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| 4 November 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Vocalist Jeff Scott Soto has announced that his new solo album, Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) will be released on November 6, 2020 via Frontiers Music Srl. Produced by and written with Alessandro Del Vecchio, the release is the best of all the combined worlds of Soto’s previous solo albums and will delight his loyal melodic rock following. “Alessandro and I made sure to revisit the best of what my overall fans love and expect of me while adding some other influences and contemporary sounds. This lucky number 7 for me is one of my favorite releases to date!’ says Soto. Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) is the seventh official solo album by hard rock veteran Jeff Scott Soto. The singer, who has more than 85 albums under his belt as a lead vocalist, along with numerous collaborations and recordings, has established himself as a consummate professional who manages to expertly deliver with his vocal performances across multiple musical genres, from Metal to Hard Rock to Progressive Rock and even Funk. For Wide Awake (In My Dreamland), Jeff has incorporated many of his past influences and blends melodic rock/AOR with hard rock influences throughout. The album was recorded and written together with (and produced by) Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline, Jorn, Revolution Saints, etc).” We were able to grab some phone time with Jeff to discuss new music and so much more…

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – Toddstar Photography

Toddstar: Jeff, thank you once again for taking time out of your busy schedule, which we’ll talk about in a second, but it’s always a pleasure. I’ve been so fortunate to speak to my favorite vocalist of all time six times in the last six years. And it’s always such an amazing moment for me.

Jeff: Look at that – six times. My God. Six times and my seventh album. We need to catch up one.

Toddstar: Right? Yeah. I mean, let’s dive into that.

Jeff: Then again, if you equate all the albums I’ve sung on, then we’ve got a lot more interviews.

Toddstar: We could even dive into albums that were put out there digitally, most people may not have even heard of. We’ve done that in the past, but let’s really focus on what’s important, right this moment – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland), due November 6th from Frontiers. What can you tell us about this album, Jeff, that your fans might not grab the first or second time they listened through? We all know what a JSS album will sound like sonically, but what can you tell us about this album that we might not grab the first or second time through?

Jeff: Well, if you have heard the first couple singles – and there are two now out – you’ll hear and you’ll understand that I’m not veering too far from what’s expected of me. It’s, I’m certainly not reinventing the wheel with this album. I don’t really try to reinvent the wheel with anything I’m doing, at this point in my life and career. I’ve already kind of said what I need to say as an artist and who I am and what I stand for and all that. So, right now it’s more of like a refinement and that’s kind of what this album is about. Alessandro, my producer and co-writer, he wrote all the music to the album. So, musically he wanted, he was diving into something that was kind of the best of what he felt he loved about my voice and my career. And from that, of course, we wanted to make sure that the production was stellar, and we wanted to add some level of contemporary behind it. But we’re not trying to reinvent my career my sound, because clearly I do have a legion of fans that do expect a certain sound or a certain viability in what I do, but I always try to up game a little bit. For instance, the song that just came out, the video that just came out “Without You,” that song has more of a Queen influence than anything that I’ve done. It has more of a 70’s sound; a lot of people say they hear a little Kansas and they hear a lot of Queen and that’s, I wanted to define that moment of my life and my career that truly helped made me who I am. Because I was very influenced by 70s music and most of my stuff, when it came out in the 80s, it’s kind of been based around that. I try to add the influences that did bring me the inspirations and influences that are currently with me and always been with me. And I think that’s more of a reflection of what this album is about.

Toddstar: I’d agree with that, in that you’ve always brought your influence with you musically. You’ve heavily credited guys like Steve Perry. I appreciate that you never forget who your influences were, and you’ve always made that an integral part of your performance, whether it be live or recorded. How important is it to you to always pay homage to those guys that you kind of turn your head up to when you were coming up the ranks?

