A Conversation with Vocalist Jeff Scott Soto

Jeff Scott Soto burst upon the scene fronting Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force in 1984 and since then has put together a catalog unrivaled by his contemporaries. Over the past year, he has begun looking back through that vast catalog and reimagining some of his favorite songs. His latest project is Duets Collection, Vol. 1 which sees him taking on his biggest songs alongside some of his talented friends. JSS recently paid another visit to the site to talk about his project.

Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with Jeff Scott Soto –

On if the pandemic led to him looking back through his career – The idea behind it was exactly that. We were trying to not only stay sane because obviously not being able to tour, not being able to leave the house, we needed something to just keep our focus and attention towards and nothing’s better than that than music. It’s for us as musicians, but it’s also for others who are just as frustrated and cooped up, it gives them a chance to kind of escape when they listen to their favorite things. I just wanted content on there in terms of not sitting around waiting and waiting, waiting. We didn’t know how long it was gonna be until we can get back out there again. This was a conversation with Frontiers after I’d already done the Revisions thing. That was more of like a pet project, that’s why I didn’t try to get it released with the label. I just wanted to do that for myself and the die-hard fans that I knew were following in my socials. Doing something like this has a little more impact around the world, doing the Duets album. When I discussed with Frontiers, “What can we do?” It all started with the idea of maybe I should just do a covers album, Now I can throw a stone and I can uncover at least three albums worth of covers and tributes that I’ve already done of other people’s material. I said, “I really don’t wanna do another one of those”, then you have to decide do I do my own versions of them, do I do them verbatim? I didn’t want that pressure of doing yet more covers, and I thought maybe people would think, “I’m not interested in this. I want to hear either new stuff or no stuff”. That’s where I threw the idea, “Why don’t I do a covers album of my past, but if we do them as duets with other singers, it gives it a new spin”, we still can kind of record the songs verbatim, without changing history or changing the original version that so many people love and still used to, but by doing it with another singer, we show yet another side of where those songs would have been at those singers run them in completion. 1:19

On if the singers tried to bring their own spin to the songs – Yes and no. They all pretty much did what I expected of them. When I was choosing the singers after the songs were chosen, I made my master list of singers and friends that I wanted to be on this record and also that I personally love that I respect, that are dear friends of mine and as much as possible, had a to tie into Frontiers already. I think there’s maybe two singers on the record that are not signed or tied into Frontiers Records on this record. So I want it to be something that everybody gains from. Singers like Renan (Zonta, Electric Mob) and BJ (Spektra) and Alirio (Netto, Shaman) are the three Brazillian guys, they don’t have as big names as Eric Martensson (Eclipse) or Eric Martin (Mr. Big), or even Nathan James (Inglorious) for that matter. So I knew that their appearance on this record would give other people a chance to hear them and say, “I wanna check this person it even further”, and they would look into their solo albums or the albums they’re doing with Frontiers. The same went for the Johnny Gioeli’s (Hardline) and the Deen Castronovo’s (Journey, Revolution Saints), those guys also have tie-ins with Frontiers records, and I wanted Frontiers to be able to capitalize on the fact that it’s kind of a Frontiers umbrella project. The rest I had to fill in because certain voices only work for certain songs, and even if they weren’t part of the label, but I still needed them on these songs based on how I envisioned the album sounding…It’s a win moving for everybody because I get to have who I want on the record, that’s where I went. If it’s a new artist or a new band, they get to actually get the extra attention and promo for that band and that singer, and it’s a win for them. Then again, it’s a win for Frontiers in the end, because we’re promoting and pushing mostly their acts. Everybody wins in the situation. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. 3:35

On how he chose the singers – I basically went through the route of, say a casting director for a movie. They hire certain casting directors based on, “Okay, this is the role. Read the role, and who do you see playing this part?” It’s the same thing I did with the singers. I looked at the titles, I know the songs so well, it was a no-brainer, “Oh, I absolutely hear Eric Martensson singing this. I absolutely hear Nathan singing that.” It was such an easy process to piece it all together. 6:10

