Jeff Scott Soto says it "hurts" to see JOURNEY not acknowledging the time he spent fronting 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 JOURNEY guitarist Neal Schon and drummer Deen Castronovo in the short-lived side project SOUL SIRKUS.
"[SOUL SIRKUS is] exactly what got me the JOURNEY gig," Jeff said during a recent appearance on "The Robbcast Podcast" (hear audio below). "There was not an audition. They were in a bind. Steve Augeri, he needed to go home — he needed to rest his voice, and they had an entire tour booked with DEF LEPPARD as a co-headlining bill, and sending everybody home would have cost them millions and it just have would been a big disappointment for the fans. So I only got that gig because they needed somebody to step up, and Neal knew I could step up without a single rehearsal — with a moment's notice, I could just step right in and continue those shows on without even a crack in the system."
Jeff went on to say that performing JOURNEY's classic songs originally sung by Steve Perry was no easy task. "It was difficult — it was really, really difficult to adapt," he admitted. "First of all, my voice was already kind of going through its changes. If I had gotten that JOURNEY gig even five years earlier, I would have destroyed, I would have just killed the range, the intensity of what Perry left behind.
"The biggest problem with adapting to JOURNEY and being their singer was the fact that Steve Perry was alive and well," Jeff continued. "It's a totally different situation when you have, like, say, QUEEN, for instance, and if QUEEN wanna continue, they clearly have to get a different singer. But if their singer is deceased, you know there's no chance of Freddie Mercury coming back. When Steve Perry is just sitting in his backyard sipping on some Kool-Aid, and you're on stage trying to pull his shit off, you've gotta a lot of people… They're gonna bag on you, because, 'We don't want this. We want Perry. Why doesn't Perry come back? This is bullshit. We want Perry.' I had to deal with a lot of that, as I'm sure Augeri had to, and even Arnel [Pineda, current JOURNEY singer] had to. If Perry's alive and well and he's got a voice, why isn't he out there? That's always the big question. So you've gotta battle that, you've gotta make it your own, you've gotta pull it off every night.
"And another thing is, when Perry was on tour back in the heyday of JOURNEY, they would do multiple nights and they would just kill the guy's voice with so many dates," Jeff added. "But Perry wrote that stuff, he created that stuff, so he could skirt around the original melodies, he could skirt around some of the high notes. But when you're somebody replacing Perry, you've gotta do it exactly like Perry or you're gonna get crucified. You've gotta nail every one of those notes the way those people expect to hear it or they're gonna say, 'You suck. Why are you even fronting that band?' So, yeah, those are big shoes to fill with any band. Even [IRON MAIDEN's] Bruce Dickinson had to go through it, replacing Paul Di'Anno. [AC/DC's] Brian Johnson had to go through it replacing [Bon Scott]. The list goes on and on. But with a band that has a legacy sound like JOURNEY and the band's basically living off that legacy sound, they weren't trying to recreate or trying to reinvent themselves. They were basically just out there to do their catalog. That's a tough gig — that's a tough position to be in for anybody."
Asked if JOURNEY ever made him an official member of the band, Jeff said: "In December of 2006, when the entire DEF LEPPARD run was done for the year, there was an official press release that they inducted me as their permanent singer at that point. And this is the part that kind of pisses me off still to this day, because there's zero mention, there's zero attention brought to the fact that I was even in the band and I did those tours. You look at the JOURNEY web site, I don't exist — my name is not there. It goes from Perry to Augeri to Arnel. It's like it didn't exist. It's kind of strange. How can that not exist when I have… I have photo clippings. I even still have URL sites that show you when I was officially made a member of the band. And then for them to act like it didn't exist or to say that they wanted a signature sound and I was only supposed to be a hired gun and just to get them through the tour, that kind of bums me out, man. 'Cause have at least enough respect to tell the truth or to even sugarcoat it and say, 'Yeah, Jeff was a permanent member of the band, but we realized, as we were going into that, that it was a decision we had to change and that's why we moved on or eventually got Arnel,' or whatever. Because I was in the background listening to Neal doing interviews when we were doing the European tour, saying I was their new singer and that we could finally get past the ghost of Steve Perry and blah blah blah. I was there, and I heard all of that. And to not have that acknowledgement now, it just hurts."
According to Jeff, he never got as far as writing any new music with JOURNEY "except for one song." He explained: "We were hired for… it was kind of a corporate event in Virginia. It was a world polo match, of all things, and it was a celebrating for America. And they asked the band to write a song specifically for the event. So Jonathan Cain [JOURNEY keyboardist] wrote kind of a ballady thing with the lyrics that had to do with the finding of America and how it was Jamestown. It was like a history lesson in the lyrics. But when he sent me the song to demo it up, 'cause he was singing on it — obviously, he wanted to hear what I would do with it — and, man, I 'Perry-ed' the shit out of that. I used all my influence of Steve Perry, of everything that guy has ever brought into my life and I poured it on that song. And even Cain came back to me when he e-mailed me. He goes, 'Man, I love all the Perry-isms that you put in the song. You sound great.' I had that nice, soft, clean tenor voice on the song — it just sounded perfect; it sounded like JOURNEY. So I don't know where that comes from, that 'we needed somebody that had the signature sound.' Because, man, when and if I needed it, I had that signature sound. I didn't wanna be a Perry clone, but I had that in me — growing up with JOURNEY, growing up with that guy as sych a huge influence as a vocalist."
Jeff Scott Soto's career spans over 30 years. He was first introduced to the public as the vocalist for guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen's iconic first two solo albums before going on to front the esteemed hard rock band TALISMAN. He is also one of the vocalists for the wildly popular TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, the lead vocalist for supergroup W.E.T. (featuring JSS alongside members of ECLIPSE and WORK OF ART), creative visionary for the more metal-leaning SOTO, and frontman for the new supergroup, SONS OF APOLLO (which also features Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and Billy Sheehan), among many other musical activities he has been and is involved in. He was also one of the vocalists for the officially sanctioned QUEEN tribute QUEEN EXTRAVAGANZA. His voice has led to many invitations to do guest lead or background vocals on a multitude of albums, including, but not limited to, STRYPER, Joel Hoekstra, SAIGON KICK, Fergie Frederiksen, Lita Ford, STEELHEART and many more.