Jeff Scott Soto has been putting his powerful vocals on display for over thirty years, having been a part of bands such as Journey, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Talisman and plenty more. In 2015, he reigns supreme as the vocalist for SOTO, a supergroup comprised of himself, Jorge Salan, David Z, BJ and Edu Cominato. Before the band takes off for a tour of Europe next month, I spoke with Jeff about working with his bandmates, Steel Panther, ZO2, Queen, social media, That Metal Show and more.
Alex Obert: Following the release of Inside the Vertigo earlier this year, how has the overall reaction been?
Jeff Scott Soto: It was definitely a venture that, I wouldn’t say it was scary, but it was risky. Risky to get away from the things that I’ve been doing for the past few years as a solo artist. And that’s why it’s branded as a band now, even though it’s my last name as the title. It’s a more adventurous and heavier side of me that I haven’t done in such a long time. I’ve been wanting to do it for the longest time. Overall, the reception’s been great. It’s a welcome return to my heavier roots, which is where people have wanted me to come back for years. It’s a little something for them and at the same time, it’s a little something for me.
Alex Obert: What have you taken out of collaborating with your bandmates for this project?
Jeff Scott Soto: I started the album as a solo artist and I was supposed to make another solo record. I was actually collaborating with a lot of outside people. People that I respect, my colleagues, my peers. It was only midway through the album that it became a band album, that’s where the rest of the guys of the band came in to complete the process. We’ve had such amazing chemistry through the years, from when they were just my hired guns in my solo band. When we rebranded into a band, those were the first guys I asked to be a part of. So I didn’t have to change much at all, these guys have truly gone to battle with me. And I want to go into the next one with them.
Alex Obert: And you happen to have another JOAF interviewee, David Z in the band. How did you originally connect with ZO2?
Jeff Scott Soto: I met Paulie first. And of course, David was part of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra family. I met Paulie before David returned to the fold. He’s with the East Coast production, I’m with the West Coast production. But every year, the two bands come together and we do the big personal for the winter tours. We spent about two weeks together and that’s where I got to know David and see his playing. The guy was much better than I would’ve ever given him credit for, as bass player. My bass player at the time couldn’t do a European tour and I was in a bind. I was on the TSO tour and I was scrambling, then David Z perked up and said, “Dude, I’d love to do it!” From what I saw, this was a guy that could totally pull it off. Not only did he pull it off, he basically took it to another level. He’s definitely heaven-sent, this man.
Alex Obert: And through connecting with Paulie, what was your initial reaction to his vocals?
Jeff Scott Soto: I absolutely love his voice. I look at Paulie as my brother from another mother. He’s got the loud, abrasive rock ‘n roll voice. It reminds me a lot of when I was younger. We’re not too far apart in age, but I’m certainly the elder statesman of the two. We look like brothers removed from birth, so to speak. The hair and the big mouth and the loud, high range and the whole thing. And of course I love ZO2’s music. I thought they were great and I wish they’d gone a little further than they were able to take it.
Alex Obert: On the topic of vocals, you have stated that one of your biggest influences is Freddie Mercury. Getting into Queen, what would you say is your favorite album of theirs?
Jeff Scott Soto: That’s a tough one. The obvious answer is A Night at the Opera because it has Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the greatest songs of all time. But there is so much diversity on that album, I would say even more so than some of the other albums. Before the album, they were starting to tap into that world. But after that album, they started moving away from the world. So it’s like everything that led up to hitting their peak was on A Night at the Opera. Of coarse they ventured off and wrote some amazing things and made some great albums after that, but that album was the personified Queen sound. It was the jack of all trades and the master of all trades, as far as an album.
Alex Obert: I understand you have a history with Steel Panther. Can you fill in readers on that?
