We’re not getting any younger, so we might as well get it right!” Jonathan Cain, veteran musician and backup vocalist for the nationally acclaimed band Journey told me. Since the loss of frontman Steve Perry, the band has been on quite a transitional journey of their own. Proving that they have the tenacity their globally platinum lyrics imply, they haven’t stopped believing, or given up. Instead they pursued with relentless intent the preservation and continuance of the band.
That pursuit caught the attention of successful and renowned independent filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz who documented the search and the challenges the band faced to integrate new frontman, Filipino native Arnel Pineda. Against all odds, Jonathan and (co-bandmate) Neal Schon unearthed the talented Pineda on YouTube, brought him to America and turned the club singer into a nationally renowned rock star.
The film is called “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey” and will be released stateside tomorrow, Friday March 8 at select theater locations. When I caught up with Jonathan last week he told me, “We had nothing to do with it [the film], absolutely nothing.” Explaining, “What happened was Ramona Diaz, who produced and directed the film, came to us and said, ‘I want to shoot around you guys. Is it cool?’ And with a lot of talk and trepidation we said, ‘I guess so, go ahead.’” The project was years in the making and a courageous extension of vulnerability, not only by the band but Arnel himself. Jonathan relays, “She followed us around for three and a half years. She had a crew – two guys, three guys and they’d do interviews. It was all funded by her, we just did our interviews and cooperated. She’s Filipino so we thought, who else to get the story right.”
The story begins with the loss of veteran lead singer, Steve. Cain confessed, “He gave us eight good years and it was awesome how hard he worked. It was hard to see him go, first of all. The rigor and wear and tear can take anybody down.” After a near miss, replacing Steve with someone Jonathan described as more of a cover-type singer, they took his brother’s advice and began scouring YouTube, “We just thought we needed to get somebody totally off the mark of what we had but was a good singer. And it was mostly Neal’s tenacity, he just kept at it and kept at it.” It finally paid off when Neal’s search lead him to the Filipino club singer. Jonathan says, “There was a lot of work to be done and it seemed like he was kind of in shock that we wanted him. After visiting the US he went back to Manila and put his head down and decided, ‘I’m going to do this!’”
What appears to the general public to be a Cinderella-esque story, swooping a modern day foreign citizen and with the wave of a wand, transforming him into a rock icon, in reality was a lot more than that. Jonathan explains, “It wasn’t overnight. He worked hard at it. It seemed like it but there was months and months and months of questions and issues and things that he had to deal with.” Continuing, “It was really not an easy task for him. The movie kind of goes over all the things he worked through. He had to get past the, ‘Oh my God’ factor and take ownership and do it. And he did it!” The moment everything connected was when the real magic occurred. Jonathan confides, “I think Manila changed it all. When he played in front of his countrymen, in his homeland, the next day he was different. I kind of knew that was going to happen. Now he’s just simply the guy.”
As cliche as it likely is to say, the journey for Journey is not nearly over. Cain confirms that the addition of Arnel has enhanced the chemistry of the band saying, “We’ve always been great at executing, and our vibe on stage has always been top notch. Arnel brings a freshness to this stuff with his voice. We get a little more ramped up when we hear him.” Adding, “You get the goose bump moments that you haven’t gotten in a long time when you’re on stage and you hear it done perfectly. It’s pretty cool!” He concludes with a chuckle, “I tell people now, I know those were big shoes to fill but he brought his own.