Cinderella’s Tom Keifer Scores a Solo Album Triumph with 'The Way Life Goes'

Cinderella's Tom Keifer has a new solo album, The Way Life Goes

For some, Tom Keifer will forever be known as the guitar-slinging front man and songwriter for Cinderella, the Philly-based blues metal band that scored massive hit singles (e.g. “Nobody’s Fool”, and “Coming Home”) and platinum selling albums throughout the late 80s. Keifer is cool with that legacy, yet his soon-to-be-released debut solo album The Way Life Goes (Merovee Records) – a record he’s worked on for 20 years – proves to be so much more.

It’s not as if Keifer just decided to go solo last week.  When Cinderella slowed its touring and recording schedule after its third album (1990’s Heartbreak Station) Keifer took stock of himself, his medical condition (nodes on his vocal cords), and his musical situation. Word at the time had him leaving Philly for Nashville, shaving his head and writing nothing but country songs. Mention that old story to Keifer and he laughs. “It’s funny that you use that phrase ‘shave your head and gone country’” says Keifer from his home in Nashville. “If you back up a few years before I left Philly, that thought occurred me when we released Heartbreak Station.” Keifer points to a song, “One for Rock and Roll,” that indeed had a country feel and used a pedal steel. “Next thing you know, I’m reading the reviews for it and all they focused on was that one song. Suddenly it was CINDERLLA GOES COUNTRY,” he exclaims. “Wow, it really was just one song. The rest of the album was driving blues rock, you know?”

Still, country was an admitted part of his influences, growing up as he had with C&W’s legends – the Hanks, the Merles – to say nothing of the fact that in his mind his favorite band’s best songs were its slowest and most country-inspired. “I love the Rolling Stones’ fast stuff, but it’s songs like “Far Away Eyes” that really got to me. Hell, even “Honky Tonk Woman” was country.”

It was easy for Keifer to drift a bit from metal, as well as his home. In his estimation, by the mid-90s the recording industry had changed. Though his label released one more studio album from Cinderella (1994’s Still Climbing), it was barely promoted and Polygram asked the band to leave. “That’s a polite way of putting it,” says Keifer with a laugh. “Musical trends were changing - at the time there was no major outlet for our music. That’s when the idea of a solo album came into play.”

When he arrived in Nashville in 1993 (“pretty much an overnight decision”) Keifer surprised the locals with his country skills as a writer and a musician. As for Keifer, he got a surprise of his own. “Those cats down there were up for playing and writing anything and everything. Guys who worked with George Strait, Dwight Yoakam and Patti Loveless were huge Zeppelin heads. They wanted to rock. You find a lot of that down here.”

No sooner than Keifer started making a solo record, things got put on the backburner because Sony offered Cinderella a deal. The band reunited but the album never came out, tangled up as it was in legal hassles with the label. Keifer was glad nonetheless. “That new sense of group purpose put us on friendly terms again. We grew closer from that. That is the good coming from bad, you know? We’ve continued to tour every other year or so. It’s a different sense of dynamics playing Cinderella songs than my solo ones.” Listening to Keifer rhapsodize about Cinderella, you can tell that he’s proud of those fast and flashy songs.

Still, Keifer had his own hard driving tunes to make, softer ones too, with hurt and loneliness at their heart. “After all is said and done, this solo album is a mix of every sound and every feel.”

Keifer is proud to say that The Way Life Goes took twenty years to make. “That’s how I got exactly what I wanted,” he chuckles. He went through 18 engineers (“what can I say – I’m particular”) and dozens of songs. Keifer met the woman that he’d marry during this twenty year period, Savannah Snow, who co-wrote and co-produced parts of this new album with Keifer and producer Chuck Turner. “Meeting and collaborating with her definitely helped turn the album around for the best,” says Keifer of his wife. “She’s one of the best songwriters I know.” A one-time staff writer for a publisher along Nashville’s Music Row, Savannah shares credits with her husband on the tender acoustic “Ask Me Yesterday”, as well as the thunderous “Solid Ground.”

Most importantly for Keifer, he was able to take his time and do it his way without interference from a record label. “I didn’t want anyone telling us what to do and when,” says Keifer. “I think the album reflects that independence.”

Philadelphia-area locals can check out their hometown hero can hit South Street’s Legendary Dobbs (304 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, 215.501.7288) on February 13; he’ll be touring outside of Philly throughout February.

Tom Keifer Photo by Tom Petillo

Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013