Pinoy global rock superstar Arnel Pineda has been working on an album for more than three years now. As a songwriter, he’s keenly aware that today’s audiences are exposed to all types of music – and that musical tastes, especially among millennials and generation Z, can change really fast.
Overall, he wants the album to sound contemporary and pleasing to the current crop of audiences. He dreads the thought of listeners hearing his album and thinking that it sounds, well, old.
At fifty-one years old, Arnel is a certified rock and roll veteran. He started rocking at just fifteen years of age, joining various bands including Ijos, Amo, and others until he became the singer of the band The Zoo in 2006.
Journey to stardom
This proved to be a turning point in his Arnel’s life, as it was during that time that he made full use of his soaring, powerful vocals when The Zoo covered songs of American super bands like Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Survivor, and of course, Journey.
The Zoo released its own original album in 2007, called “Zoology” but even before that, Arnel and the band had already been uploading videos of their performances on YouTube. Among the videos were those of Arnel singing Journey songs.
It so happened that Neal Schon, legendary American rock guitarist, songwriter, vocalist, and founder of the band Journey had been looking for a new vocalist for the band. The main requirement, of course, was to find someone who could re-capture the magic of Journey’s greatest hits, that were voiced by the iconic Steve Perry.
Searching for a new vocalist on YouTube is not that unusual – bands do that all the time. But what was unusual was that Schon was able to find a vocalist to replace the iconic Steve Perry in the Philippines. Journey has always been known as an “all-American” band – so for them to pick Arnel, a singer from more than 13,000 kilometers away in Manila, was some sort of milestone
By December 2007, Journey had officially announced Pineda’s status as their new vocalist.
Arnel did not disappoint. In February 2008, he wowed audiences in his first gig with Journey at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival held at the Quinta Vergara Amphitheater in Viña del Mar, Chile.
This was followed in the same year with a European and North American tour that reached Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, and Canada. Arnel did 57 concerts across these countries.
Arnel’s entry into the band even gained Journey a new fan base among Filipinos and Filipino Americans. This helped propel the new album that Journey released in 2008, “Revelation” to the Top 5 spot in the Billboard Top 200 charts. For six weeks, the album stayed in the Top 20 and sold more than 300,000 copies of the album in just a few days.
Two other highlights of Arnel’s gig with Journey include his performance at the 43rd Super Bowl in 2009 and meeting Steve Perry in 2017. They finally met on April 7, 2017 when Journey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Steve Perry praised Arnel for “sing(ing) his heart out” during every performance with Journey. For his part, Arnel said that Journey and Steve Perry have always been his idols, and that he thanks God that, after 35 years of waiting, he finally met Perry in person.
Looking back, Arnel has had great success in the music industry but nowadays, it’s his family that gives him the best inspiration: his wife Cherry, sons Matthew, Angelo, and Cherub, and daughter Thea.
New album, music videos
We caught up with Arnel after he gave an interview for radio station 95.7 DWBG Big Sound FM. Luckily, he had time for a short chat.
This was our conversation with him:
Canto: Is it true that after more than three years, you are still not finished with your latest album?
Arnel: We have a new song, that I want to upgrade in terms of sound. I really think people will like it but I don’t want to put it out yet until we do a remixing.
Kailangan kasi mag-keep up ka sa sound eh. Kasi alam mo naman yung mga bata, pag narinig nila baka sabihin, “ano ba yan, masyadong luma yung tunog”, alam mo yon?
(Nowadays you need to keep up with the sound. You know kids today, when they hear something they might go, “what’s this, why does it sound so old”, you know?)
Canto: So how do you imagine will the remix go?
Arnel: Na-imagine ko yung medyo ka-liga siya ng Imagine Dragons. (I imagine it to make a similar approach as Imagine Dragons).
Canto: As a songwriter, are you the type to be very concerned about the way the audience receives your songs?
Arnel: Grabe ang pop world. Jina-judge agad yung kanta sa tunog pa lang. Tapos yung mga bata ngayon, ang daling ma-lose yung attention nila eh, kasing ang daming lumalabas eh.
Canto: Maybe it’s because of the internet, young people today are exposed to so many sounds from all over the world. So do feel some pressure to keep up with that?
Arnel: Yes. Kailangan mong mag-keep up talaga kasi otherwise, wag mo na lang gawin. You’ll just be wasting your time, your energy, sasama lang ang loob mo pag hindi napansin yung sa iyo.