Jeff: Well, at this point in my life and career, I’ll probably be saying that a lot this interview. I’m not really doing it so much to pay homage to them as much as it’s part of my DNA now. It’s almost like I can’t help it. When I do certain things, certain inflections. They happen because I’m so heavily influenced, that it’s so part of my DNA. It’s not really me trying to pay homage or pay tribute to them so much anymore. I did that more so when I was younger and trying to define my sound and find myself. And now that it’s such a big part of my sound, it’s kind of, if you want to equate it to somebody like Steve Perry, who’s so, so heavily influenced by Sam Cooke. He’s not trying to show he is influenced by Sam Cooke. He can’t help but show it. And so naturally that’s going to come out in everything I do, even you’ll hear even smidgens of it with Sons of Apollo, something that has nothing to do with Journey or that melodic rock sound, but that’s just who I am. And I just naturally inject everything that I’m influenced by everything that I’ve, I’ve kind of challenged myself and been a part of that doesn’t necessarily fit that world. I kind of do that with everything because I’ve learned so much, even just in something like TSO, which has never really been my cup of tea. I’ve never been a musical theater guy but having so many years behind me with that organization, I do have another dimension to me that naturally got thrown into the mix. So, it’s just going to come up naturally without me really thinking, or just trying to, oh I’ve got to show me theatrical side here now. It just happens because it’s just been so part of my infrastructure for so long now.

Toddstar: We talked about it in the very front and you just mentioned like Sons of Apollo. I go back to even stuff like Redlist. There’s no mistaking that you brought everything that you’ve got behind you into these different projects. On a side note, Sons of Apollo… I got to see you guys just before COVID struck, when you guys played in Battle Creek, Michigan. And it was the first time I ever got to see you perform live, which was just amazing and inspiring for me as a photographer and as a journalist. Just to witness what you do on stage and how you control your crowd.

Jeff: It means a lot because these are the things that you strive for. And even if you get off the stage and you kind of go “Oh man, it wasn’t there.” You don’t necessarily know what the crowds that you can’t know what they’re thinking. Sometimes you might think you got them, and you don’t. And sometimes you think you don’t, and you do. It’s nice to hear occasionally that I do kind of have that natural rile them up together and let’s have fun kind of thing that goes with it.

Toddstar: We’ve talked about this in the past, how there’s just not a strong hold in the U.S. for you to be able tour your JSS catalog. It’s unfortunate, because the U.S. is missing out on some great shit, but that said, how differently do you approach a JSS show when it’s more of like a legacy show than a SOTO gig or something with one of your projects?

Jeff: I have to because there’s more, another level of comedy, so to speak in a JSS show that it’s more, it’s not a, I don’t give a shit mentality. It’s more of a loose chill vibe that I have fun with it. There’s a lot more looseness, so I’m having more fun with it. More so, Sons of Apollo doesn’t really fit that infrastructure because of the seriousness of the music and the level of the musicianship. I don’t think what I do with a JSS or solo show wouldn’t necessarily work with that. So sure, I have to hone different attitudes, different vibes. So, everything does work because I cannot be the same for JSS that I am with W.E.T., that I am for SOTO, or for Sons of Apollo. They all have their place. They all have their kind of standing and that just comes with time. The first tour I did with Sons of Apollo. I was homing in on that and honing on because personalities that work with the guys that I’m playing with as well. I don’t want to do something that’s going to embarrass them or having shit talking behind my back. So, naturally you’re doing things and you’re kind of trying things out until you get the nod of a validation. If you get the idea it doesn’t really fit the thing, that you kind of hone in what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do with the actual situations.

Toddstar: You pick up on the fun and loose vibe of the Jeff Scott Soto show, which is witnessed by anybody who picks up a physical copy or the digital download of the new album Wide Awake (In My Dreamland). They’re treated with an 11-track live album that was recorded on one of the Frontiers showcase shows. I want to hit on one of the songs on there. You mention in the intro of “Holding On” how you play that one live only for the Frontier’s people. What is it about that song, you, and Frontiers that means so much to you that you play that only for them?

