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INTERVIEW: TOM KEIFER – October 2019

| 12 October 2019 | Reply

 

According to a recent press release: “TOM KEIFER’s highly anticipated album RISE with #keiferband–Savannah Keifer, Tony Higbee, Billy Mercer, Kendra Chantelle, Jarred Pope, Kory Myers—has garnered impressive debuts on various Billboard charts thanks to devoted fans who “rose to the occasion” with their ongoing support and devotion to the man who’s been releasing music for over three decades. It was released September 13 on all formats including CD (digipak), vinyl (in your choice of red, blue, or green) and digital. RISE quickly jumped into the Top 40 on Amazon’s “Best Seller” list within hours of its release.” We spoke with Tom about the new disc, touring, and much more…

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

Tom: Sure. Thanks for having me.

Toddstar: There’s a lot going on in the world of Tom Keifer right now and #Keiferband. Let’s start with the new record Rise. What is it about this disc that will be different for the fans of first or second time they listen through it?

Tom: The feedback that I’ve been hearing is that there’s just a real high energy kind of raw feel to the record and I think that’s a result of, the fact that we recorded it with the band that we’ve been touring with, with #Keiferband for the last six years. So we, literally came off, I have like straight six straight years of touring and went into the studio. So we, approached the record from a very live standpoint and, it’s a band that’s developed the chemistry over a period of time of being on the road. And I think that that’s really felt and the feeling the energy is attracts, songwriting and stuff that aside, just the approach to go in and straight off the road fresh and really going for performances with the band all in the same room looking each other in the eye, headphones on, hit record, let’s really bang this out. It’s probably the least amount of overdubbing I’ve ever done on a record. We tried to get a performance and then preserve as much of that as we could. A lot of these tracks from the drums up to even my lead vocal are right from the tracking dates themselves. We didn’t go back and change or fix a lot of things, which is normal on records. The way life goes was done completely but through overdub process because it was made with session players and it wasn’t that kind of thing where the band was all in the room at the same time. So I think the overall energy of this record has that type of feel. And that’s what we were really going for.

Toddstar: You can feel it. When it comes to the new music, especially on this album, what was more important to you in the production and the post production phase – the sound or the feel?

Tom: Well, I mean its two different things. Feel wise, you’re always trying to get the right feel or energy and they’ll make sure you get the right tempo and the right parts and grooves and things that flow together and express basically the feel of the track and the vocals is what is expressing the emotion of that lyric for the song. So that’s something that you really want to do first and foremost when you’re cutting a track that you want to make sure that it feels right. And then sonically, I don’t like things that are too, too slick or over processed. And I like things to feel like a band and to have that tension and kind of angst to them and feel like rock and roll in terms of the sonics. So, I think that we were definitely going for a wall sound for sure. I’ve kind of been on that path ever since heartbreak station, just kind of that dryer in your face. Not as processed as same things were in the 80’s, we’re slick, for lack of a better word.

Toddstar: Things were definitely a little more glossy and glammy back then. How did you approach, other than it being more of a team effort, how did you approach the writing process differently as the guy who puts his vocal stamp on every song?

Tom: Well, the writing, from day one, from me going all the way back to before Cinderella even had a record deal, the writing I’ve always approached it the same way. You’re trying to express some motions and things that you go through in daily life or equally as important things that you observe in the world or other people going through. That’s how it’s always been for me, and it comes from a place of lyrics first. Even going that far back, even the heaviest guitar riff driven songs started with a lyric. And then that lyric kind of dictates what kind of music… what’s the emotion more expression here, is it anger, is it frustration? Whatever the emotion is, you want to paint that picture with the track and the music. So that lyric really dictates to me what to do musically – if it is a guitar or maybe it’s a piano or an acoustic guitar or something like that. And then he kind of build the whole track and feel from there. Since I’ve been doing the solo records and writing the songs with others including Savannah who writes from the same place. She’s a lyrics first person. And we’ve had other writers that have written with us on the records as well. All of them are people who kind of write from lyrics first. So, it’s like when you get into that cohort situation than you kind of all from the same kind of inspiration where you got the title of the book first or the concept. And then you write the book from there, it makes it really easy. Savannah’s an amazing writer. And on this record we wrote everything together, and we also wrote with Kendra Chantelle, who’s one of our band members, and she’s a great writer that writes from lyrics first kind of perspective. And we also wrote the title track with Keifer and Shawna Thompson from Thompson Square. We wrote “Rise” with them; it was kind of like, let’s get that lyric idea going and then that kind of branches out into a melody and the cohorts then all follow.

