He’s fronted Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and more bands beside but 2009 is the year Jeff Scott Soto – aka JSS – intends to prove himself as a solo artist par excellence.

With new album Beautiful Mess out later this month it seems nothing can stop a musician as comfortable funking out as he is hitting metal’s high notes. Jeff talked to rushonrock during a whistle-stop visit to London and we were mightily impressed with one of rock’s most charismatic frontmen.

rushonrock: Why the title Beautiful Mess?

Jeff Scott Soto: It kind of solidifies everything about me – my music, my life and my decisions. It personifies my life in the last couple of years, it personifies my career and the music I’ve been involved with. It touches on so many different subjects that it just seemed like the perfect title for me right now. It just fitted. My career is a bit of a mess in itself – everyone is debating whether I’m a pop, metal, soul, funk or classic rock artist and it’s difficult to categorise me. Compared to what I’ve done in the rest of my career the new record is not what people might expect but this is the avenue I’m choosing to go down right now.

rushonrock: Did you set out to record a certain style of record?

JSS: In the first instance I wanted to make it more commercially accessible than things I have done in the past and I’m not ashamed to say that. I didn’t want people listening to it to concentrate on heavy guitar riffs – this time I wanted people to focus on the songs. It’s still beefy in places but I didn’t want it to sound dated. I didn’t want it to sound like hair metal of the 80s but I think it does have more of a 70s vibe.

rushonrock: It could be a new Lenny Kravitz record in places…

JSS: I get a lot of that and that comes from the writers involved as well as me. There is a 70s type of Lenny style on there but it wasn’t something I was consciously trying to achieve. I wasn’t trying to tap into the Lenny Kravitz legacy but if that’s what people hear then I’m very proud.

rushonrock: You’re pretty comfortable singing any style but what’s your favourite?

JSS: I’ve always wanted to diversify and I kinda get bored by staying with one genre or performing on one platform and I suppose that’s why I’ve been in so many bands and projects over the years. I can’t pinpoint my ‘mainstay’ sound and perhaps that’s one of the problems. I have to say, in my defence, that Queen is one of my biggest influences and they never stuck to any one genre. Diversification could be my crutch or it could be something I use to my advantage. It’s all about remaining interesting to the public and maintaining an interest myself.

rushonrock: Are you happier as a solo artist or in a band?

JSS: I actually get the same feeling from both situations. Both are equally rewarding and both have their negative aspects. In the band situation there’s more opportunity to lean on each other and there’s a sense that the weight of the world isn’t always on your shoulders. You can share the credit and share the blame. As a solo artist it all lies with you. In the case of Beautiful Mess more so than ever. I’m really proud of the new record but I’m ready to take the plaudits or face the criticism. It’s the same kinda balance that there is in a band but you’re on your own.

rushonrock: Is JSS the way forward or do you see yourself in another band sometime soon?

JSS: It’s really hard to say. I wanted to give the new album its own identity and revitalise myself as an artist. It’s still me and my own style but it’s very different to what you might associate with Jeff Scott Soto in the past. JSS is a very particular brand of music and I don’t want people to be confused with this era and stuff I have been involved with before. It’s a separate entity but it’s still the same guy. The JSS name allows me to grow this side of things if Beautiful Mess takes off but it allows me to fall back on the Jeff Scott Soto name and reputation if I need to.

TOMORROW: JSS talks Journey, Malmsteen and more. Don’t miss it!