Jeff Scott Soto: I used to sing for a novelty act called Boogie Knights. It was a seventies kind of retro thing where we dressed up with the polyester and afros and the whole thing. It was a a modernized rock version of disco songs. We were slaying playing gigs year-round for about four or five years, we were killing it. The management of Boogie Knights started outsourcing into other ideas. “If a disco band would work, let’s see if an eighties band might work. Or a country band.” And these are all parody bands. Steel Panther started as exactly that, a parody of a hair metal band from the eighties. They were called Metal Shop at the time. They were under the Boogie Knights umbrella for the longest time. They were working their asses off, but they weren’t able to move ahead as much as the powers that be were doing so. They actually took the idea, moved on themselves, managed themselves and took it to another level. They are amazing. Some of my best friends in that band, known those guys for over twenty years. I know them without all the costumes and the personalities, they’re just regular dudes. They are some of my best friends in the business. It’s great to see what they’re doing and where they’ve been able to take this.
Alex Obert: You have a tour coming up next month in Europe. How do you feel about that??
Jeff Scott Soto: We’re gonna be getting some new territory that I’ve never been to before, so that’s exciting. It’s almost scary cause when you go to a place you’ve never been to before, you wonder if you even have fans there and whether or not people will show up. For the places we have been, we know what to expect. But it’s still a crapshoot with the music business the way it is today, you never know what’s gonna happen. You just hope and pray that people are still interested and want to show up to see the show.
Alex Obert: Which countries do you enjoy playing in particular?
Jeff Scott Soto: Well my favorites are such because they are the ones that come in droves. Madrid, Spain is one of my bigger markets. I always expect I can go there and have a massive blowout show. São Paulo, Brazil is another one of those. It seems that the more southern countries and states are the ones that seem to get what I do more so than the north.
Alex Obert: How do you go about taking care of your voice and keeping it strong while on the road for a long period of time?
Jeff Scott Soto: Back in the day, you could live on a diet of whiskey and cigarettes and bounce back the next day. That was being in your twenties. I’m forty nine now, pushing fifty. That world is over with. Now it’s all about hydration, sleep and staying away from any of the elements. All you need is one night taken away from you because waking up hungover with cottonmouth, it becomes a chain reaction for the rest of the tour. I don’t take those risks anymore. It’s all about plenty of sleep and hydration.
Alex Obert: You are very engaged with your fans on Facebook by posting photos and updates about your music, life and travels. How do you feel about that?
Jeff Scott Soto: They don’t call it social media for nothing. It’s all about networking. It’s all about keeping fans and people that are interested in you excited about what you’re doing. If you don’t use it, they kind of forget about you. It’s a great tool and a great source. It helps people keep connected and excited about what you’re doing. Once in a while, you’re able to tap into something that makes everybody go gaga. I think it’s fun. I don’t let it consume my life and I don’t live for it. But on the other hand, I find the positive aspect of it and I think it’s great.
Alex Obert: Do you think fans will someday see you on That Metal Show?
Jeff Scott Soto: I’ve talked to Eddie Trunk about that. It’s all politics over there at VH1. He said, “Bro, I’d love to have you. I have a laundry list of people that I would personally choose and select. That’s basically what we do, we put all these names in a hat. It’s basically like a checklist. No, no, no, no, no, yes, yes, yes, no, no, no, no, no. It’s more nos than yesses because they realize they have to keep it interesting for the people tuning in.” I would imagine that all these things that I’m doing, especially the new band Soto, it has to be interesting enough for them to okay it.
Alex Obert: When you embark on the tour next month, which song are you most excited to play live?
Jeff Scott Soto: It’s difficult because we’re gonna be concentrating a lot on most of the new album and less of my JSS catalog. Again, this is a band now. It’s not an extension of my solo career. With my solo career, I could do a whole night of nostalgia, everything throughout my career. But this is a whole new ballgame and I want to elaborate more on the actual album. To choose which is my favorite song, I don’t know yet because we haven’t played any of the stuff live yet. But I co-wrote a song with Gus G. called Wrath and I think that one’s gonna go over really well. There’s another tune that opens the album that I did with Mike Orlando from Adrenaline Mob called Final Say. And I think that one’s also gonna be a strong contender. They’re both very aggressive and I think the make the crowd start jumping. Just slammin’ tunes.
Alex Obert: I wish you the best of luck on the upcoming tour and for the continued success of the album. I’d love to thank you for your time.
Jeff Scott Soto: I appreciate that, Alex.