Arnel Pineda and his unusual journey to Journey


Staff member

At age 40, Arnel Pineda lived every wannabe rock star's dream, middle-aged fan's fantasy and even one poor country's hope for financial success.

A little more than five years ago, as videos of Pineda performing Journey cover tunes played on YouTube, he sat at home in the Philippines on the verge of giving up his dream of a singing and songwriting career.

But those YouTube clips eventually earned Pineda an audition for rock band Journey, whose hits of the 1980s include Who's Crying Now and Open Arms, and he went on to become their lead singer in an unlikely career trajectory that is now part of Journey lore.

A look inside Pineda's rise to fame and his struggles with rock 'n' roll stardom are the subject of a documentary that is playing at this week's Tribeca Film Festival.

Don't Stop Believin'

Don't Stop Believin' is named after the band's hit anthem during the height of its success, and it represents Pineda's own inspirational rise from begging on the streets in Manila to singing around the world in large stadiums packed with fans.

Pineda, whose Filipino background initially surprised Journey fans who longed for the voice of former frontman Steve Perry, said he winced when watching himself on film.

"It was actually very difficult because, as we all know, I am not this Hollywood guy who looks great and tall," he said.

"But the other side of me was saying, this movie needs to be seen by a lot of people out there who have been dreaming to become somebody, to get recognised with their talents, with their God-given things they have in themselves."

Nervous first audition

The documentary follows Pineda from his nervous first audition to being on the Journey tour bus and inside hotel rooms with the band. Audiences see how Pineda handles the fame back stage before a show, off stage signing autographs and on stage, sometimes while sick, on a gruelling first tour in which he tries hard to live up to fans' expectations.

"It was difficult. We all have our limits, we get tired and whether we like it or not, we would feel itchy or not comfortable at some point. We just wanted our times alone. But since we signed up for it, whether we liked it or not we have to face the camera," Pineda said.

The worst part, he said, was the constant travelling without his family, being exhausted and trying to "sound golden all the time". But he adds that it was uplifting "when you see these fans, smiling, happy, hugging each other, crying when they hear their favourite songs".