Ask anyone who truly knows me and they'll almost assuredly tell you that I've been a disturbingly devoted, life-long fan of all things Glam Metal and Glam Metal-related. As a result, I have frequently found myself deeply enthralled with Blued-inflected offerings of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-born veterans Cinderella. Although I may have become temporarily disenfranchised during their occasionally maligned Still Climbing era (1994), I continued to find solace within my well-worn copies of Night Songs (1986), Long Cold Winter (1988) and Heartbreak Station (1990) as well as the group's seemingly perennial summer 'shed' tours with battle-scarred stalwarts Poison. Not surprisingly, when lead guitarist extraordinaire Jeff LaBar announced the release of his truly long-overdue solo debut One For The Road (2014), we were more than happy to once again overindulge...
Todd: What made now the perfect time for you to release a solo album? What motivated you to make it happen?
Jeff: “I've been threatening to do it for quite some time. In 2012, Cinderella was on tour and as we were walking off of the bus to end the tour, my manager Larry Morand, said 'By the way, Tom is releasing a solo record.' Tom didn't tell anybody and nobody said anything because he didn't want it to distract from the Cinderella tour. But now, literally as I was walking off the bus, Larry said now you have to make your solo record. My wife Debbie and Larry both kicked me in the ass and smacked me in the back of the head and said 'Now you have to do it.' So basically, the end of 2012 led to the fall and winter seasons and I got into the studio and started recording my songs. I did rough tracks of three songs...broke for Christmas and the Holidays and right after that in February, I got the gig with Cheap Thrill, so I was only able to get into the studio maybe once or twice a week, if that. But I managed to finish it and now I'm done with Cheap Thrill and now I'm spending my time promoting this record.”
Todd: As far as songwriting is concerned, how much did you contribute to the proverbial 'heydey' of Cinderella?
Jeff: “With Cinderella, Tom wrote most of the songs, so we all had our hand in arranging them. Throughout the Cinderella years, (bassist) Eric (Brittingham) and I, our place was to take Tom's songs, his skeletons of songs and arrange them. Basically, all we did was add bridges, breakdowns and solo sections. Stuff like that. But Tom was the main songwriter there. The difference between then and now being that I am the songwriter in all of my solo stuff. These are songs that I've written over the years since the heyday of Cinderella. I've compiled some guitar riffs that didn't have any vocals or lyrics and I've compiled lyrics that didn't have any music. I actually got down to business in 2012 and started putting it together from all of the different stuff I had from over the years.”
Todd: Based on the amount of material you had to work with, was it difficult to decide what you should record?
Jeff: “No. I knew what I wanted to record. I knew straight up what my favorite songs were and what I wanted to work on as far as the guitar riffs that I had written and as far as the lyrics that I had written and melody lines. I still have quite a backlog of guitar riffs without vocals and without lyrics and I have lots of lyrics without music, but it was still obvious to me what I wanted to record first. ...Because of the short attention span of theater that is music fans, if it was up to me, I would have recorded one song at a time and released it. But I did seven songs and we're basically calling it Side A. (Pop singer) Colbie Caillat put out an EP recently and she called it Gypsy Heart (Side A). I was like 'That's brilliant. For the short attention span of theater, that's brilliant.' As opposed to putting out one song at a time for the YouTube fans, I thought 'Yeah, absolutely. Seven songs and when it runs its course, I'll put out seven more.' ...In the future, I may start putting out one song at a time. That was the idea.”
Todd: Has Cheap Thrill officially come to an end? I'll be the first to admit that I was disappointed by it's demise.
Jeff: “I think so. ...When I was playing with Cheap Thrill, it was fun and I had a blast. It was paying the bills, but we weren't doing anything special. I really wanted to take that band into the studio, but at the same time, I was recording my solo record and (vocalist) Brandon Gibbs was recording his solo songs. I played on one of his songs and we wrote a song together, but we never got into the studio to record and I was too busy. It just never went as far as it should have and it was taking time away from me finally finishing my record. When it came time for us all to part ways, I decided to concentrate entirely on promoting my record that was now completed.”
Todd: How has everyone reacted to the first single? Have you been surprised with the overall response thus far?
Jeff: “I haven't heard anything negative. I'm still waiting for somebody to say 'Oh, you don't sing nearly as good as Tom Keifer'. I'm still waiting for that, but I haven't heard it yet. ...I don't know if they're just being polite or if they genuinely like it. I haven't been compared to anybody and Cinderella fans one hundred percent love it, so I'm thrilled with that. We put out “No Strings”, made a video for it and on August 26th, the seven songs came out. We gave you Side A called One For The Road. ...Everybody loves the teasers Rat Pak Records has put out.”
Todd: Did handling the vocals duties on One For The Road feel natural to you? Have you always been a singer?
