Rolling Stone interview series King for a Day features long-form conversations between senior writer Andy Greene and singers who had the difficult job of fronting major rock bands after the departure of an iconic vocalist. Some of them stayed in their bands for years, while others lasted just a few months. In the end, however, they all found out that replacement singers can themselves be replaced. This edition features former Journey singer Steve Augeri.
Journey has been fronted by six vocalists over the past 50 years. Some of them lasted a matter of months, while others remained with the group for well over a decade. But none faced the insane pressure that Steve Augeri faced during his tenure from 1998 to 2006. This was right after the band parted ways with Steve “The Voice” Perry and many fans were unwilling to even consider the idea that anyone else could fill that slot.
“It was literally one day at a time, one show at a time, that I would slowly, slowly get the fans’ approval and their confidence,” Augeri says today. “Not everyone was willing, though. I might have been one of the people that said, ‘No. I don’t care if you can sing or not. I don’t care if you are a decent individual. I won’t stand for anyone other than Steve Perry singing for this band.’ I’m sure that to this day, there are some fans that feel that no matter who is singing for them. I respect that. I get it.”
Augeri left the group 16 years ago when health issues and their relentless tour schedule left him with a shattered voice, but he’s made a full recovery and now spends much of his year touring the world and playing the Journey classics with the Steve Augeri Band. He phoned up Rolling Stone from his home in Staten Island, New York, to look back on his life and his tenure in Journey.
How are you doing today?
I’m doing great. I’m having a couple of double espressos, a protein energy shake, and I’m ready to talk. My cat is staring at me. We’re having a staring contest.
Were you on tour recently?
We just came back from something called the Retro Festival in Switzerland in Lucerne. Our year just started in the last two weeks. We were in Orlando, Florida, prior to that. It’s been a slow couple of years. You can only imagine. Things are starting to pick up.
It must feel good to be back onstage.
Oh, goodness. Indeed. These last two years have really changed my perspective on a lot of things. Getting back to work and performing, I’ll never take it for granted again.
I want to go through some of your history here. You grew up in Brooklyn?
Yeah. Bensonhurst Brooklyn in the heart of what I guess you can call Mobland/Mafialand/Gangland territory, to be honest with you. I used to go to school and I’d pass by Sammy “The Bull” Gravano’s bar where he used to carry on his illegal activities, so to speak.
Was music a big part of your life as a kid?
Yeah. Starting at PS 48 in Brooklyn. They had some money in the budget to pass out recorders and then clarinets. And then a music teacher that saw a spark of talent in me and started working with me vocally. I remember my first recital in fifth grade singing [Giuseppe Verdi’s] “La donna è mobile.” I learned it phonetically and that was the start of it all.
Who were some of your favorite singers as a kid?
I’m of the generation that was fortunate to see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I remember laying on the living room floor on my elbows with my hands on my chin, watching these four guys that would push me towards that direction and spark something in me. Thousands of other kids turned into musicians the next day and bothered their parents for a guitar or a bass or drums. I was one of thousands of kids that had their lives turned upside by that TV performance.
Did you see any concerts in your youth that left a big mark on you?
My first concert was a Humble Pie concert at the Academy of Music on 14th Street. It then became the Palladium and then NYU dormitories. I was probably about 15. I remember that was my exposure and the first time I’d ever experienced anything like that. It was a gathering of people from all over the city that came together to celebrate this amazing music. The marijuana smoke was so thick. I had never experienced anything like that in public. There was electricity in the air. It really rocked my world and cemented my desire to follow in that path of attempting to become a rock & roll artist.
When did you first make a really serious attempt to become one?
It was absolutely at age 15. I knew that was it. There was no profession or no job that could at all compare to anything like that. I already had the music bug. I was already living and breathing music. I’d wake up and I had to chatter my teeth in a drum groove. You can ask my dentist. To this day, I’m still repairing it. That used to be my drum kit. It just used to consume me 24/7.
How did your career develop from there?
The beautiful thing about growing up in that era, and especially in New York City, was you’d take a walk and you’d hear a band on each and every street, whether it was coming from the basements or garages, there was one on every block. I had a little clique of three or four bands in the neighborhood. We’d all share gear, drums, amplifiers. What’s interesting is that I grew up in the same neighborhood as Saturday Night Fever. That particular nightclub, 2001 Odyssey, on Wednesday nights they would hold a rock & roll night. We were one of the bands that used to play there to an audience of about 10. It was mainly family and friends. We kind of came up in there.
