By now, the story of Journey’s Neal Schon discovering Arnel Pineda on YouTube — and subsequently crowning him Journey’s new lead singer in 2008 — has become classic underdog folklore amongst Asian Americans and Filipinos around the world. However, Steve Perry fans might have needed a little bit more convincing. Pineda, a singer/songwriter from the Philippines who was singing Journey cover songs with his band The Zoo, may have been a curious choice to officially headline the popular American rock band.
Five years later, the 30-year-old band Journey has had a resurgence, thanks to Arnel (and his undeniable pipes). Their international tours continue to sell out, and the band is currently performing in Japan with no breaks until September, after they make stops in Singapore, UK, Germany, and the US.
As soon as award-winning documentarian Ramona Diaz (Imelda, The Learning) heard about Arnel, she knew there was a story there. It took some convincing, as the original members of Journey weren’t keen on having a filmmaker follow them around on tour, but soon she was on the road, capturing Arnel Pineda’s first year as the lead singer of Journey.
And Pineda is such a sweetly charismatic subject. A huge Journey fan himself, Pineda cannot believe he’s even included in their band photos. It’s his first time performing in front of such massive crowds. A ball of energy onstage, he needs to learn how to balance making the songs his own, yet not steering too far away from the Steve Perry sound that Journey fans have come to love. On the flip side, the members of Journey treat Arnel as a younger brother, protective over the fact that they’re taking a singer who grew up homeless in the Manila slums and throwing him into a crazy rock ‘n roll circus.
But before they know it, the Filipino fans start showing up in middle-of-nowhere America. And they are there not for Journey. They are there for Arnel.
The documentary Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey opened in limited release on March 9, 2013. For more information, go to their official website: Everymansjourney.com.