Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A "Journey" (Not) To Remember by Arnel Pineda

Rolling Stone�s October 2008 issue features Arnel Pineda�s unhappy journey.

Two minutes before Journey kicked off their world tour in February, with new singer Arnel Pineda, the whole thing nearly fell apart. �I told them I wanted to back out,� says the 41-year-old Filipino vocalist, whom the band discovered on YouTube. �[Journey guitarist] Neal Schon told me, �It�s too late now.� He pushed me a little and said, �Go. Go sing for us.�� Pineda overcame his butterflies and took the stage in front of 20,000 fans in Chile, singing an hour of hits in a soaring voice incredibly similar to former Journey frontman Steve Perry. Since then, Pineda has played more than 63 concerts with Journey, including a current three-month trip through American amphitheaters, which has been averaging 13,000 people a night. The tour is the sixth-highest-grossing of the summer, and the band�s performances are as high-energy as they were during Journey�s heyday.

Unfortunately, Pineda isn�t finding the tour nearly as fulfilling as his bandmates are. He misses his girlfriend and son, and the grueling pace is grinding him down. �It�s very, very sad,� he says. �There are days I just break down and cry. This is a job I�m doing for my family. That�s all the consolation I�m getting.� Traveling around America isn�t what he expected. �It�s all buses, stage, microphone,� he says. �I never really get to go around and walk. They wake me up for soundcheck, then I wait until the show at nine. It�s a fantastic job, but at the same time it�s a curse. . . . I told Neal that the only thing that will make me quit this is if I get sick. I guess that�s the same reason Steve Perry bailed out.�

Just last summer, Pineda was fronting the Zoo, a band specializing in Eighties rock covers. YouTube clips of Pineda singing �Don�t Stop Believin� � and �Faithfully� came to the attention of Schon, who had recently parted ways with Journey�s fourth lead singer, Jeff Scott Soto. �I told him, �You have to show your face so I can believe you,� � Pineda recalls of his first conversation with Schon. �I challenged him to talk to me on a Webcam.�

Within weeks, Pineda took his first trip to the U.S. and auditioned for the band in San Francisco. A few days later, he was hired. �Mr. Neal Schon picked me up and told me, �You got the job,� � Pineda says. �For a guy like me, it�s surreal � like some sort of miracle.� Quickly, the band cut two discs worth of material: one of new songs and another of rerecorded hits. �It was spooky, sitting behind the desk watching Arnel record these songs,� says keyboardist Jonathan Cain. �It was like going back in a time machine.� Since coming out in June, the album has sold 441,000 copies; it�s the band�s biggest hit since Perry left the group.

This all comes at a time when Journey�s work has re-entered the pop-culture landscape in surprising ways: Their 1981 smash �Don�t Stop Believin� � has made memorable appearances on The Sopranos and Laguna Beach, and Kanye West performed it nightly on his 2008 tour. �When you work at something long enough, things just sort of turn around,� Schon says. �I�m ear-to-ear smile every night.� But is he worried about his frontman? �He�s missing his family, missing his homeland, you know?� says Schon. �But he�s having a lot of fun, too.�

[From Rolling Stone Issue 1062 � October 2, 2008]

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