Jeff: “Absolutely. I've been singing all of my life from the time I was nine or ten, sitting on my bed with an acoustic guitar and a folk song book, singing Crosby, Stills And Nash, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. I've been singing my whole life, just not professionally. I went from those type of songs to learning to play an electric guitar where I grew up on Emerson, Lake And Palmer, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes. Stuff like that. And then, as a teenager, I discovered Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Queen, ya know? I was always singing. It wasn't until I started playing clubs that I was the guitar player. I never actually sang in a band. I did it every now and then sitting in. ...Then, when I got into Cinderella as a guitar player, I had a ton of fun with that.”
Todd: What were the primary inspirations behind the track “Ode To Page”? Was it intended entirely as a tribute?
Jeff: “I called it “Ode To Page” because a lot of the riffs I got from (Led Zeppelin guitarist) Jimmy Page. Jimmy Page was my biggest guitar influence as a kid. After my brother Jack basically showed me three chords and put a songbook in front of me and told me how to listen to music and how to pick it up, I started picking up on Jimmy Page. He has a lot of weird tunings where he would pick up an acoustic and tune one string flat by a half step, and another string, he would drop to a D, ya know? He did a lot of weird things just so he could play a certain melody. “Ode to Page” is an acoustic piece where I just like dropped the B to an A, which is really weird, and then dropped the E to a D just to do the things that I wanted to do as far as melodies and stuff. I called it “Ode To Page” because I have to give props where they're due. I wrote it walking around the woods, I think, on acid back in the '70's. It was like 'Oh, this is what Jimmy Page would do' and so that's what I called it.”
Todd: Once the demos were completed, did you have any specific musicians in mind for the recording of One For The Road? When I first heard you were recording a solo effort, I imagined it being similar to Cheap Thrill...
Jeff: “I wanted it to be a true solo record, a la Paul McCartney (1970), back in the day. He did his first solo record all by himself. I wanted to do that. He came out with “Maybe I'm Amazed” and he played and he sang everything on that record. When I heard the words 'solo record', I said, 'Yeah, me', but I'm not that good of a drummer. I started out as a drummer, but I'm not a good drummer as I wanted on my record, so I got in touch with Troy Luccketta from Tesla and he threw down some drum tracks for a few of my demo songs. So that's how I started. I took those drum tracks, went into the studio and recorded everything. I started with the bass, a few rhythm guitars, all of the vocals, the guitar solos, some keyboards, and then put some strings on that stuff. I built them all myself with my engineer, Ronnie Honeycutt. I finished the song “No Strings” first and I sent it out to L.A. to (Cinderella drummer) Fred Coury. He's just a master. He's a master Mixer and just a great Producer. ...He just threw fairy dust over the track and just made it sparkle. I sent him forty eight tracks and he dwindled it down to twenty-four. He cut off all of the fat, all of the ridiculous extra guitar parts and just made it a Rock song. I was like 'Oh, okay. Yeah, I get it.' I wanted to continue with him, but he didn't have time, actually. He wanted to Mix the whole record, but he got a gig doing a new NBC medical drama called The Night Shift. ...He's been in the studio business for a while and he's started scoring commercials, movies and TV shows, so I got Chris Collier, who's Mixed a lot of things for Rat Pak Records and he did such a fantastic job.”
Todd: Prior to the start of the recording sessions for One For The Road began, did you have any pre-concieved ideas regarding the type of sounds you were looking to achieve? Were you in search of specific set of tonalities?
Jeff: “I didn't have a specific sound in mind because I think all of the songs were a little different. ...That comes from me sitting on my bed at ten years old singing Crosby Stills And Nash, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Jim Croce and The Eagles. Then I went to Progressive Rock like Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes and then it was Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Queen and Zeppelin, so I have influences all over the spectrum. I think where a lot of guitar players put out solo records, it's very self-indulgent towards the guitar. ...I think mine is self-indulgent towards my different areas of songwriting and my different influences. I have an acoustic ballad that probably could be Fleetwood Mac or The Eagles and I have a Blues song that could be, I don't know, it could be like Great White. I don't know if Great White is really a great Bluesy style band. And then I also have “Nightmare On My Street”, which could be a freaking Anthrax song. There are a lot of different styles, but there are only seven songs and two of them are acoustic pieces, so out of the five songs, I think there are five different styles. When I get back into the studio, I'm going to explore even more styles. The self-indulgent part is the different styles of music I like, but they're all based around songwriting and bands as opposed to being self-indulgent as a guitar player. ...I'm not going to give you a ten minute guitar solo without any singing, ya know?”
Todd: Will you be touring in support of One For The Road? I would imagine the more the better at this juncture.
Jeff: “I'm thinking about it but I don't have a band together right now. I put a band together for the video with my son. That's my son Sebastian on guitar. He plays in an awesome band called Mach22. They're like the second coming of Guns ‘N Roses. ...I said 'If I put this out on the road, would you play with me?' and he said 'Absolutely.' I said 'Well, what about your band? and he said 'Oh, I'll just take a hiatus' and I was like 'Okay.' I've got a local bass player, a singer/songwriter here in Nashville named Jasmine Cain and she's just amazing. I can probably split the show with her. She does a lot of biker rallies. She's a staple at Sturgis. She's just beautiful and she's an amazing singer and bass player and just rocks so hard. And then I got my buddy Matt Arnn from the Rockabilly band Hillbilly Casino, so it's a lot of walks of life. ...I haven't talked to them yet, but I have done a lot of interviews and said this, so they might hear this. If I can get those three, I would love to do some touring.”