Jeff: Well, as an artist, we strive for validation. We strive for acceptance. We strive for longevity. All these things are the reasons I’m still here. When I did that first album Prism for Frontiers, they admitted to me, they explained more so that “Holding On” is not just one of their favorite songs from the album. That’s one of their favorite songs ever. Now Frontier’s records, even the name of the label is built on and derived from the band Journey and the Frontiers album, et cetera. They started the label as a melodic rock label, named after a Journey album. So, you’re told that a song of yours is one of their favorite songs ever… When you have all these ridiculously good songs to kind of compete with that is a huge, huge validation. A huge pat on the back. It’s not an ego kick as much as it is kind of like getting that sense of, “Oh, damn I did good for you.” And so that song is different for me because of that for Frontiers. I want to do it for them because it makes me proud that they feel this way about something I wrote, but it also makes it makes me proud that they love it so much, that I can only do it specifically and pretty much just for them. I think we did that song a little bit on the very, very first SOTO tour. And we did it as a little montage, a little a blurb of it on a live DVD that I did quite a few years ago. So, this one, I wanted to do the entire song for them because I knew this was going to be released. Let me kind of back up a little bit. Regarding the release, knowing that my time spot was for that day was kind of short. It was basically a 50-minute time slot. I begged them and I asked them, please do not release this as a standalone product, a standalone physical product. My fans will think I’m trying to do the cash grab. They’re going to be upset that they’re buying a live show that’s under an hour and even more so because we had technical difficulties and calling up Dino to the stage that took a little time. In the end, when we got all off set, we only have a 42-minute album. So, they agreed that instead of getting the backlash of fans getting cheated, we’ll release it as a digital outlet, only. Where they could stream it, they could download the digital side that therefore they’re choosing their destiny of having it. But let’s also award the people who only buy physical products who are continuing to keep physical product alive. Let’s award them with a free disk just because they probably won’t download it. And I want them to have it as well. And Frontiers came up with the perfect balance, the perfect medium for exactly what this thing stood for.

Photo credit: Lexie Boezeman Cataldo – In Joy Photography

Toddstar: I love the live set list. You couldn’t have nailed that track list for the live portion, any better than you did, in my opinion, especially tossing in the Soul SirkUS track. That was a great touch on your end.  As far as the new material… we are all hoping that 2021 will bring touring back and allow you to get out there and do what you do best. When it comes to this album, what are the couple tracks that you’re just dying to get out there and perform live? We know the singles are out there, but what are the songs you really want to deliver in a live scenario, because we know that is when you guys accel.

Jeff: Well, I’ve got to be honest with you. It’s something I didn’t announce publicly because I didn’t want to make a big stink of it. After the last SOTO tour, which is separate from JSS… When I did the JSS road show, it’s more like you said, it’s more of this best of collaborative effort of my career in one show. SOTO is a band, as is at Sons of Apollo is, or Talisman is, we do primarily SOTO material and I’ll sprinkle it with a few nods, like “Stand Up And Shout.” When I finished the last SOTO tour and I realized the numbers, the attendance, the interest from back then, even versus JSS solo shows, they’re not that different. I’ve been touring basically for the past 17 to 18 years as JSS. And now recently SOTO. I can’t see myself going out anymore at the level of what I’ve been doing. Again, we did that tour and it’s a lot of fun and I love bringing the tours out and I loved playing for people and all that, but I’ll be 55 next week. And I can’t see myself continuing to tour at the level of 150 people, 200 people a night. Basically, just making ends meet, earning enough bread to keep the tour afloat, to pay for the expenses. Everybody doesn’t really come home with much more than just a rent money for the month. I have to see more of a demand for the attendance, for the level of, even Sons of Apollo, for me to even want to continue. So, I’m kind of retiring, especially now COVID is a new game changer regarding touring. When we’re getting back to normal, back to true normal is probably not going to be to something like 2022. In the sense of, we can all be in a crowd. We don’t have to worry about breathing on one another, getting them one of those germs and all that. We’re looking at another year and a half easily before we’re at that state. And by then, I’m going to be almost 57. If I’m going out there and living on a crappy bus and sleeping in cheap hotels and playing in small divey clubs to not that many people, the incentive is not there, man. I got to tell you if I can’t get it to a level of at least 1,000 a night, I can’t foresee myself going out there anymore. And I’m probably just limiting my touring to Sons of Apollo, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, doing festivals and things that are more of a grand appearance, more than going out there and trudging it. I just can’t see it anymore.