Toddstar: It was fun for me to learn of it. You brought up with Keifer and Shawna. It’s one of the few country duos that I really dig listening to. I thought it was interesting that while you’ve never really been associated with country even though you’re based in Nashville, your music is so left field for me for country. How did the collaboration come together?

Tom: Well to me country’s never been that far from rock and roll. I think it actually is part of its makeup. I always say my favorite country band is the Rolling Stones because when they do The Girl With Far Away Eyes” or “Honkey Tonk Woman.” I grew up in an era in the 70’s where country was very much a part of rock and even hard rock. The Stones; Led Zeppelin had country flavors and Celtic flavors and acoustic kind of things. All that music was at that time was inspired by all of the American roots music from blues to country to R ‘n’ B. So my heroes listen to all that stuff, there have been tastes of it. Obviously starting day one with night songs, there was a heavy blues flavor in terms of the, just the melody itself, everything, all the guitar riffs and vocal wrists are based around the blues scale and, and even lyrically, you know, blues music is about real everyday things. And that’s what my lyrics have always been about. But there’s been tastes and flavors of country even back in the 80’s. On the second Cinderella record you had “Coming Home” and on Heartbreak Station, we had some stuff too and then on The Way Life Goes. So it’s always really been part of it for me. And I think that songwriting, whether you’re writing with someone as a country artist or rock artist, or reggae artists or whatever, if you’re writing from a place of lyrics first, doesn’t really matter what they are or what type of music they play as an artist. Because ultimately if the songs is being written for Keiferband, we’re going to be performing it and then we’re locked in. So writing “Rise” with Shawna and Keifer was no different than writing with, say if I went with someone who’s a rock artists because you write a song and then the style comes from his performing. So obviously Keiferband and I performed “Rise,” so we gave it that, the rock approach.

Toddstar: I was able to catch you guys live quite a few years ago now as the Keiferband at The Magic Bag in Ferndale, Michigan, just North of Detroit. Coming up you guys have some cool club dates, especially one up in Flint at The Machine Shop. What is it about your band, it kind of nods with that type of crowd where you’ve got that intimacy, you got that smaller house feeling, and everybody’s in that moment together. What’s it about your band that kind of plays into that?

Tom: I don’t know. I will say from going back decades for me, I’m not sure that I can put it into words. I enjoy smaller, intimate venues like clubs and theaters as much as I do the big festivals. And I guess obviously the big festivals have tons of energy. There’s 20,000 people or whatever, and those are fun to play. I guess specifically the smaller ones, the energy, and the enthusiasm in a smaller venue is contained by those walls, and everyone’s much closer to you. And sometimes less people because just by virtue of the fact that the venue is smaller, sometimes that feels like there’s more energy in that room. Sometimes those smaller gigs feel even more electric than a big open-air 20,000. It’s a lot of the energy, just going off into the air maybe I guess is the best way I can put it. But I enjoy both kind of equally, we started off, like you said, really only playing small venues. And honestly, they weren’t always that full cause people were just, learning about what I was like on my own and what the new band was, it’s like starting over. But over the six years we’ve been touring and this is one of the reasons we stayed out so long was we were building something new. And now we’re to the point, we felt last year before we made the record work to the point where we’re doing lots of big festivals and we’re top of the bill or at least second on the bill on those. And we’re still doing the theaters and clubs, but now they’re full, are sold out. We really built it and now we’re to a point where we’re doing both styles, the smaller more intimate theater club kind of thing, but also the big shows. And I’d have to say, with the span I enjoy both equally.

Toddstar: Having seen you with another band back in the day in the bigger venues and then seeing you at the Magic Bag, I personally was much more impressed with the way you controlled the flow of the show because you were almost feeding off that energy from that smaller intimate crowd.

Tom: That’s what I was saying… even though it’s less people, sometimes it’s more electrifying in that small room. So that’s the appeal there, and you feed off of it sometimes there’s more energy coming off the band, and those venues than there are when we’re on the bigger stages. Every gig is different man, it really is. It’s funny because sometimes you can play the same venue twice like, play it one year and then you go back the next year and the energy is totally different. So it’s just the makeup of the crowd. And how the band is feeling that night and all that stuff. It’s something that’s unexplainable I guess.