I was playing in a band called Kicks. It was managed by [Steve] Leber and [David] Krebs, who were doing AC/DC and Aerosmith. They had a wonderful gal named Marge Raymond who sang in a band called Flame. That was produced by Jimmy Iovine. Marge had a voice like no other and she could out-sing any male vocalist. She could dominate any room or any concert, any stage.
She left Flame and started Kicks and I became one of her rhythm guitarists. Then she was tapped when Aerosmith was on the ice to play with the rhythm section plus Bob Mayo of Peter Frampton frame. They called themselves Renegade. She was fronting that band. That led me to step into the lead vocalist slot for Kicks. From there, Leber and Krebs took notice.
And then Paul O’Neill, who is most noticeable for being one of the leaders of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, tapped me to play with Michael Schenker. It was for a vocalist and guitar player. I couldn’t cut it on the guitar at the time, but they took me out as a vocalist. We started in nightclubs, and then Ted Nugent took us out as his opening act.
My job was to stand behind a curtain near the side of the stage and sing background. On the Nugent tour, I used to feel this looming presence behind me. It was Ted slapping my back. He’d say, “Don’t worry. Someday you’ll be in front of that curtain.”
How did you wind up working at the Gap in the mid-Nineties?
[Laughs] I spent a few years in this band called Tall Stories. Like many bands of our era, we were just about to release our record when the music moved on a dime with the release of Nirvana’s record [Nevermind.] On our very same release date was Spin Doctors and, more importantly, Pearl Jam. Anything that wasn’t associated with Seattle or the new sound was dropped and not even considered. And so that was the demise of Tall Stories. We were a fine band with a fine album.
After that, I was out of work. I had a cousin that worked for the Gap. She was high up in management. She was kind enough to look and see if there was anything I could do. All through my career, I was a construction worker or laborer, much like my father and my grandfather. I come from a long line of people swinging a hammer.
I did this for a year. They made me a maintenance manager. It wasn’t so awful, but it was anything from changing toilet seats to lightbulbs to painting fitting rooms, in record time. If you ever tried on a pair of jeans at the Gap and went home with a little extra paint on your butt, that might have been my responsibility. I now apologize, in front of the world.
Were you a fan of Journey back in the Eighties?
I was an absolute fan, first and foremost, of Steve Perry’s voice. I had heard them prior to that, but it wasn’t until I was working in a record store called Record Factory in Brooklyn when Escape was released. That kind of altered the direction of my life. That particular record was played a minimum of three times a day for quite a few months. I kid you not. We sold a minimum of a case a day. As you can imagine, it became ingrained in me.
When I first heard Steve, I said, “Oh, my God, this guy is doing something Sam Cooke might have done in front of an electric guitar and bass and a drum kit. He’s bringing this great R&B influence.” That marriage of the two is what grabbed my attention.
How did you hear that they were looking for a new singer?
It’s the old expression of “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I had done some work with a fabulous guitar player known as Joe Cefalu. He then moved out to Marin County in California and befriended Neal Schon. He then heard through the grapevine that they were splitting with Steve for one reason or another, and they were starting to audition vocalists.
He gives me a call and tells me what’s happening. I had basically retired after having more success than most people have had in this industry. I released a record with Tall Stories and another with Tyketto, another wonderful melodic rock band.
But a year had passed. I guess I was content working for the Gap. I was just about to reach a year and I was going to achieve 401(k) status. I was going to have a retirement plan put into place. I was like, “You’re doing OK. You walked away from music. You have a steady paycheck.” And he throws this dream back at me and goes, “Put together three songs, send it to me, and I’ll personally put it in Neal Schon’s hand.”
A week goes by. He doesn’t receive the cassette in the mail. He calls to ask what happened. I thanked him and said, “Joe, it’s a pipe dream, my friend. I appreciate you thinking of me, but this is never going to happen. I’m nowhere near the level of these guys, and especially Steve. It’s just ludicrous, insanity.” He said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to take care of it.”
He had a great deal more confidence in me than I ever had. He handed a tape to Neal and within a day or two, I was handed a phone call from Neal inviting me out to California to audition. As soon as I hung up, I received a phone call from Jonathan Cain. It may have been vice versa. I don’t remember.
What happened from there?
I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know if someone was pranking me. I didn’t know if someone was having a good laugh. I called Joe and he said, “Steve, you might want to sit down for this. What I’m about to tell you is going to alter your life forever.” He did indeed confirm that I was getting the audition. I begged Jonathan and Neal to give me a week to prepare, which is nowhere near what you need to get the voice back into shape, but I literally hadn’t sang for a year.
