Jeff Scott Soto, best known as vocalist with Talisman, Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen W.E.T. and many more, expands on his singing career and what the future holds with regard to new music and live gigs.
Who were your influences in the early days and have you always wanted to be a singer in a band?
As a young boy of about 5 or 6, I knew I had natural talent and a good ear in terms of pitch and keys. It was Michael Jackson who was a child too, as well as Tom Jones, who started it all for me. I saw little Mike and thought ‘if he can do it, I can’. So, the fever started around then that I knew I not only wanted to be a singer, I had to be one!
Apart from Journey and the bands we know of, have you ever auditioned for the vocal spot in any other notable bands?
Yes, but most involve the ‘not open for public discussion’ detail behind them so I’m afraid that part will have to wait for my autobiography…when most have passed and I won’t spend the latter part of my life in litigation. [laughs]
You have appeared on a great number of albums. Do you have a favourite and why?
Of course I do, but it truly is impossible to narrow them down to favourites. My body of work is more one of influence and experience as it all lends itself to my accomplishments as a whole. I couldn’t have the joy and versatility that’s been awarded me. My top choices include the band Talisman if that narrows it down more.
Do you still get the same buzz out of singing live as you did in the past?
Yes and no. It’s a complicated answer really. In my 20’s, 30’s and half of my 40’s I could pretty much still sing anything until I developed vocal nodules that required surgery to remove. I lost a bit of my range that never recovered 100% which led to a further decline of it through age. As Steve Perry said in an interview, every singer has a love/hate relationship with their voices…when it works, its magic, you’re killing it and feel on top of the world. When it decides to not work as a crowd of 10,000 are expecting it to, it takes some of the desire and slowly makes you consider how much longer you can do it. So, as I am in my late 50’s now, I love doing what I do as much as my teens but any limitations kill the buzz when the throat doesn’t want to cooperate.
Some vocalists are on strict dietary regimes or gargle with special liquids. How have you kept your voice in tip top shape all these years?
Mainly hydration. No substances like smoking/drugs/drunken nights, lots of sleep and exercise are key. Doing vocal warm ups and warm downs are also important. I never did this when I was young but the throat is like any other body part you need to nurture and care for to deliver year-round results.
Are there any musicians that you have not worked with, but would like to in the future?
I have pretty much fulfilled my bucket list, but sure, there are many I love and admire that would be a kick to work on something with. I am fortunate I have been able to make enough of a name for myself to work with some of my heroes.
Is there any unreleased recorded material from your early days with Talisman, Takara or Soul SirkUS that could be released?
Sadly no. The Talisman well has run dry as there have been re-releases that include demos and alternate versions of songs. Takara was never my band so anything I did with them was for the moment and Soul SirkUS used every note we carved out together back then.
Singing with The Trans-Siberian Orchestra must be a blast! How is it for you?
It was and still is a blessing! When founder Paul O’Neill called me back in 2007 to get involved, it was not really in my wheelhouse to do the genre they were creating. I thought I would do it for a year or two, but I am now 15 years deep with them and grateful I have this extra influence in my pocket.
Is your hook up with David Ellefson a one-off project or can we expect more releases?
It started as a writing partnership for songs that could be placed for others but we loved the results too much to let anyone else use them. We already have album #2 in the works so the plan is to see how far we can take it for sure. David’s a really good dude and has a love for crafting killer songs.
With the live circuit opening up again, is there a possibility that we could see you performing some live shows in the UK, solo or with one of your bands?
I am dying to get back out for sure. Sadly, I don’t have anything in the works for a UK return as all of my main bands are not touring or releasing anything new. It’s a work in progress as to who I will return there with but I do hope its sooner than later.
Have you ever thought about doing any production work?
I have and have done through the decades. I have produced and done MANY things where I am not the focal or vocal point of the items, which is very important in how I work on my own stuff, being the artist and being behind the artist go hand in hand for me on every level.
Do you have anything in the pipeline at the moment that you would like to share?
I know we will be doing another W.E.T. album soon, as well we are opening the SOTO chest to possibly do album #4.
Interview by Stuart Dryden