Toddstar: As fan that sucks, but as an accountant, I totally get where you’re coming from.

Jeff: Fans will understand, especially the ones that come to my shows. They see the numbers aren’t that great. And I’m humble enough to say it as it is. I’m not going to fool anybody by saying, well, every time we tour, it’s always packed. I mean, all you got to do is look at YouTube and you’ll see the numbers don’t reflect the same kind of numbers that are necessary and required to keep a tour on the road. I’ve got to be realistic. I’ve got to be realistic to my voice, to my physical condition, and my age. I’ve got to realize if I can’t do it at a certain level, my body’s just going to say, screw you and just break down. It’s not going to last that much longer. I want to keep doing this for the next 15, 20 years, but I want to do it in the way that it’s more suitable to where I’m at in my life.

Toddstar: Understandable. That leads me to where we will start to wind down the piece. I know you’ve got tons of shit to do, including, you mentioned you were doing a session. You mentioned you’re busier now than you’ve ever been, especially in lockdown mode. Tell us about some of the things you’re doing that are just keeping you so busy that you’re able to do what you love, pay the bills, and keep your fans happy?

Jeff: Well, one of the positives of COVID is it’s allowed me to do a lot more studio stuff that I normally wouldn’t have the time for, or even the energy or just the well-being for. I’ll start with Wide Awake (In My Dreamland); I sang the vocals to the album the first 15 days of January, I had the knockout 11 songs. It wasn’t easy because I finished the SOTO tour, did two months of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and had to muster up enough rations in my voice to start rehearsing and start the Sons of Apollo tour in January. I was pretty toast. And again, one of the luxuries that was awarded me during this whole lockdown was I could go revisit some of the vocals that I felt my voice was toast or tired or raspy or whatever. And I got the later, I guess delayed release date. It pushed us to be able to finish and do something that we didn’t have time to do, normally, so that was one positive. From that I also knew we were working on a new W.E.T. release that I was supposed to be starting my vocals around August. I knocked this thing out in no time flat. I knocked this thing out in record time since I was home. We could work on it. I could tweak things. I could really, my voice… when you hear the new W.E.T. album, you’re going to hear how effortless it sounds to sing some of these songs. And W.E.T. is a lot higher, it’s one of the reasons I have refused to tour with W.E.T. I can’t pull this stuff off live every night. There’s no way. Again, I’ll hold no bones about it. I’m not going to lie and say, I’m just not interested or I’m just too busy. No, the bottom line is its beyond my level of range comprehension to be going to live every night. And if I can’t do it right, I wouldn’t want to do it at all. And so, doing that, I co-wrote an entire album with Alessandro and co-produce an album for a new project called Spectra, which features two members of the band SOTO. That’s coming out, also on Frontier’s Records. I had to sing all those songs for BJ, the singer, to learn vocals for that record. I did all the backing vocals. That’s album number three. I sang backgrounds on Joel Hoekstra’s 13 second record. Which singing backgrounds is almost more demanding than singing lead vocals because, at least lead vocals you’re knocking out the lead vocals and moving on. The backing vocals you have to stack harmonized, overdub, overdub punch in all that stuff. You have so many more vocals to add to a song. Knocking that out, I’m doing something with Bumblefoot at the moment that I can’t really talk about just yet, because we don’t know when, where, who, why, what all those parameters. All I can say is we’ve got another album worth of material that we’re just tweaking and working on secretly and mysteriously. And then you add tons of sessions. I’ve done at least between movie and commercial jingles and just sessions for friends and even other colleagues and peers. I’ve done probably over 100 songs during the past eight months. It’s a busy time, which thank God, it’s a busy time because this is now my primary bread and butter. From all of this, I’m able to not only sustain, but it truly is giving me another edge. Another level of creativity that I wouldn’t normally have because I’d be too busy jumping out on a stage somewhere.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – Toddstar Photography