But at the same time, you have to balance that with being true to yourself. Of course, you have to satisfy yourself first. Dapat ma-express mo yung kung ano ka eh.
You have to stay true to yourself. Kailangan sincere, you have to be honest with yourself.
Canto: So it’s balancing what the audience is looking for while also being authentic?
Arnel: Yes. When you like your own song, when you are satisfied with how it sounds, may malaking chance na people will also like it. Kasi, marami na naman ang karanasan mo, musically. So, your musicianship and musical taste, mataas na yung level eh.
Pero, hindi pa rin sigurado yun. There are really times when you compare two songs, and you tell yourself, “bakit ganun?” Mas maganda ang pagkagawa nitong isa. Pero yung hindi masyadong maganda, yun pa ang sikat.
So, when it comes to songwriting, there’s no guarantee. Sobra pa ring volatile.
Canto: Do you depend on getting feedback from others about your songs?
Arnel: Hindi naman masyado. Over the years, tinuruan ko na rin yung sarili ko na ma-satisfy. For some songs, as long as I did my best, parang bonus na lang yung magustuhan din ng iba. Kasi if I don’t learn to be satisfied, ako rin ang masasaktan eh.
Canto: Does it take you a long time to write songs?
Arnel: Yes. Hindi lang because pinag-aaralan ko yung gusto kong sound. Maski yung lyrics. For example, susulat ako pero kalahati lang yang matatapos ko. Matagal pa before ko makumpleto.
Kasi you have to honest about what you write but at the same time, you also know that in the history of music, lahat na ng magagandang lyrics naisulat na.
You want to be honest but you don’t want to be cliché. Dapat yung approach mo, yung atake mo, iba.
Canto: What inspires you to write songs?
Arnel: Yung galling sa tunay na buhay. Yung mga kwento tungkol sa mga buhay-buhay ng totoong tao.
Canto: We heard that you are also shooting music videos?
Arnel: We’re planning on making music videos for two of the songs in the album, “Ewan ko” and “Hiling”.
Canto: But as a performer, it seems as though you are more about what the audience likes. I think you mentioned in one interview that you always want to connect with the audience when you are on stage.
Arnel: Yes. Of course, you have to deliver. I-deliver mo yung emotions. Even yung lyrics kailangan malinaw. Yung rapport mo sa kanila.
You know, yung ibang singers di ba. Kumakanta sila, maganda ang boses. Magaling. Nandoon yung emotion. Pero steady lang. They don’t move. Just singing. They don’t look at people.
Ako, I like to move onstage. Titingnan ko yung audience sa mga mata nila. I do everything to connect with them.
Canto: Going on a world tour is not that easily mentally or physically. Are you more careful now about your health, especially when you’re preparing for a tour with Journey?
Arnel: Of course. I have to discipline myself. I have to take care of my body. And my voice, especially the voice.
Kasi when you age, talagang nagbabago ang voice mo eh.
Canto: You have a doctor helping you with that?
Arnel: Yes. Kailangan. Alam mo naman, noon, when I was younger talagang nandyan yung drugs atsaka inom. Pero ngayon, hindi na. I really have to keep myself healthy at my age.
Canto: You mentioned how nowadays, you try to keep up with the sound that is current based on the taste of young people. Is there anything else, any message that you would like to send to millennials and generation z?
Arnel: Ang natutunan ko talaga sa buhay ko yang pasensiya. Yung kaya mong magtiis habang kailangan.
We hear about how young people today, pag may nangyari, made-depress, magiging bitter, o kaya magiging suicidal.
You have to have patience, hard work, and resilience. Hindi yung sa isang relationship for example, hindi kayo magkasundo, so makikipag-break ka, papalitan mo na lang.
Dapat makuha mo yung attitude na hindi ka sumusuko. Pag inaabot mo yung aspirations mo, yung mga pangarap mo, hindi ka dapat agad sumusuko.
Nagdaan din ako sa ganyan yung I was rebellious, I was bitter.
Pero what you need is patience, hard work, and resilience para matapos mo yung nasimulan mo and maabot mo yung aspirations mo.
That’s how you build self-worth, self-respect, self-esteem. Yung mare-realize mo, uy, kaya ko palang matapos ito. Kaya ko palang magawa ito kahit mahirap.
So, finish what you started. Hindi yung mahirapan ka lang, you will give up. Remember, have patience, hard work, and resilience.