is what I’m saying. I’d like to, and I’m sure at some point I’m gonna make some new music, I’m just not really sure when. 'I guess,' is what I’m trying to say.

Have you had any younger or more contemporary artists reach out to you and say you know, ‘you were a big influence on me’ in some way or another, and if so, who? I’m interested in your assessment of your own legacy.

Well one that comes to mind is Lzzy Hale, she has said that. And that’s obviously something that’s really special, that you have an influence over someone’s music, or what they’re doing. And I think she’s an amazing singer, and songwriter and guitarist. And I’ve had the opportunity to do some shows with them, with Halestorm, with my solo band. We’ve done three together, and gotten to sing with her, and she’s just a great person. So that’s one that comes to mind for me, and I must say I’m proud to be someone that she names as an influence because I think she’s really great.

Awesome. They just released a tribute to Ronnie James Dio record and I don’t know if you’ve heard it but you should pick it up. Its got like, tons of people on it. And the Halestorm cover on there is fantastic, it might be my favorite one.

Yeah I’ve heard it, its great.

So what are your ambitions for the future at this point?

Well at the moment we just want to be out touring behind this record, we’ve got some singles coming out, just released “Its Not Enough” and the label’s gonna release more. Kinda finish what we started with this record and take it to the streets as they say and just tour and go everywhere we can with it. And then probably immediately after that I want a little bit of a rest and I’ve been touring for years now, I just did three back to back tours with Cinderella, in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and then last year with my solo band and again this year with my solo band and it looks like probably we’re gonna go into next year, we’ve started to book into next year with the solo band for this record. Its been amazing, its been great and I look forward to all the shows coming up and when that’s all said and done and we’re at the end of the record cycle as they call it on this one first thing I’m probably gonna do is take a break. And then I’ll probably make some more music.

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