For rock ‘n’ roll fans, Cinderella front man Tom Keifer needs no introduction.
His wailing vocal delivery became a siren of 1980s rock – until he was struck with vocal paralysis, resulting in concert tour cancellations, multiple surgeries and vocal therapy.
Today, after working with a vocal coach and with a greater appreciation of his instrument, Keifer is singing and taking greater care to maintain the health of his voice.
VoiceCouncil caught up with Keifer for our Singers on Singing series, where vocalists discuss everything from vocal health to what makes a great vocalist.
What tips or tricks do you have to keep your voice in shape given busy recording schedules, live performances and tours?
So much of singing is sensation. In the heat of the show, it can be very easy to push your limits and do what’s not so good for your voice. You end up hoarse, and you have to get your voice back in place. Working with a vocal coach and following a daily vocal regimen has been important.
What are a few ingredients that go into a memorable vocal performance?
The ability to make the lyrics they’re singing connect with an audience. The really great singers can hit a note in such a way that you can feel something.
Name one influential singer, and what it was that makes them stand out to you.
If I had to choose only one, my all-time favorite is probably Rod Stewart. I’m drawn to raspy vocalists, and he’s the king of that. And, his delivery is so heartfelt.
What are the biggest challenges you find in maintaining your vocal health?
Rest, hydrate, watch what I eat – all of these things impacted my voice. When it came to my surgery to help repair the paralysis in my vocal cords, I began working with several different coaches. I had to retrain my voice. Today, maintaining my voice is a daily effort as part of my ongoing vocal therapy. Sometimes my vocal warm-ups are longer than my shows.
How do you warm up?
I do a lot of scales on vowels. The thing that my coach, Ron Anderson, put together for me was learning what it felt like to sing correctly through vowels like “Ah” and “Eh.” You channel the instrument through the vowel through good breath support and vocal placement. It all comes down to feeling the sensation where you’re supposed to be feeling it – from the lower breath from the abdomen and the vowel sound that comes up and over the back of the head.
Some singers have good vocal health and technique but really struggle to find their unique voice. What advice would you offer them?
Ultimately, it comes down to the kind of music you listen to. It’s like the old saying, “You are what you eat.” You begin by imitating. And then, eventually, you develop your own thing.
What kinds of exercises would you recommend for singers to try to improve different aspects of their singing? (Range, intonation, clarity, volume, etc.)
It’s about getting that same breath support for loud and clear projection. It’s the best thing that I’ve found. Working with a classical approach involves the whole body. When I first started, my voice went from 0 to 60. It’s amazing. It saved me. I swear by it and highly recommend it.
As you look back on your vocal work what would you say was an important landmark(s) in singing more effectively?
After years of singing and suffering vocal paralysis – sitting in a doctor’s office and being told there was no guarantee I would ever sing again – that was enough for me. For younger singers, don’t take your voice for granted, and be dedicated to maintaining your vocal health.
Tom Keifer is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His highly anticipated debut solo album, “The Way Life Goes,” is available now through Merovee Records in conjunction with ADA Label Services. It was self-produced with his wife, Savannah Keifer, and Chuck Turner, recorded in Nashville, Tenn. Keifer currently is on his first solo tour supporting the effort. See www.tomkeifer.com