A week went by. I received my ticket to go across the country to San Francisco to Marin County. I walked in the room and there were these two heroes of mine. For five days, we recorded two songs a day. One was one of their classic hits, and one new song a day they had written and were preparing to release on their forthcoming record.
It was a little bit of a rocky start my first day because of either nerves or just the voice is a muscle and it hadn’t been worked in a year. We started out slow and rough. But by the fifth day, by the grace of God or some higher power, my voice came back to me. The stars aligned and I was singing up to par of close to where I was years ago.
I was feeling pretty good. They were working with A&R guru John Kalodner. They thanked me and the feeling was really great. I think I read in their eyes and their facial expressions it was going to happen without them saying it. But I turned around and said, “Gentlemen, I just want to say that I don’t know how this will end. I appreciate the opportunity. One thing for certain, by just you opening my eyes again, you’ve reestablished the fact that I want to go out and sing. I don’t want to go back to the Gap. I want to go get my music career back on track. And if this doesn’t happen, I’ll have a pretty great story to tell my grandkids.”
I had one foot out the door. I spun around and said, “You know, there was one more song I’d really love to have a stab at.” Not because I love ballads and soft rock and love songs, but because of the way that Save Perry sang “Open Arms,” it was a mega-song for me. Maybe it’s a little too mushy and a little too soft for the hard rock fans.
Here I was after nailing the audition, and I’m rolling the dice again. I could have absolutely blown it and thrown everything down the toilet. But I didn’t. I said, “Can I try that?” They agreed, and we did it. I happen to think that particular song may have clinched it for them. Again, it’s luck. It’s who you know. But after who you know, you have to be prepared. Things worked out. Stars were aligned.
How did you learn you had the gig?
It didn’t happen overnight. I know Geoff Tate [from Queensrÿche] was also considered. He co-wrote one of the songs that was on one of our records. I can only imagine there had to be quite a few others. But I’m the one who got lucky. It was the big shot, one chance in a million, chance of a lifetime.
Once you got the job, did you start to feel a tremendous weight on your shoulders? It must have been like, “Oh, my God. I need to now step into the shoes of one of the greatest singers of all time, and somehow win over his fans.”
Absolutely. I don’t there’s any more daunting task. I’ve seen bands replace members, and lead vocalists are usually the hardest ones. Even if there’s a beloved guitarist, for example, it’s tough. And of course, I’m coming from a fan’s perspective, first and foremost. I knew I had a great obstacle when it came to them, and there’s only one way to do it is to go out and do my best and try to be myself. It’s equally important to respect the music and respect what Steve did with it. I guess the reason they picked me in the first place is that we have vocal similarities. We aren’t identical, but there are similarities.
I had a great teacher early on in my career. One thing he taught me is that you can only go out there and be yourself and do your best. The moment you try and mimic somebody and try to alter your voice to do something other than what comes natural, you’re not going to be the best at your craft. I had to straddle those two things. I had to give the audience and the band what they were expecting, and also try to be true to myself.
There was a balancing act. And there was no overnight success. It happened over a course of eight years. It started out in 1,500 seat theaters.
Let’s go through some of that. Your first show was in June of 1998 in San Rafael, California. What was it like to walk onstage and deliver that first song?
Before the show, there was a garbage receptacle. I stuck my head in there and relieved myself. I never had that happen to me before. My stomach was in jitters and butterflies. Once I was done, I cleaned up and hit the stage. I was fine for the first minute or so, but then I locked eyes with my son and my wife in the 20th row. That’s when the waterworks happened. That’s where the reality crept in. That’s where the emotions started. “This is really true. This is happening.”
I could only imagine it went well. We had the label there and John Kalodner. As you said, how do we even consider replacing someone as monumental and iconic as Steve Perry? But we did it in increments. We went out for a test drive. That was a test drive. We went to Japan for a few shows. That was a test drive.
You had to prove to the industry that the audience was still there even without Steve Perry. There were probably doubts that this was even possible.
Absolutely. I understand the band’s perspective that they wanted to continue on. And of course, Steve’s perspective was, “How could you even possibly consider it?” I always looked at both sides of this. I went, “If I’m going to do this with them, I have to be respectful, more than anybody, to the fans.”
Some folks are there that literally just need the music. They have to go and pay for a ticket and hear it live. There is where Journey are fortunate, or anyone that had someone step in and do that. Sometimes they just need the music. It’s that simple.
