Ask someone what is their favorite Journey song and you will probably get a variety of answers, including “Lights,” “Open Arms,” “Faithfully” and “Wheel in The Sky.”
The band is also responsible for the pop culture juggernaut “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” that seems to become more popular as it gets older. The track from 1981’s “Escape” has become a mainstay in American pop culture. It’s been featured on shows such as “Glee” and it was the centerpiece of the controversial series finale of HBO’s “The Sopranos.”
Journey may be the most popular band in the world, and if they aren’t, they are at least in the top five. Journey, which was started by guitarist Neal Schon and singer/keyboardist Gregg Rolie, both of whom were Santana alums, along with bassist Ross Valory and then-drummer Prairie Prince (The Tubes), was everywhere in the late 1970s to mid-1980s. This was when the band was at the height of its commercial success with the golden throated Steve Perry on vocals and former Babys keyboardist Jonathan Cain.
But the band has also faced its share of hard times, including the departure of Perry. In 2007, Schon and Cain were looking for a new singer when Schon found Arnel Pineda, who lived in the Philippines and sang in a cover band, on YouTube. The band went out on tour with Pineda and once again started playing to sold-out crowds around the world.
On Friday, Journey, with drummer Steve Smith, returns to New Orleans, the very place where they filmed the video for “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” in 1983. The band will join special guest Asia at 8 p.m. at the Smoothie King Center. Tickets start at $59 and are available at Ticketmaster.com.
For Cain, a lot has happened since he joined the band by replacing Rolie in 1980. He’s seen Perry’s departure and eventual replacement by Steve Augeri, as well as the band’s recent induction into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Cain also married Tupelo native and minister Paula White, a move he said in an interview with the Sun Herald, brought him back to his faith.
“I just felt like it was time to give it back to the Lord,” Cain said. “If I can help win over some souls to the Kingdom, then it’s a real blessing.”
Cain said his faith means everything to him these days. He can often be found by White’s side delivering his testimony about his relationship with Christ. In 2016, he released his first album of praise music — “What God Wants to Hear.”
We were both struggling. We were the “singer in the smoky room” in that song. We just wanted to roll the dice one more time — and we won with that one.
Jonathan Cain on writing “Don’t Stop Believin’” with Steve Perry
Q: You released your first album of Christian music last year. Is that something you hope to do again?
A: I have a Christmas album that I just completed that I’m totally excited to lay on y’all. Its coming out in November and it has 10 original songs for Jesus. I put the whole family on this album — it’s a family affair, my man. I’m putting a Baptist choir coming in to sing on “Oh Holy Night.” It should be pretty epic.
I love Christmas and I always wanted to make a Christmas album. God has ended up being the best co-writer I’ve ever had. I get these lyrics and I just go to town with them. I was in Vegas for three weeks and I wrote two new songs.
My second album is coming out in the spring. That’s how productive I’ve been. Our God is a living moving thing and He shifts us. If we don’t shift with Him, we get stale. You have to look for your God.
Q: Tell me about your walk of faith.
A: It’s about obedience and following that way of life. We have to show up and show some respect and love — God will do mighty things for us. My life changed. I was broke and searching and hungry but I didn’t know for what. But through God, all things are possible. I was a spiritual child, but I lost that and I lost confidence. I think now it’s more a mixture of church and politics that moved me away. It wasn’t God. Ten years later, the Lord found me on the floor of a Baptist church. We’re all really just one altar call away. I love that line.
It’s a commitment, but the blessings don’t come without some form of sacrifice. We have it pretty good. We can worship and pray — we have these freedoms in our country.
Q: Shifting gears to your secular career, I saw that you were an answer to a final “Jepoardy” question recently. “Jonathan Cain was a struggling musician when his father told him to keep at it and never give up, inspiring this three-word 1981 title.” The answer, of course, was “Don’t Stop Believin.’”
A: That was pretty eye-opening. That’s what the Hall of Fame will get you. It puts a spotlight on you like never before. It’s a real blessing — it’s real moving thing. That story is right — my dad was the guy and I wrote that title (Don’t Stop Believin’) down in my notebook. And one day, Steve Perry would sing that. And did he ever sing it.
Q: Are you surprised with the continuing popularity of that song?
A: To a degree, I am. We did a lot of things right on that song with the lyrics and the form. It’s a great song. It was about a lot of the things Steve and I had been through in our lives. We were giving people a little hope. We were both struggling. We were the “singer in the smoky room” in that song. We just wanted to roll the dice one more time — and we won with that one. We’re not always going to win, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to dream. It’s the persistence that keeps you driving forward. My dad was a man’s man. He had that vision for me and he kept it alive. He was my vision keeper. My big “aha” moment was when he passed away and I thought I would never be able to make music again and the Lord said, “Hey, don’t forget about me.”
Q: There’s so much going on with the band, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the tours. I’m so glad to see Journey and Chicago in the Hall of Fame. In my opinion, Steve Perry is the greatest rock singer. But there’s a point when Steve walked away. Did you ever imagine the band getting a second wind like this 20 years later?
A: God showed me that the music is bigger than all of us. I knew the songs were the key. But it was not easy calling Steve Perry and asking him to come back and him rejecting us and then calling him back and telling him that we were moving on without him — that was not easy. But we went on and shocked the fans without Steve and by bringing Steve Augeri out there. But I knew the music would speak and we slowly built it. Steve Augeri gave us eight years and we proved that the music was bigger than just one guy.
Q: The last time I saw the band was on Arnel’s first tour and he was pretty energetic, to say the least. How has Arnel grown as a performer and a member of Journey since that tour?
A: I think he’s settled in and he’s pacing himself and not letting the adrenaline get the best of him. He’s learned to adapt to the time changes and his voice has gotten better. I think as he has trained himself, he’s adapted to the audience and he’s so much more confident.
Steve Perry used to wear these Nike high-tops. Well, I have a friend in the shoe business. He told me that he may have a pair of Steve Perry’s old shoes and I told him he needed to track them down. So, he found this lady with a pair of white Nikes with the red swoosh. He called Arnell and asked him about his shoe size. Arnel told him he wears a 6 1/2. Those are small feet, right? They were exactly the same size as Steve Perry’s. All those years he would say to me, “I have big shoes to fill.” And I would say, “No, you bring your own shoes.” And years later, the Lord says, “Here, wear Steve Perry’s shoes.”
If you go
Who: Journey with special guest Asia
Where: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans
When: 8 p.m. on Friday, June 9, 2017
Tickets: They start at $60 and are available at Ticketmaster.com