Arnel Pineda’s journey continues

His band’s second PHL concert has been cancelled but, as we learn in this exclusive Rappler Q&A, Arnel Pineda’s journey still 'goes on and on and on and on'

THAT’S OUR GUY. Lead singer Arnel Pineda (2nd from right) with his Journey mates: (from left) keyboardist-rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain, bassist Ross Valory, lead guitarist Neal Schon, and drummer-percussionist Deen Castronovo. Photo courtesy of MMI Live

MANILA, Philippines – Journey lead singer Arnel Pineda’s kababayan on these shores will miss him for now, given that the American pop-rock band’s concert slated for March 21 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena has been called off.

Pineda, through concert organizer Music Management Inc. Live, issued this statement explaining the cancellation of “Journey: The Return”: 

“Due to the extreme importance of the Easter holiday in my home country [March 21 is 3 days before Palm Sunday], as well as the deserved widespread media attention on the upcoming election in Manila, the ticket sales for Journey’s upcoming show have understandably been somewhat slow. We have decided it is best for everyone to postpone the Manila concert until the next time Journey tours in Asia. 

“We are very sorry that we won’t be able to see our fans this year, but we will see you again soon. You know we all love to play in Manila!”

The postponement can also be chalked up to a few broad factors:

There’s viewer fatigue, as the San Francisco-based, Pineda-resuscitated band had been here before (even if it was back in March 2009 or 4 years ago). There’s also restricted affordability (tickets ranged from P850 to P8,450, plus service charge) and the absence of a new smash single or two (Psy filled the Arena last February on the strength of just one, admittedly very big, hit).

One other factor that could have helped get concertgoers excited: the would-be local showing of “Don’t Stop Believing: Everyman’s Journey,” a documentary chronicling Pineda’s unbelievable leap from cover band vocalist in the Philippines to lead singer of one of the world’s most popular rock acts.

Directed by Ramona Diaz, who had helmed the Marcos docu “Imelda,” “Everyman’s Journey” was shown at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York and opened in several theaters across America this past week.

The documentary would have been a nifty complement not just to the now-postponed concert but to general knowledge about Pineda’s fascinating life story — of a Filipino journeyman musician who first cut his teeth in a succession of bar bands and had occasional, fleeting brushes with the limelight before getting catapulted to the global mainstream by accepting Journey co-founder Neal Schon’s invitation to audition and effectively be the new Steve Perry. 

Watch the trailer for “Don’t Stop Believing: Everyman’s Journey” here: 

This band-fan-turned-band-member tale is not exactly new, given the fate of American heavy metal singer Timothy S. “Ripper” Owens, who had been in a Judas Priest tribute band before getting hired by that British band’s members to be their new lead vocalist ― a true-to-life story that inspired the 2001 Mark Wahlberg movie “Rock Star.”

Yet Pineda’s tale is a far more Cinderella one, given his 3rd-world roots vis-à-vis Journey’s own American base and global stature.

We shall now have to wait, both for the possibility of “Everyman’s Journey’s” release in local cinemas and the loud-and-proud return of Pineda to his homeland with his non-Pinoy bandmates in tow. 

In the meantime, the 45-year-old vocalist responded to a few queries via email for this exclusive Q&A with Rappler:

Rappler: How are you these days? Has the reality of being in Journey fully sunk in?

Arnel Pineda: I am good and pretty ecstatic ’cause of my 4th baby, Thea. I guess being the singer of Journey will never sink in to me and will always be the best fairy tale I ever had.

Is there a need for you to become an American citizen or, at least, a dual Filipino and American citizen to remain in Journey?

Business-wise, yes, I guess I need to be, if only so I could enjoy what other privileges the rest of the band members are enjoying as citizens of America. I’m still not based in San Francisco, though.

What have been the prominent changes in you from being in Journey, and in Journey with you as the lead vocalist?

Financially, I’m so blessed right now; my family is benefiting a lot from my inclusion in Journey. [As for vice-versa], you’ll have to ask them what they get in return from having me as their singer, he he he he. (sic)

How are the work ethic and general attitudes of your Journey mates? Have your own work ethic and attitude become different as a result?

All I can say is that my world tour with them is marked by the highest level of professionalism I’ve ever run into. It’s all very, very organized. Nobody’s allowed to make mistakes.

What are your most memorable Journey anecdotes so far?

Every show is just unique and amazing: old fans and new fans come together… the way they react to each song… it’s all just so exhilarating to see. I can’t find a way to shorten it beyond that. If I tell the whole thing, it’s like 5 years’ worth of anecdotes.

Watch one of Arnel Pineda’s first gigs as Journey lead singer here: 

How much work goes into being in Journey, counting the stuff you do outside of concerts and rehearsals? 

Let’s just say I spend 6 months in the USA and 6 months in the Philippines. I’ve also been working on a new solo album for two years now. (Pineda had a solo album out in 1999 via Warner Music Philippines.)

Are you guys working on a new album [following 2008’s ‘Revelation’ and 2011’s ‘Eclipse’]? Do you have a bigger hand in any new songs than you did in ‘Eclipse’? And is there any chance that you’d do an, i.e., have Journey come up with a Filipino song?

I’m hoping to have one more album with them before we call it quits. is so lucky to have done that. I’m hoping I’d be as lucky as him. (Black Eyed Peas’ aka Allan Pineda ― no relation to Arnel ― has recorded Pinoy songs with his US-based quartet, such as “Bebot.”)

How do you preserve your vocals and ensure that they are in peak condition despite the 18-songs-per-night rigors of your career?

Sleep, discipline, exercise, healthy food.

Journey is still better known for their ’80s hits. Are you looking forward to helping to come up with newer tunes that will be big enough to, say, also land in movie soundtracks and the likes of “Glee”?

Let’s cross our fingers on that mindset and aim.

Being in Journey seems pretty hard to top, but you must still have some goals at this point. What are your personal and professional aims or how do you see yourself a decade from now?

I might try for another solo album; whether it clicks or not, I might as well try. I’d also like to go into the culinary arts, do farming, be an entrepreneur, and be a better father and husband. –

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