Todd: Was it hard for you to make the transition from lead guitarist to frontman onstage? Was it a big challenge?
Jeff: “I'm not used to being the front man. I'm not used to doing all of the singing. I've watched what Keifer has to go through over the years and he has to do vocal exercises like three times a day and abstain from all of the partying, the drinking, the women and all of that stuff. He's been very disciplined and I would have to get that way. I'll also need to learn how to talk to an audience. I've seen it done. That's the anxiety part of it for me. As far as the material, I could probably do everything off of my record, depending on if I was opening for somebody. ...I could do it with just my own material or even throw in a Cinderella song or two. There are a few Cinderella songs that I can sing and have sung in the past. But if I'm doing a headlining show for ninety minutes, I might have to throw in some cover tunes. ...I have some choice weird songs that I'd like to remake. I've actually recorded a few cover tunes as well, but (label owner) Joe O'Brien at Rat Pak (Records) wanted all original material for this. But I've recorded a few cover tunes in my own way that I could definitely do as well.”
Todd: Realistically speaking, will there ever be an all new Cinderella record? There's certainly a demand for it...
Jeff: “The last time we had a label behind us was back in 2000 and those are the demos that turned into Tom's solo record. I don't know. Record labels these days... I don't think anybody is signing. We could make a record ourselves and present it to a label, but it's probably not going to happen. We could do all kinds of records on our own. I would love to record as a band...as Cinderella again. I would image that some record labels would dig it and come try to sign us, but I just don't know. That's a very tough question. I don't know how that would work.”
Todd: As the nostalgia for the '80's continues unabated, will we see Cinderella touring on a more frequent basis?
Jeff: “The problem is when we tour, we are essentially a nostalgia act. In reality, it's the older people that love the old records that come out. I've seen REO Speedwagon, Journey and all of them in concert and it's always the older people that come out and want to hear the old hits. Unfortunately, we are kind of in the same boat, but at the same time, there are several bands from our genre like Poison, Ratt, Warrant and Winger that still put out records. But how many people actually buy them? That's the problem. Who's actually going to buy them? That's the rub. ...We would absolutely love to put out a new record and get lumped in with all of the other '80s bands out there that still record and put out records that nobody really buys. ...I know it's terrible, but it's true, ain't it?”
Todd: In retrospect, how did it feel to tour with Bon Jovi at the height of the Slippery When Wet (1986) success? I would imagine a portion of the successes Cinderella achieved was directly due to the groups touring together...
Jeff: “Oh my God, that was awesome. When we first we went out, we opened for the very first David Lee Roth solo tour. So Poison and us were on tour together for both of our first tours, opening up for Loudness. And then both us and Poison were up for the first David Lee Roth solo tour and we got it. And we thought 'Oh, this is it.' We did five months opening for David Lee Roth, which was unbelievable and the most fun, and the biggest life lesson I've ever had. Then we went out with Bon Jovi, who helped us get signed and then released Slippery When Wet. Jon and (ex-guitarist) Richie (Sambora) actually put in a good word for us and the guy that signed Bon Jovi, Derek Shulman, signed us as well. They were like 'Obviously, we should put Cinderella on tour with Bon Jovi. We got two bands from the same record label.' Back then, you didn't need a third or fourth band to sell a concert ticket, so, yeah, us and Bon Jovi together for seven months. During that seven months, Bon Jovi went to number one and Cinderella went to number three. We were selling out four and five nights in arenas per city. We did four shows at the Spectrum in Philadelphia and we sold out five shows in Detroit. ...We were set up in two different arenas. I think it was Joe Louis (Arena) and Cobo (Hall). We also did five shows in St. Louis. ...Both of us were on the same label, so that was obviously a very good idea, but those days are long gone now.”
Todd: Cinderella toured with Loudness? That seems like such an unlikely pairing. Were you familiar with them?
Jeff: “It was the only tour we could get at the time. ...I was a big fan of Loudness and gotten to know them and gotten to be friends with them. It was just a small tour that was going out. We were doing like auditoriums and small theaters and it was just what was going on at the time. It just so happened, Cinderella was on the east coast and Poison was on the west coast and they both needed someone to open for and we got thrown together. That's how our history with Poison started. ...Since then, we've toured with Poison at least a half a dozen times.”
One For The Road (2014)
Live At The Mohegan Sun (2009)
Rocked, Wired & Bluesed: The Greatest Hits (2005)
Once Upon A... (1997)
Still Climbing (1994)
Live Train To Heartbreak Station (1991)
Heartbreak Station (1990)
Long Cold Winter (1988)
Night Songs (1986)
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