Ex-JOURNEY Singer JEFF SCOTT SOTO Would Play With NEAL SCHON Again 'In A Heartbeat'

September 28, 2023

In a new interview with David Spuria of The Real Music Observer, former JOURNEY singer Jeff Scott Soto was asked if he would accept the invitation to jam with Neal Schon if the JOURNEY founder and guitarist called him up and wanted to play together again. "In a heartbeat. In a heartbeat," Jeff responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "I have the most, the ultimate respect for Neal as a musician, as a writer, as a producer. The things that he's done have literally put a stamp in music — they put a stamp in my life, musically and influence-wise. I look at Neal, I look at what I did with Yngwie [Malmsteen], I look at the talent and the talent pool that they come from, and that, to me, is more exciting than the personality side or the differences in personality."

He continued: "I don't care whatever else you have or think that's different from me, I care more about what we have together in terms of the conversation and in terms of on a musical side, jamming and having fun. Music is about joy and smiling and just having fun. I would do it in a heartbeat because I know I would get all of that from Neal."

Soto was also asked if there was ever any talk of him recording a full album with JOURNEY before he was booted from the band and replaced with current JOURNEY vocalist Arnel Pineda. He said: "Absolutely. The whole Walmart deal was already in place when I was in the band. And even before I was dubbed the official singer, permanent singer, they were talking about that: 'We've gotta work out who's gonna be singing on this.' So when I was actually inducted as the permanent guy, there were a few discussions that I would have been on that record where we were doing the remake of all the earlier stuff and the brand new stuff. So that definitely was on the table. But we, unfortunately, didn't get to that. It would have been nice to be able to walk away with at least a block of something that my contribution to and with the band, but unfortunately we didn't get that far. And it's not sour grapes anymore, it's not spilled milk — it's none of that."

He continued: "I'm so happy for what they've been able to do. I'm happy for what I've been able to do because of it. I wouldn't have my TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA history. This is my 16th year with them, but my 15th tour in a row. I wouldn't have W.E.T. I wouldn't have SONS OF APOLLO. I wouldn't have some of these things that have become so important to me in my life. Even ART OF ANARCHY. I wouldn't have any of these things had I remained just the singer for JOURNEY. And not that it would have been a bad thing. Everything happens for a reason. Everything takes its course in life. They moved on. Arnel is a wonderful singer. I loved a lot of what they have done together. I've listened to a lot of the original stuff and I champion him as much as I champion the band. This band was one of my favorite bands of all time growing up and they will always remain that. Steve Perry is one of my biggest influences. And I've gotta tell you, when I was in my twenties and thirties, I was a dead ringer for Perry. I could do his vowel sounds [and] grammatically I could sing like him. But obviously, as I got into my forties, everything's kind of dropping — the old sack below starts dropping and everything starts dropping with it and it becomes tougher. I wanna say when I got into JOURNEY, I was a fake tenor where it used to be a real tenor. A fake tenor, meaning I could still do it but it's more of a struggle to get there than it used to be. And now I would consider myself a strong baritone with tenor tendencies."

Last fall, Soto said that he was "on good" and "positive terms" again with Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain — more than a decade and a half after he was fired from the band.

Soto, who previously sang with Yngwie Malmsteen, joined JOURNEY about a week and half into a six-week summer 2006 tour with DEF LEPPARD, after Steve Augeri began having vocal issues. Soto had earlier worked with Schon and drummer Deen Castronovo in the short-lived side project SOUL SIRKUS. JOURNEY named Soto its permanent lead singer in December 2016 before firing him just five months later.

Soto touched upon his current relationship with JOURNEY during an October 2022 appearance on the "Talk Louder" podcast, hosted by veteran music journalist "Metal Dave" Glessner and lifelong hard rock/metal vocalist Jason McMaster (DANGEROUS TOYS). He said: "We were a bit estranged for a decade and a half and just recently I reached out… We're basically, I wouldn't say pals again, but there's a narrative, there's a dialogue now between us. I stayed really good friends with, of course, Deen Castronovo and some of the other guys in the band, but I was a bit estranged from Neal and Jon, and I'm just happy to say at least now we have a narrative — we're on good terms and on positive terms. And this is all I want out of the situation. I don't want any bad blood; I don't want any negative energies out there in the world, especially at our age. Now is the time to embrace the things that we've done and to really look back and reflect on them and not have all this bad water under the bridge."