On current and former TSO bandmates joining him – I have other tie-ins with all these individuals. There’s like maybe two or three degrees of separation between all these people, we don’t have to go as far as the six degrees with any of them that are on this record. On the TSO, and I’ve got Nathan James who I’m in TSO with, but Nathan and I have also done studio work together, I’ve already collaborated even on Inglorious stuff. Then if you wanna go into Dino Jelusic, I’m very instrumental in getting Dino introduced to the world in terms of his own career. In the beginning, I only knew him as the TSO guy, and from there I was able to say, “Hey, the rest of the world, you gotta listen to this guy he’s up and coming”, and that guy’s just blowing up left, right and center. So, yeah, there’s a personal time connection, Russell Allen with the whole Adrenaline Aob thing, Dave Z, Russell was also with Mike Portnoy In Adrenaline Mob, and now TSO, the connection is just staggering on this record. 6:50

On the upcoming TSO tour – Oh God, I hope nothing happens that we have to pull it again this year. Everyone is so anticipating it, we’re following all the protocol, we’re making sure that everything’s gonna be as safe as possible and up to snuff. They’re making sure that they’re not gonna make any false or wrong moves that would actually pull the tour, but you just never know, and I just hope that everybody just cooperates and everyone from the band, the crew to the fans coming into the shows, if everyone cooperates and does what’s necessary, we can make a successful return this year, and I look so forward to it. 8:15

On getting back on the road recently – I gotta be honest, even the most careful ones, even the ones that were the most paranoid or petrified from getting the virus or whatever, even there, (it was) much more loose and much more relaxed with the whole thing. Especially those who are vaccinated, I mean the whole idea without getting political, getting in the middle of all of this, the idea is everybody needs to get back needed because we all need to get Covid. We all need to have herd immunity, this whole craziness of, “Oh, I got the vaccine and it still got Covid. I knew this would happen”, that’s what’s supposed to happen. But what’s not supposed to happen is that we end up in a hospital on the ventilator or dying from it. We’re supposed to get it like the flu, get past it, build the anti-bodies and move on with life. So even the most die-hard, hardcore ones that were paranoid and were worried about it, even they’re way more relaxed now, as I’ve seen for the shows that I’ve been doing with Jason (Bieler). We’re going to Florida this weekend, that’s gonna be the true test because I know that they’re a little more relaxed over there about the overall thing, and I’m prepared, I’m prepared knowing that there’s the possibility I’m gonna come home with it. But I’m not worried about it because, yes, I’m vaccinated. But that’s why I got the vaccination, I’m gonna put it to the test now, and I’m hopefully gonna be one of the many that have successfully gotten through it. That’s what’s supposed to happen. That’s how I see it…Well, the best news so far, I’ve only had one show cancel on me this year, I went out and did a few shows in Bulgaria and in Ukraine, I was supposed to go straight to Kosovo from there, and that day got pulled literally as I was in Ukraine, things were worsening and they decided to shut down outdoor gatherings, so that’s the only one. God willing, I’ll be able to do all the rest that we have booked for the rest of the year. 9:14

On David Lee Roth’s retirement announcement – I’m absolutely positive it has nothing to do with the fact that he doesn’t feel like he can deliver anymore, he can sing the way people expect him to sing. I’m fearing that there’s something else that we don’t know, but again, that’s his privacy, that’s his decision on what we know and how much we know. I’m just hoping if it’s that, that it’s nothing serious that hopefully by retiring and spending more time, finding the quality time for himself. Because again, David’s also been one of those guys that never stopped, and he continued on his own path, his solo career, whether you followed it or not, he never stopped, he continued doing music and other ventures and things that he’s been doing. So if he wants to slow down, if he wants to pull away from it, that’s his prerogative and I respected fully and I absolutely support it. I just hope it’s nothing that we have to worry about losing at another pioneer, another hero of ours. 11:40

