Journey To The Unreachable Star
By Vic Perez
Arnel Pineda croons the high notes of "Don't Stop Believing" as the gigantic speakers blare and the jubilant mammoth crowd of a hundred thousand people dance and sing with him in Download Festival- one of the biggest rock music concert festivals based in the UK. Flashback a few decades ago, his life was far from this. When he was a young boy, he was homeless and aimlessly lived in the streets of Manila, selling newspapers and scraps of metal to survive.
From a homeless singer to an international rockstar-recreating the voice of one of the biggest pop-rock bands in the world-Journey, Arnel Pineda story is any singer's magical, inspiring tale. Yes, don't stop believing he will say, and indeed the impossible dream can happen. His life story is a testament to one man's ascent to fame and fortune from a music man's struggling life in Manila.
Arnel was a lead singer for various bands and club acts in the Philippines
in the late 1980s and 1990s.
In 2007, Neal Schon, guitarist, and member of the band Journey saw Pineda's video on YouTube and immediately contacted him. The band had been looking for a new lead singer, and Pineda's voice sounded strikingly similar to Steve Perry, Journey's legendary former frontman. After speaking with Neal Schon on the phone, he flew to the United States and auditioned with the band in San Francisco. By the end of the year 2007, Pineda was welcomed as the band's new lead singer. Immediately, he went on tour with the band, performing two shows in Chile and two in Las Vegas, which were all monster hits. After a series of guest show appearances and magazine features, he gained popularity within the American public. Arnel Pineda brought back the tenor, emotional voice of Steve Perry, and reignited the soul of the legendary Journey band back to sold-out concerts. He recaptured the lead singer's voice with a history of 80 million hits and sold-out stadiums and concert arenas worldwide. Journey once again is in the crescent of fame as one of the most enduring pop-rock bands in the music industry.
With the Spotlight Media Magazine team, Arnel speaks his mind in his modest and humble way.
Spotlight Media Magazine (SMM)
Being Asian and a Filipino, what do you feel like being recognized by an international audience?
ARNEL PINEDA (AP): From the start, I knew that it would be a very intriguing and somehow scary
experience, especially with racism in our midst. But I still went on and just did my job-show after show after show. Eventually, I think I have survived despite negative criticism from naysayers. I was supported much by my fellow band members: Neal, Jonathan, Ross, Deen, Journey's management, and the tech crew's support. They were all amazing, and they loved me like I am one of them since the beginning. Of course, my wife and my entire family and friend's support back in the Philippines gave me loads of courage and strength to keep going. I could claim somehow that each year with the band touring around Europe, America, Asia, and South America, I have earned, little by little, some respect from the hardcore fans and gained new ones.
What do they say about you as a singer?
I hate complimenting myself, but I think I need to learn more things. Let's say that it has been 13 years now, and I am still with them. Maybe it means I'm doing something right.
Do you feel like you are a model for Asian aspiring singers who want to be dominant players on the world/ international stage?
I'm getting messages about this, and I'm very honored that they tell me those compliments. Look,
if K-POP can do it, so can Pinoy POP. We all have to put all of our passion and hard work in our chosen
Do you consider being a lead singer of one of the biggest bands internationally as a matter of luck, hard work, talent, or all of the above?
I can say that it's because of Noel Gomez ( the man who posted my video on Youtube), Neal Schon
(Journey's guitarist), a stroke of enormous luck, a lot of hard work and confidence (Singing before 20K or
100K people each show is a tall order). Maybe even divine intervention? Talent? I have doubts about that (
he chuckles) I'm learning and continue to learn while I'm still alive.
Who are your significant influences?
Mr. Steve Perry, Ann Wilson, Robert Plant, Stevie Wonder, John Farnham, Bono, Sammy Hagar, Paul McCartney, Sting, James Brown.
What particular experience or experiences during your performances were the most unforgettable of all, and why?
This is a hard question. There are so many great experiences I have had over the span of 13 years. Let's
Singing with Ann Wilson on stage
Meeting Mr. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
Meeting Mr. Brian May (Queen)
Meeting Mr. Billy Joel
Meeting Mr. Don Henley
and touring with some of the world's greatest bands like HEART, CHEAP TRICK, FOREIGNER, WHITESNAKE, DEF LEPPARD, KANSAS, REO SPEEDWAGON, among others. I can't forget also performing for 100K concertgoers during the Download Festival in the UK.
Do you have plans to have a separate career as a solo singer simultaneous to being a lead singer of Journey?
I am trying. This other side of me is still hungry for that kind of creativity that needs to get fed. Successful or not, I plan to do it, and I am grateful enough that there are people like my wife, my kids, Yul Session, Rene Walter of SANRE Entertainment, Bob Winegard of IMAGEN RECORDS, and Bojie Yangco who are supporting me in this venture that I do outside of Journey's courtyard.
Do you write songs for the band? Do you write songs for your solo records?
Yes, I do offer some of my works with the band. So far, I was able to contribute to our ECLIPSE album. Let's see if they will accept one or two of my works for this new album we are making during this pandemic.
When asked about how he celebrates Christmas, he remembers how he spent Christmas with his family when he was a little boy. "When my mom was still alive, our Christmas back then is okay. My parents would try to make it as memorable as possible for us, even though they are having a tough time making a decent living. Christmas presently is different since I have my own family. My wife Cherie makes sure that it's meaningful and straightforward, especially for our kids, Matthew, Angelo, Cherub and Thea. She tries to make it extra special by seeing that everybody has a gift to open at midnight on the 24th. Mellow and modest , Musicman Arnel Pineda who is now considered to be royalty in the rock music industry continues to pine on the the lyrics of The Impossible Dream. " to reach the unreachable star " which is the journey he trekked. For him, it is just the beginning. More records to hit platinum. More stadiums to fill. More dreams to fulfill. It can happen to all of us. We just need to begin to dream.