Toddstar: In listening to Rise, it is an amazing listen and comes off as very personal. This one to me, especially when you get into the lyrics of songs like “The Death Of Me” and “Touching The Divine,” the first few tracks, it just seemed like this was a really, really personal album for you, lyrically. Is there something that’s gone on for you that made you able to turn that on and make it feel that way? Or is it just the way you’re writing these days?

Tom: I’ve been very inspired since by this new band, and I’ve said this many times from night one we had a very special chemistry, not only musically but also personally off stage, you know, so we work really well together, and we’ve become a family and have a very strong bond, and we’ve lived a lot of life together up there touring, being on the road and even off road. We’re all from Nashville. So, we spend time together on and off the road. I think it’s been a shot in the arm for me to start something new, and I’m surrounded by some really talented people who really inspire me. But beyond that, we’ve been walking through life together, and a lot of that, like I said, things you go through or struggles you go through yourself or that you observe other people going through, we all have individually and kind of collectively gone through things together, and I think it’s inspired a lot of the music that’s on the record.

Toddstar: Looking back at the track list, what song or two from his disc are you most excited to share in a live situation?

Tom: Well so far we’ve only been doing three. We were out touring before the release of the record, and we had the title track “Rise” in there and “Touching The Divine.” We’d been opened the show with and we’ve been doing “The Death Of Me,” and I’ve been enjoying playing really all three of them and they’ve been going down really well, and we’re going to be adding as we tour now and now that the records that we’ll probably be adding some more. I wouldn’t say that any one of those three so far has been a favorite. It’s been fun to just be playing some new stuff and seeing people respond to all three of them. So those three songs are very three very different songs. I like the three of them for different reasons, so it’s hard to pick a favorite there. But I will say they’ve all equally gone down very well live, even before the record was released. People just come to hearing them for the first time live we’re kind of bouncing two of them and, they seem to really like them. So, that was cool to see.

Toddstar: That is good to hear. So many people get to meet you, whether it’s before a gig, after a gig, or they run into you on the street. When was the last time you were star-struck Tom?

Tom: I think that the time that I was probably the most star-struck, without a doubt, is when I met Little Richard. He was in the “Shelter Me” video and was a good friend of the director, Jeff Stein. I just remember when Jeff sent that concept over of the marathon to save rock and roll and we just loved the whole idea. He said, “I have an idea. I’m good friends with Little Richard and I’m going to have him be the ring leader / host / moderator.” And I was like, “What! Little Richard, is going to be in our video?” I’ve never been like an autograph kind of person. I had these rock and roll dog tags that that I used to wear all the time. I’ve put them away since because I asked Little Richard to sign the one for me on the back. I stopped wearing it so that wouldn’t wear off. I remember on the set sitting down near him. He sitting in one of those director’s chairs waiting to do his bit. I was really nervous, walked over to sit next to him, and told him that I was a fan. I just love his voice and have listened to him for years. That’s probably the most starstruck I’ve ever been – I mean it’s like this Little Richard.

Toddstar: That’s very cool. Looking back, when it comes to this album, are there any songs that are sitting kind of in the wings that you can do like remastered or another release kind of like you did with the last album or were these kind of the songs that pulled together and this is the best of the best.

Tom: We didn’t cut any other songs. We never overcut with Cinderella. There’s some songs left over from The Way Life Goes. There were a lot of songs that we chose from, but we didn’t really record any masters of them. We kind of just recorded those songs. And the same with this one. I’ve always approached it from that like, well these 11 or 12 feel great – let’s just go do them. And I’ve never really overcut… I don’t know, it takes a lot of focus and a lot of time to get a track right. In answer to your question, there’s nothing laying around. There might be a few song ideas that we didn’t write and record that might crop up on the next one. But no, we finished masters or tracks that are just sitting in the bag.

Toddstar: Rise from Tom Keifer and Keifer band has been out about three and a half weeks now. So maybe went out and grab it. I think it closes out with a perfect song. I love “You Believe In Me.” That’s the one that I go back to time and time again. Tom, we have believed in you for decades and will continue to believe in you and I can’t wait to see you back here in the Detroit area very soon.

Tom: Well we’re looking forward to the show in Flint at The Machine Shop and thanks so much for having me and you have a great day.

TOM KEIFER LINKS:

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Category: 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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