On the tremendous reaction to the last W.E.T. record – Well, that’s the best thing about W.E.T. The only expectations are that we deliver really good music, really good songs. Erik has done our productions, he’s pretty much the overseer of everything from, as we say, from soup to nuts. Even songs that he’s only partially writing on or part of the creation of, he puts 1000% attention to. His skills in the studio have just been so massive through the years. Just watching him grow as a great engineer, as a great producer, all of the above, and continuing to be a great songwriter. I’m so proud to be a part of his arsenal of work in his own personal body of work. We started this thing with no pretense, it was just one of these projects that Serafino (Perugino) threw at us and said, “Let’s see if anybody be interested in hearing what the creation of three different bands, three different songwriters would come about”. We love the outcome, we still love what we’re doing with these, and that’s why we continue doing them. As far as touring that it’s another animal, it’s another one, it requires the time and priorities and all that stuff, so if we can’t tour at least we can continue making great music. 13:24

On upcoming projects – Well, at the moment, the only thing that’s in the pipeline, literally, as soon as I’m done with my slew of interviews today, I have to go over and proof all the vocals and all of the ideas for the brand new JSS album. Basically, I guess it would be coined or promoted as my 20-year anniversary with Frontiers album, I’m just literally wrapping that up with Alessandro (Del Vecchio) again producing and co-writing with me, and I think we have to turn in the record in literally by the end of the month. So a brand new JSS album is almost at the mixing stages right now as I said, I need to go over some of the vocals and make sure everything is there, the things that I wanna change, blah, blah, blah. We haven’t discussed anything else. There’s no Sons of Apollo in the pipeline, there’s no other bands or things that I’ve got in the works at the moment. My focus right now is this Duets thing that I’m promoting and finishing at the new JSS album and getting ready to do a lot of shows next year. 15:27

On working with Alessandro Del Vecchio on Spektra and Zadra – It was such a pleasure (working on the Spektra record). That’s been a work in progress for me for a long time. As far as BJ was concerned, I’ve been trying to get him under the Frontiers umbrella for the longest time, because his voice is the perfect vehicle for them. The kind of stuff he sings, and the way he sings, it couldn’t be more tailor-made for the label. The only problem was in the past, they just weren’t convinced on the material. I knew they loved what Alessandro brings to the table for them, and of course, the proof is in the pudding, 20 years with the label, they absolutely like what I do. So I went to Ale and I said, “Hey man, let’s write a couple of songs, I’m gonna put BJ’s vocals on this, and I wanna try one last-ditch effort to see if I can get him on Frontiers”. Those two songs, they got and they said, “Finally, this is where we wanna go. The only criteria we ask is that you in Alessandro produced and co-write the entire record”. It was originally supposed to be a solo album for BJ, along the way, it became a band album. I’m so pleased with the outcome. I’m so happy for him and the guys, and I really hope this is the beginning of something fruitful for them…The next one coming down the pipeline is one of my best friends, August Zadra who plays for Dennis DeYoung. He’s just completed, and I literally saw the proofs of the album cover yesterday, also on Frontiers Records, because I got him and another group called Waiting for Monday signed, but I always thought August needed to have his own record where he’s singing lead and playing guitar solo, not as a solo artist, but just he was doing all of the above. He’s such a great player and a great singer, and so yeah, the same thing, because of the Waiting for Monday thing, I was able to convince Frontiers to give him his own deal, and Alessandro and he pretty much did the most of the actual songs and creation of them, but I got to dabble in the end. I did all the backing vocals with those guys, and I got to help complete some things that needed some lyrics and melody ideas. 16:41

On Duets Collection, Vol 2The bottom line is this was more of a play on words. Do you remember the movie, The Mel Brooks movie, History of the World, Part 2? I never saw a Part 1 and people went crazy looking part one, there never was one. I should have actually said Volume 3. It’s more kind of planting the seed that, “Guys, if you really like this, I love to do more of them”. Lord knows that I have the catalog to do more, more importantly, I have so many ideas of who else I would bring on to sing. One of the future ones, I would even go as far as to maybe one of the volumes would be all female singers as opposed to all male singers and just expanding. This album was mainly a labor of love with my friends, and maybe I would reach out to others is like the Sammy Hagars and Paul Stanlys of the world and be able to do duets with them that have nothing to do with the whole Frontiers angle. This is my idea, I just would love to keep expanding on them and doing covers of my career, it’s so much fun with other people. 19:44

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