An Interview with Jeff Scott Soto

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JEFF SCOTT SOTO (SONS OF APOLLO, W.E.T.): "I care more about quantity of  people sharing or discussing my music...it's going to open more doors for  me later" [Audio Interviews ] - Metal

Sometimes we all need a break and if there is one thing that COVD-19 has afforded many of us, it’s time. Jeff Scott Soto was one of many hardworking artists, who found himself just a bit exhausted at the start of 2020, and wishing for a break. Little did he know that his wishes would be granted.

That said, Jeff Scott Soto has still been hard at work, with his latest solo album Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) released this past November, and a new album with W.E.T Retransmission released in January, there is more than enough on his docket, still.

Today, I’ve got Jeff Scott Soto in the house for a chat. We talk about his origins, his new music, the possibility of working with Yngwie and Talisman again, Satanic Panic and much more. If you would like to check out Jeff’s new solo album, you can head here. If you would like to grab there new W.E.T. album, you can head here.

Andrew:
Jeff, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

Jeff:
Yeah, needless to say, I can’t add anything that isn’t obvious or hasn’t been said/felt/lived by pretty much everyone around the world. I am so far holding up as well as possible. To be honest I am not stir crazy at all. In fact, finishing a crazy full year in 2019, in Jan ’20 looking at my calendar, I literally said aloud, “I so wish I could take the year off and enjoy being at home for once.” Seems my wish came true!

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Jeff:
As a young boy, I followed the Michael Jackson blueprint. I sang my ass off with all intention of being a young artist into a flourishing older one. I had my own illusion of where and how I would get there so it was no surprise I harnessed the professional end in by the time I was 18, landing the front man position with Yngwie Malmsteen in 1984.

Andrew:
As a singer and songwriter, who are some of your earliest and most important influences?

Jeff:
It started with the whole Motown thing as a kid. I loved Tom Jones, The Osmonds, AM radio…then it went to the Bee Gees, Earth, Wind & Fire and the whole Disco scene…yeah, that was me! I hated Rock until I heard singers who injected Soul into it like Bobby Kimball of Toto or Steve Perry. From there, I got into Rock, played a little catch-up, and eventually got into everything from Van Halen to Maiden. By the time I was with Yngwie, my Rock influence was still very new but I brought in the whole Dio, Dickenson thing with me that helped me emulate that vibe.

Jeff Scott Soto - Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) - Amazon.com Music

Andrew:
Let’s jump right in and talk about your most recent studio effort Wide Awake (In My Dreamland). How did the album come together? How do you feel you’ve grown since your previous album Retribution?

Jeff:
I don’t really ever “grow” in terms of albums or music, I gather experience and distribute it accordingly. For my albums with Frontiers Music, I know what they expect of me, what the fans who buy my music on that label expect and I deliver it best I can. I harness what they love about my career, sprinkle it with a little modern and new approach and it comes across as classic yet contemporary. This is the best way to attack my solo albums, my audience are within my age bracket, they’re not interested in what I wanna “try out” anymore.

Andrew:
2020 also saw the release of a new Sons of Apollo record, which was called MMXX. Tell us more about the recording and inspiration behind this record. What are the major difference between working as a solo artists and within the confines of a band?

Jeff:
The only difference is solo, you have no one to answer to, no one to impress and hope agrees with your vision. I love having both because there is no one perfect way to make music. It’s great to collaborate and bounce creation as well as use all the experience and influence to carve things out yourself. One lends itself to the other.

Andrew:
Through the years, you’ve worked with the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Talisman. What has it been like having the opportunity to make such an important mark on Hard Rock and Metal history?

Jeff:
I guess as I am it, any of it, it is more about opportunity and validation that I of so many out there capable, some even more capable, get the chance to show my worth. It’s not until years, sometimes decades, later I realize I was or am part of history in the sense of something that will last or be remembered fondly. I guess this is the best part of it all, that I don’t take it for granted and just do what’s expected of me, hoping I am leaving my mark in some way.

OH NO YOU DIDN'T … Jeff Scott Soto throws some Puerto Rican shade at  Sing-Vay Malmsteen – Metal Sludge

Andrew:
Specifically regarding Yngwie and Talisman, is there any chance of another go around with them? You were a part of so many classic records.

Jeff:
Yngwie, probably not, mainly because this is not something he wants or cares to address but the other reason, I am just not there musically, not at all. Yngwie’s music was made specifically for him as mine is tailored for me and what I like. I feel our styles are too clashing, we do what we do best on our own. Regarding Talisman, it’s a touchy subject as this band is 50% Marcel and 50% me overall, its hard to think doing it without him. Doing it to tribute him or our legacy is one thing, but carrying it into the future is another. It’s not a no chance, but it’s also not a priority.

Andrew:
How about W.E.T.? There is a new album in there works there as well, right?

Jeff:
Yes. We knocked out Retransmission mid 2020 as everyone was stuck at home on lockdown You can grab it here: https://www.frontiers.shop/new-releases/1102/w.e.t.-retransmission-cd-jewelcase.

Andrew:
Shifting gears a bit now. The Metal and Hard Rock scene here in North American is pretty stagnant. It’s almost become indie in a way, with only the major bands getting a lot of traction- it’s a struggle, it seems. That said, in Europe, the Metal scene is thriving and seemingly always has been. Why do you feel the ferocity for Metal and Hard Rock is so much stronger throughout Europe than it is in the rest of the world?

