In November of 1988, hair-band heroes Cinderella charted the highest ranking single of their career with “Don’t Know What You Got ’Til It’s Gone.”
Less than three years later, a major catalyst for the band’s success—lead singer Tom Keifer’s instantly recognizable raspy howl—was gone. He was the victim of vocal paresis. It appeared the rock clock had struck midnight on the Cinderella man’s career. But now, after the industry and some of the field’s top docs ruled him down and out, Keifer has ascended from the proverbial audio ashes with a new solo release (his first), That’s The Way Life Goes, and a Feb. 16 stop at Salisbury’s Blue Ocean (blueoceanhall.com) in support of said studio effort.
The Crawler recently caught up with Keifer to talk about the long road back. Here’s some of what went down.
Nightcrawler: Happy to hear you’re back in the saddle and willing to take some time to chat.
Tom Keifer: Thanks. You know, they told me I’d never sing again, but I am a “never say never” guy. So I have worked with coaches, speech pathologists and the like, and I’m just happy to be able to sing again.
So is this affliction something you’ve beaten, or is it ongoing?
It’s a neurological disorder that affects the muscles, so its definitely something I always have to work on and stay on top of it.
You have a very distinctive vocal style. Will we notice a departure from that?
I suppose there is a little more mid-range, not quite as high or raspy. But it’s definitely still me, and I wasn’t even necessarily thinking about singing higher or lower—or if I could—for each song. I just tried to accomplish exactly what the song needed.
How about the entire new disc as a whole? I mean, so much has changed since your last studio effort—some artists don’t even bother putting out an album proper. They just pump out 99 cent Itunes singles whenever the spirit moves them.
Yeah, I get that. But I was brought up listening to music in the ’70s, where they very much saw an entire record as a journey. I have always subscribed to that school of thought and still do.
How is this solo record, and the entire solo process, different from the group setting in Cinderella? After all, you were the chief songwriter there. Can we expect some more country influence since you live in Nashville now?
(Laughs) I am in Nashville, and I just love it, but you know, I’ve always had a little country in me. Just listen to “Bad Seamstress Blues” or “Gypsy Road.” So there’s that, plus plenty of hard-driving tunes and acoustic-driven tunes with rock choruses. You’ll hear it all at the show, as well as the Cinderella hits, of course. A little something for everyone.
Speaking of veteran rockers going Nashville, the Valley’s own Aaron Lewis returned to the Mohegan Sun last month in support of his latest country outing, The Road. As a perennial attendee at what has become a perennial gig, the Crawler always wonders what the multi-platinum, multi-genre hometown hero will bring to the proceedings. In the early days, these January Lewis shows were actually held in Mohegan’s Cabaret, and served as little more than a Staind unplugged series. Things got really interesting as his “Country Boy” topped the Country charts; the audience was literally split between cowboy hats and baseball caps. But last year, Lewis took complete command of the mixed massese_SEmDa true troubador at the top of his game, belting out more hits and covers than a high school student’s Ipod.
At this last stop, as mentioned, there was the business of promoting The Road to attend to, and for any tune from it, including the current hit “State Lines” or the dreamy twang of “Forever,” he’d break from the solo format to bring out a full band.
Upon hearing one fan’s incessant request for a cover of Tool’s “Sober,” Lewis finally replied “Yeah, look, dude, that’s probably not going to happen tonight, so you can stop screaming it,” to laughs.
In between poignant versions of Staind’s “Zoe” and “So Far Away” later in the set, however, he seemed to offer a peace offering in the form of a rousing rendition of Alice In Chain’s “Rooster.”•
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