It defied logic when ’80s rock band Journey recently offered the job of vocalist to Arnel Pineda, a 40-year-old father of three from the Philippines’ Quezon City. Frontman for a Filipino rock and cover band called the Zoo, Pineda had played little more than dimly lit small- and medium-sized rock clubs in his homeland when he received the phone call that made him Journey’s third singer since original vocalist Steve Perry left in the late ’90s.
Impressed by footage of Pineda performing Journey covers on YouTube, longstanding Journey guitarist Neal Schon contacted Pineda in August of ’07 and flew him to California to audition for the job.
“I was frustrated about not having a singer,” Schon has said, “so I went on YouTube for a couple of days and just sat on it for hours. I was starting to think I was never going to find anybody. But then I found the Zoo, and I watched a bunch of different video clips that they had posted. After watching the videos over and over again, I had to walk away from the computer and let what I heard sink in because it sounded too good to be true. I thought, ‘he can’t be that good.’”
In December, Journey publicly announced that Pineda was their new vocalist and that they’d embark on a world tour. Hired out of obscurity, Pineda will soon find himself performing before global audiences.
Some may call it luck, but Pineda was prepared for this opportunity. His mother, a tailor who died when he was 13, groomed him to begin performing at age 11—after two years of in-house rehearsal—as a contestant in local singing competitions. He went pro at 15, initially performing in malls and eventually in nearly every music venue in the Philippines. Only in mid-life did he begin to study technique and take voice lessons.
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