Jeff:
One can never predict or expect “scenes” to change, shift or last. In the end, the people decide, labels have the money and power to influence the public’s taste and desire for different genres, but we can’t force them to make the scene healthy again. All we can do is our best and hope nature takes it’s course but that’s not how it works. In Europe and South America, they truly hold onto their bands and artists, if they embrace you, they never let go.

W.E.T Feat. JEFF SCOTT SOTO To Release Retransmission Album In January;  "Big Boys Don't Cry" Music Video Streaming - BraveWords

Andrew:
More on the subject of Metal. Oftentimes, “Metalheads” are judged for their appearance. It’s odd though, people will judge someone for looking “too metal,” but in the same breath, someone can be judged for not looking “metal enough.” What are your thoughts on that?

Jeff:
Looks and fashion are statements, there were many bands who did the “new romantic” look like Duran Duran and made Metal albums, there have been long haired rockers in Pop bands, I think it’s always best to cross genre a look into music so it breaks that judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover stereotype. It’s all silly to me, just be you and everyone else, think about your own looks before trashing someone else’s.

Andrew:
Since the days of Satanic Panic in the, Metal and Hard Rock music in all it’s forms has seemingly been on trial. What are your thoughts on the persecution of Metal/Hard Rock as a genre? Do you feel it will ever be widely accepted the way that Pop or more mainstream Rock music is?

Jeff:
When the whole moral majority thing was happening, they had to blame someone for wrongdoings, of course Metal was the main target. Not many serial killers or rapists were wearing ABBA or Bee Gees shirts! But even this is ridiculous, if someone has ill will or bad intention they’re gonna do what they do regardless of what Metal band they listen to. The disease of being influenced by someone’s lyrics is not the artist speaking to them on what to do. It was the same as Charles Manson and The Beatles stating their lyrics were prophetic in terms of what to look out for…couldn’t be further from what they meant in their words.

Andrew:
Touring is usually a huge part of a working musicians proverbial machine, but as we know, COVID has disallowed it. What do you miss most about touring?

Jeff:
The same thing I miss about life in general, gathering or hanging, being together if and when you want, not worrying or caring that every person in your presence is infected or can kill you. I miss the energy of a crowd, the feeling we are all one at a concert. Otherwise, I am the age of traveling and dodgy hotels have become a nuisance, I love touring when conditions are solid but not every situation includes that ideal. Haha.

Jeff Scott Soto Interview [] - Metal Express Radio

Andrew:
One disturbing fact I’ve learned over time is that Spotify doesn’t pay artists well, if at all. Meanwhile, Bandcamp seemingly goes out of it’s way to take care of it’s artists. What are your thoughts on that issue? How do we as fans do our part to help?

Jeff:
I understand the logic of convenience behind Spotify and digital streaming, playlists and downloads, etc., It makes sense to someone who doesn’t want to hoard tons of albums and store them. New cars don’t even have CD players anymore, so yea, I get it. Sadly those services don’t pay the same as radio airplay and all of the other formats we heard music on. I know it’s near impossible for them to pay out to 100,000’s of artists when this is not based on a radio programmers who make room for x amount of artists weekly. But now they are making more revenue with subscriptions and ads which is where we get cheated on the residuals. Fans can only do so much, same as I said, you can’t force them to make Metal fashionable again, you can’t force them to buy physical product anymore. One can only hope with these poorly-earning formats, that folks listen to the music and support the artists at shows and merchandise later.

Andrew:
In a world dominated by late-stage capitalism and social media, can artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Jeff:
The field changes more now and faster than ever, it’s hard enough adapting to our age old ways of how things were done but the new ones don’t always last long enough to master them. The only thing you can do is stay on the game, follow the trends on how get exposure and keep one step ahead in terms of marketing and creating scenarios on how to draw attention. That ideal, no matter what formats are “in,” will forever be the way to go.

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music? What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Jeff:
I must say, I am guilty by association on the physical product. I have a bookcase now in my garage with stacks and stacks of CDs that I don’t even look at much use anymore. It is sad when you adapt to the ideals you fight against. But I too have no desire to collect more things, add more and more “stuff” at my age where someone will have to deal with it all when I am gone. I too am used to digital files where you listen to things when you want, where and how you want without having to carry so much with you. So to answer your question, I prefer CDs overall but love holding and seeing vinyl, it takes me back to childhood and this is never a bad thing!

Andrew:
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.

Jeff:
Queen, Van Halen, Prince, Sam Cooke and the Bee Gees are my main go to, the ones that will never die for me, the ones that gave me my musical DNA.

Andrew:
Last question. What advice would you have for artists just starting out? How do they stay afloat in a world that seems to be so abhorrent to creatives?

Jeff:
It may sound cliché or general but the bottom line is if you want it, stay with it, it will come to you. There are a lot of overnight successes, artists who didn’t have to struggle, etc., but the majority of every major artist is dealing with the hard knocks and rising above them. The real estate out there is very small and there are a lot of artists vying for it so stay the course, don’t get discouraged, don’t give up, for every yes you will get 1,000 no’s. If you really want it, stay with it, it will come!

JEFF SCOTT SOTO - Reggies Chicago

Interested in learning more about the artistry of Jeff Scott Soto? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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