Toddstar: Well, you mentioned one project that I saw the press release for and was very curious about – Spectra. And I love Joel’s last album; I am so glad to hear you’re collaborating with him again. You’ve always been one of the busier guys in Rock and Roll. I mean, you talk about all different projects you’re manhandling now, so to speak. The very first time I ever interviewed you was when you did one of the W.E.T. albums. I think it was February of ’13. I have followed you since way before then and before the big projects.  I still listen to Redlist. I’m a purist. I’ve always loved what you do. With you deciding not to tour moving forward, if you had to pick a song or two from this latest album, Wide Awake (In My Dreamland), that you wanted to be your stamp if this was the end for you. What song or two would you want to be those legacy songs that you would put in a set?

Jeff: Absolutely start with “Without You.” And will be one of the reasons why it had to be made into a video single, not just a single where it’s just audio. To me, this song is, it kind of completes the picture so to speak. And it’s amazing that after all these years it took all these years. It took all these albums and collaborations and such to come up with that kind of defining moment. I have a lot of defining moments in my eyes and how I feel about things that I’ve done and that I really truly enjoy. But that song, when I was told by friends here was because of budget cuts, et cetera, this might be the only video that we’ll be doing on the record. When I was told, we’ll only have one shot at a video, I chose this one. Normally you’d want to do a couple and you maybe want to choose a ballot and maybe an up-tempo song. I didn’t see the song as a ballot. I saw this song as a majestic piece that then needed to have a little more standing than just an audio release. So this song really means a lot to me. It’s kind of like a defining moment for me. And I think “Love’s Blind,” the first single. I didn’t choose that as the first single. I didn’t choose it as a lead-off single, but I was so happy that Frontiers did because that song also means a lot to me, both on a personal level and I love, musically I love way it sits. It’s got a modern contemporary vibe to it. And in terms of the kind of jungle beat verses, it just got a different something about it. That’s just a way from your traditional hard rock and melodic rock.

Toddstar: I’d agree with both of those statements and add a third one for me that I go to time and time again, “Lesson of Love.” There’s something about the progression of the song and the layered vocals. It’s so rich.

Jeff: I mean, I love them all. I love “Mystified,” it’s got that Talisman vibe to it. There’s so many of them. “Lesson of Love,” it’s been just outstanding. I really applaud Alessandro for everything that he brought to the table on this record and I can’t credit him enough. The guy is doing so much work for so many artists now in Frontiers, but it seems like the focus is more so on the artists themselves on these records and these releases. And this guy deserves 1,000% credit for this record. I only take credit that my name and the marquee name is on there, but everything else was so inspired by everything he brought to the table for this record. And I just give credit where credit’s due for Alessandro’s participation.

Toddstar: A humble sediment from an amazing singer. Jeff, I can’t thank you again, enough. Again, I get speechless and I could speak to you for hours Jeff. Unfortunately, I know you’re busy I know you’ve got these lined up every half hour, so I got to let you go.

Jeff: Hey, you know what? Maybe when we do the W.E.T. cycle, we can schedule you during a time where there’s nothing before or after. So we can just give it as much time as you want to do it. I’ll give you the extended dance mix version of what we could and should be doing.

Toddstar: Oh, that’d be amazing. I appreciate that. And I will be sure…

Jeff: I would love to talk to you in more depth about the other things, on top of the W.E.T. album itself, because there’s so much more to talk about. As you said, you so much about my catalog in my work. I would love to just talk about a lot of other things as well.

Toddstar: Well, listen, man, you enjoy the rest of your day. Have fun with the rest of the interviews, get your sessions cut between them, and I look forward to the rest of the world, unveiling Wide Awake (In My Dreamland), November 6th. And I look forward to everything else you got coming in and speaking to you when W.E.T. comes out.

Jeff: Right on Todd. Thanks brother.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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