Asked if he had done any recording with JOURNEY in the five months that he was in the band, Soto said: "We did one song [called 'Winds Of Freedom', which can be heard below]. It was a song that Jonathan wrote for… It was a private gig that we did for — it was a polo match, actually. They were celebrating America's birthday and Jon basically wrote a song… It was kind of like a history. It was talking about Jamestown and the ships came over and they settled in the new land and colonized. It didn't sound like a traditional JOURNEY song, but it wasn't supposed to be; it was specifically for that event, and it was only supposed to be performed at that event. And we did that song, we demoed it, and that was the end of it. That was the only original song I got to do with them. But, man, I just remember when I was singing it, I 'Perry-ed' the fuck out of it — if that's even the word: 'Perry-ed'. I went into Perry mode. I did a lot of his inflections, a lot of his grammatical vowel sounds — just the way Perry sang — 'cause he's such a massive influence in me, his phrasing. Sam Cooke was his mentor, and before that, Nat King Cole was Sam Cooke's mentor. So I basically learned from all of the masters, including, down the line, from Steve. And I wanted to pay homage to what he brought to the band, what he left with that band, because it's such an identifiable signature sound. But when you hear it, you can hear the inflections, but you still hear it's me."

In 2021, Soto told Argentinian journalist Lucas Gordon that the "problem" was that he didn't know what caused his split with JOURNEY. "If I knew what the problem was, if I knew the reason why I got fired, then at least I could be at peace with it; I could find a way to discuss it or talk about it," he said. "If I was told why I was fired, if I was told 'your voice sucks,' if I was told I killed one of the guys' dogs, if I made somebody in their family angry, if I was told the reason why I was fired, I could make peace with it. But to this day, 14 years later — whatever it is — I don't know. I don't have the answers. I was never given a proper reason. The only thing I was told was they had a change of heart. It didn't make sense to me. If you have a change of heart, call me up and we can say goodbye, we can hug and say, 'Hey, hopefully I can get a couple of tickets to the show with the new singer.' That kind of stuff. You can leave as friends. I came in as friends; I wanna leave as friends."

Within hours of BLABBERMOUTH.NET publishing Soto's comments, Schon issued a response via the BLABBERMOUTH.NET Facebook page, writing: "It was unfortunate but Steve Augeri's voice gave out. We were in the middle of DEF LEPPARD tour so I was working with Jeff on side project and suggested he come in and help Finnish the tour. It went well but all were not sold on him being the lead singer after writing a tune and listening. Both Jon and I agreed it didn't sound right- or better put what we wanted. I hope this satisfies this on going drama. It didn't work out."

A short time later, Schon added in a separate comment on the BLABBERMOUTH.NET Facebook page: "This is all boring and overly redundant whining of 14 years ago. PR stunt at best. Zzzzzz Jeff tried to sue us after we let him go and playing with us live for only 1 tour. This did not sit well with myself and could easily see personality clashes way too early. Good night".

In April 2021, Jeff discussed his time with JOURNEY in an interview with "The Bay Ragni Show". Asked if Schon's comments gave him the closure that he was looking for, Soto responded in part: "Not really. It wasn't really so much closure as it was… It was more of, 'You're still talking about this, dude?' And I wasn't really talking about it. I was answering a question in an interview. I gave an honest reply in an interview based on what the question was about. And it turned into a whole, 'Jeff is just looking for attention. Jeff is just looking for press.' It was none of the above.

"To be honest with you, I've had closure with this — my personal closure — for a long time in terms of not to expect any further reasonings, any other explanations," he continued. "But of course, naturally, I wanted to be able to be friends with the people that I worked with or that I no longer work with; I don't want enemies in the world. So it was more along those terms that I was even talking about it, is that I was extending that olive branch of wanting to make sure that before I leave this earth I leave with everybody knowing that I'm a good person, that I was a genuine person, that my best interests were only in being good for these people, not necessarily what I can get from them or what they can get from me, et cetera.

"So, to be honest with you, as I said, I am absolutely at peace with the whole JOURNEY situation," Jeff added. "I went to go see them recently. I wrote up how exciting it was, how it was emotional to be there watching as opposed to be on stage doing it with them after 15 years, but how happy I was for everybody. It worked out for everybody in question here — it worked out for [current JOURNEY singer] Arnel, it worked out for them, and it even worked out for me because I ended up doing a lot more things in my life and my career that I wouldn't have done had I been just with that band."

The day after he went to see JOURNEY perform in April 2022, Jeff took to his social media to write: "Last night, I went to see my 1st JOURNEY show in 15 years….yes, I was invited but no, because of covid protocols still within touring contracts, I could not see anyone in the band before or after.

"The band was sheer fire…Arnel rose above my expectations vocally and could quite possibly be the best I have heard him since he joined the band, Neal's fingers were flying all night as expected, Deen's playing and singing soared beyond my memory of being onstage with him and the rest just kept it locked and loaded! I found myself singing, cheering and feeling proud that I once graced that stage with my childhood favorite band. It was emotional at times but I mean that in a positive way, so many great memories of my 11 months with them stacked with the 40+ years of what I got as a fan!"

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