Acclaimed hard rock vocalist Jeff Scott Soto is known from an array of different projects ranging from TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA to SONS OF APOLLO. The singer also has a successful solo career and now is releasing another his seventh solo album “Wide Awake (In Dreamland)” on November 6th, 2020, through Frontiers Records. We had the opportunity to ask him a couple of questions. Read the entire interview below.
Hi there! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. You’re releasing your seventh solo album “Wide Awake (In Dreamland)” really soon. How are you feeling about the upcoming release?
Every album I make is like a new child being born, it is exciting and you always look forward to what this child will become! I am still waiting for that one kid to handle my retirement when I am ready [laughs].
First of all, what can fans expect while listening to “Wide Awake (In Dreamland)?” We were told that it’s the best of all the combined worlds of your previous solo albums?
This is what my producer and co-writer Alessandro Del Vecchio did for this album – he told me, after the fact, that he wanted this album to represent the best of what he loves about my voice and career. So essentially, he stole everything from the many aspects of my life… [laughs], just kidding! From his overall approach, you will hear a lot of familiarity with a contemporary flair!
Now, when did you start working on this album? Is it a result of having more time due to the pandemic situation, or did you start working on this way before?
We started the process in December 2019, I did all my vocals to the demos during the first 2 weeks of January as I knew I would be slammed with the SONS OF APOLLO world tour starting late January. The pandemic definitely changed the release date which allowed me to revisit the songs I felt I was not at my strongest. I always find a positive in a negative and this certainly was one!
Did the lockdown have a big effect on this album?
Sure, it made it so we could spend more timing refining and completing it, definitely impacted the overall finishing of it.
You’re involved in quite many projects, ranging from hard and melodic rock to progressive rock/metal. Going back in time, what was it that drew you to AoR music?
I am a fan and student of great music, end of story. I love the many colors, peaks, valleys, ups and downs that music has to offer, not only to me but to everyone around the world. To do these kinds of albums is as important as all the other exploratory aspects of my career.
Why did you pick “Wide Awake (In Dreamland)” as a title? Do you feel that this song represents the album the best?
As the world was in a rather tumultuous state, especially the United States from all the racial, social, religious, and political divide, I heard a few use the term “it feels like a dream yet we are wide awake and living it.” The title fit the moment but took on a whole new meaning after COVID-19!
The album was co-written and produced by Alessandro Del Vecchio. What can you tell us about the collaboration between the both of you?
Ale is incredible, I have known him for 15 years and have watched him become an anomaly in the industry. He produces, writes, plays, sings, you name it. I was sold without hesitation in making this album with him and even more so now.
In general, what did the songwriting process look like for “Wide Awake (In Dreamland)?” Was there anything you did differently?
No, I approached the songs as I always do…my co-writers write and demo the music, send me a blank canvas to then fill in the rest which my forte is in, lyrics and melodies.
A lot of the songs are about love, which is a little bit different than what you do in, for instance, SONS OF APOLLO. Do you feel like you can explore different themes and topics with your solo album that you can’t touch with collaborative efforts?
Well, first of all, not every song title can be judged by its cover! I write most things in double entendre which means you might think it’s about one thing but it can be about something else completely. The song “Love’s Blind” is a personal letter to my teenage stepdaughter who was going through a hard time as most teens do. The reference to “love” in this song refers to is about loving herself before she can love something or someone else. The inner “love” can sometimes be “blind” and there you have it, you probably have no clue what the song is about because it sounds like a relationship theme.
The new album includes a bonus live album recorded at Frontiers Rock Festival in 2019. How important was it for you to have this album included as a bonus?
To be honest, I was against the label releasing it at first because the time slot they gave me was only 50 min long! With some equipment issues and waiting for Dino to come to the stage at the end (as he was deep in the back of the hall watching the show), the final product was only 42 minutes. I begged Frontiers not to release such a short show because we would get flogged by fans feeling cheated to buy a full-length live show of under an hour in length. They came up with the compromise of releasing it only digitally and streaming at first, then offer it as a free disc to those who still only buy the physical product. I loved this idea as we all know the sales of physical product have seriously declined. This little incentive may help interest overall.
Especially in the state the world is in right now, how do you look back to that show?
It was a big blur, like a wedding reception! I had so many friends and colleagues there, then doing my set, then the next day all over again to sing with WET, it went by like a flash!
What are some of the biggest pitfalls when creating a live album?
For me, it’s the pressure of knowing you’re recording or filming, I don’t like redoing anything or replacing performances so you worry if this night will be as good as last or next week. But then you snap out of it realizing it’s best to just live and love for the moment, let the show take its course.
You have more than 85 albums under your belt, that’s actually really impressive. Is there a secret behind your productivity?
For me no, this is my work the same as someone who goes to an office daily or teaches a class. I go to work every day loving that I can be creative every day, this means more to me than doing one successful band/album every two years.
Some days ago, you released a music video for “Without You,” how have the reactions been so far?
So far great! I have never seen the view numbers so strong on any JSS items in such a short time. I am grateful and humbled that people still want to hear what I come up with after 35+ years!
The reason why I’m asking, is because of the impressive and kind of heartbreaking music video. What can you tell us about the video production?
It was very difficult to pull off as we waited months for life to return to normal. Once we realized this was not going to happen anytime soon, we had to find ways to get around the obstacles. My director in Brazil is incredible, I use him every now as he makes short films, not music videos. For him to find actors willing to break quarantine, locations and then add my footage shot separately here in Los Angeles was the next challenge. Thiago killed it as I knew he would!
In general, I was kind of curious about that song. Because power ballads generally run a fine line between cheesy or not, and I was very impressed that this wasn’t. How do you find that fine line between sounding like every other ballad and finding something unique?
I don’t see this song as a power ballad, to me it’s just power with so many colors, peaks, and valleys. Ale knows QUEEN is one of my biggest influences so he wrote what became my own QUEEN song. I knew this song needed more attention than just sitting in the album so I chose it as the video song.
Even though, because of the pandemic probably you don’t really have an eye on what the future holds, but what are your other plans for 2020 and 2021? Are you going back to songwriting if there are no opportunities to play live?
At the moment, like the rest of my colleagues and peers, we have to wait and see. I have been in my home studio just about every day since March 5 so I imagine this will be more a way of life from me as I wait for the water to be safe again!
Lastly, do you have any final thoughts you want to share with our readers?
My only thoughts are just to keep saying thank you! I am beyond lucky that I get to do this for a living, and even more lucky that after so many decades, people are still listening!