Since the age of 18 when he joined iconic guitar-hero Yngwie Malmsteen, Jeff Scott Soto has been a relentless and prolific force in music. His resume eclipses most other prominent musicians having fronted Rising Force, Talisman, Journey, Sons of Apollo, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, in addition to his solo projects! You may also remember hearing his voice throughout the hit movie Rockstar.Having been busy all of 2018 with the supergroup Sons of Apollo, Jeff is now back touring with the perennially popular Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Soto took the time to discuss his long career and how he approaches his craft. I hope you enjoy this introspective look at the man behind the legendary pipes…1. When you are part of a huge, choreographed show like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, is it hard to inject your own personality? Do you do it through vocal performance and stage presence?Not really, I as well as everyone here know what our roles are to make this show what it is…there is no star, there can’t be any egos or divas here as this show is driven by the story, the songs behind the story and the incredible production behind it. We realize we’re all cogs in the machine and when if there is a faulty cog, it must be replaced so the machine runs smoothly. I am happy to be a part of this ideal as I can do it without guessing, worrying or wondering about things the way I do when it IS about what I do outside of this.2. You have collaborated with some of the world’s best musicians, are you ever still genuinely surprised by anyone at this stage in your career?Absolutely, and this is one of the things I always hoped would never go away regardless of what level I was able to get myself to. Every artist, every musician starts as a fan of those who influenced and inspired us. Once you’re no longer a fan, you lose perspective on what its like to please fans. I still have my geek out moments even with those I have been blessed to meet or play alongside, and I love playing with guys like Portnoy and Sheehan who also fanboy out on certain people. I still have a bucket list of some missing from my wish list, some I am probably better off not ever meeting as thats another category, the disappointment side haha!3. When you are presented with complex pieces, like with Sons of Apollo, where do you start? Do you try to imagine a melody, or do you work on lyrics first?It ALWAYS starts with the music/melody 1st, I have to listen and soak it all in then melodies start flowing on things I hear over it. From that, the themes come from the drive I get from the song…you can’t exactly write about love and butterflies when the tune is like a blistering Metallica vibe!4. When you first joined Yngwie, what was the dynamic? Was he the “hot new guitar player” after Steeler and Alcatrazz, or were you both young guys trying to make a dent in the scene at that point?Indeed he was, and I was one of his biggest fans at that point! To be honest, I went to the audition expecting to NOT get the gig but at least come away from it meeting him. I was beyond stoked to get the gig although far from a perfect experience, it was the beginning for me and part of this crazy ride I have had over 3 decades!5. After Retribution, do you think you will work on a solo album between SOA projects? Do you crave more solo work?I love doing the solo works in between statement albums, I don’t consider myself a solo artist really, they’re more an extension of who I am and what I do. At the moment, I feel there is a bit of a JSS overkill out there haha, so I’m concentrating mainly on my 2 passions, SOTO and Sons Of Apollo for now. That will keep me plenty busy into 2021!
6. What do you find inspiring? Movies, books?I wish I had more time for books and movies, to be honest I am so busy these days, pretty much every hour of every day of every month is spent either finishing something or prepping for the next something with many ‘everythings’ in the middle. I am so grateful I am still able to say music is my life in terms of financial and creative independence. My only chance for books these days are audiobooks when I am working out or using a day room on a show date to shower and prep my day bag. Same with movies, usually only get to catch up on the ones I wanna see at the gym as that for the most part is my ‘down’ time.7. Through all the bands you’ve been involved with, Talisman, Soul SirkUS, Journey, etc. which one involved the most personal and professional growth for you?Talisman for sure…that was a 19 year run with Marcel Jacob and continues to be an occasional visit for the surviving members if and when we’re all free to do it. Soul SirkUS had 1 album/tour cycle before Neal pulled that plug so no chance to grow that tree, Journey was a stepping in and singing someone else’s legacy so indeed Talisman out of ALL of my career items is the sole answer to date including solo albums and other things I am currently a part of.8. Who is a guitarist that you have not worked with that you would like to?I have only jammed live with Brian May, I would love to work alongside him in some capacity just to experience how he creates…Nuno Bettencourt is another who plays things that I ‘feel’ or wish I could have come up with, great rhythmic sense alongside killer riffs and feel, very musical yet raw abandon.9. How do you take care of your voice as time goes by?For starters, I try to write now within the ‘limitations’ of what I know the reality is doing it live. I can still hit a lot of what I used to do without thinking but there is a lot I can’t do now, especially live, so I make sure whatever I do in the studio, I can do live as you never know if that might come up where I am asked. The others are things I wish I practiced more regularly throughout my career from proper vocal warm ups, vocal rest as much as possible, hydration and sleep. I was never a drug user or smoker, my alcohol intake has always been quite mild for ‘rocker’ standards so on that alone, I am lucky to have the artillery I still do. Anyone knows as you get older, things start going sideways and the voice is no exception so I take EXTRA precautions now so I can keep going another 20 years.10. What can we look forward to from you in 2019?We are currently recording the new SOTO album which will be released in April if I am not mistaken…I am literally writing all lyrics and melodies in between my down time on the current TSO tour and will sing them all directly after the tour ends. We have a few shows in the early part of the year and building the tour aspects now for the markets I know are best for us while the label creates interest for those not in the ring just yet. We also start writing and recording the new SOA album in January but we’ll take time getting it completed as there are no plans to release it until early 2020. With the debut album, it was released in Oct ’17 and I was tied up with TSO in Nov and Dec which meant 4 months of downtime we missed on promoting it as we didn’t start the live aspect until Feb ’18….we wanna have the tour booked right at the drop of the 2nd album consecutively.