I spoke to some people back then who saw Journey and couldn’t name one member of the band, past or present. They just wanted to hear the songs and didn’t follow the saga in any real way.
Pretty much. As you can imagine, through the years I’ve come in touch with a number of these musicians. We all share the same battle stories. I have a gentlemen who used to sing for Kansas, John Elefante. He’s amazing. He’s absolutely stellar. I’ve worked with Bobby Kimball’s replacement [in Toto] who passed away a number of year ago, Fergie Frederiksen. These are just a handful of guys. I could rattle off at least 20 names.
Getting back to your early days in Journey, the Armageddon soundtrack was pretty key. It showed people that Journey would be more than just an oldies revue.
Sure. The Armageddon soundtrack was a huge shot in the arm and a huge opportunity. It wouldn’t have happened without John Kalodner. The soundtrack was compete. He asked for a favor from [Armageddon music composer] Trevor Rabin and the label. He said, “If Journey is going to have any shot at a comeback, we’re going to have to get a song on a huge blockbuster soundtrack.” So we have John and CBS Records and Trevor Rabin to thank. And you can thank “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Aerosmith’s gazillion-selling hit single. And Diane Warren. Thank you, Diane Warren [laughs].
It was the peak of the CD era. The labels had basically killed the single. Everyone who wanted that one song had to buy the whole album.
That’s correct. And they did that 7 million times.
Tell me about making Arrival.
It was a love/hate relationship. First of all, there were so many things to love about it. They chose New York City to do the record because [producer] Kevin Shirley had a second home here. He had a beautiful penthouse on Central Park West. He had a beach home in West Hampton. The guys came and made their homes here for however long the record took, a month or so. The damndest thing is I have a very fragile voice. I’ve never been the kind of guy that can go out and sing very night.
The first week of pre-production, the label was coming. They wanted to hear us rehearse. Me being a novice and green, I gave it all I had at the first rehearsal. And I had poor monitoring. I didn’t have the expertise and the knowledge that one eventually builds up. I blew my voice out. For the first week or two, we were repairing the voice.
You can only imagine. You want to go in there and give it your 200 percent. Now I’m a bird with an injured wing, a lame duck. But through the patience of the band and Kevin Shirley’s master production, we took our time and I’m glad. I’m extremely proud of the record we did and the performances that are on that record. Somehow, by the grace of God, the record was embraced by the fans.
They gave you credits on many of the songs.
You have to imagine, that was a huge honor. I had picked up a couple of things along the way with Tall Stories. And in Tyketto, I co-wrote every song on the record, along with some great records. But this was in the minor leagues. We’re talking about the Staten Island Yankees as opposed to playing up in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium.
Now here I am in the big leagues. I’m in a room with Neal and Jon, who penned “Faithfully” and “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Who’s Crying Now” and “When You Love a Woman,” with and without Steve Perry. These guys are masters. I’m a novice. I’m green.
Neal and Jonathan would develop a section of a song and be really happy. All of a sudden, these guys are off to the races. They’re world class. But my mind is a little slow, so I literally would have to leave the room with my pen and pad and a guitar maybe. I’d have to take five minutes to listen on my own since these guys are working on all cylinders. They’re revving their engines at 120 mph.
I’d go back and throw my little idea out. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. They’d have to say, “Go back to the drawing board.” That’s where I literally did leave the room. That’s where I first learned to write with them. These guys were monsters, and I was not. [Laughs] That was the learning process. I was in the room with the adults, and I was the kid. It was a great experience.
Their touring schedule was often pretty rough. They’d go out for months at a time. After a couple of years, did it start to grow tiresome?
Of course. At first, it’s all brand new and shiny. You run out the door. I’d have my suitcase packed a week before we left. Towards the end of my career with Journey, it would be the morning of the flight and I hadn’t packed a thing. It’s just human nature. It was hard to leave.
Everyone thinks of the upsides and the glamor and the sparkle and everything that shines. But the loneliness and the wear and tear, which is a huge part of it for a vocalist. The thing that would kill me was when we’d do three nights in a row. We would do five shows a week. And you needed to do that to keep a big touring machine afloat.
If you go down, nobody makes a nickel. You go into the red. You’re paying for hotel rooms and salaries and nobody is generating income. There’s a bit of a psychological thing going on. You have to keep yourself healthy.
One of the many things I used to do was I’d almost never go out. If perhaps they’d drink on their day off at a bar, I’d bring my bicycle and go for a ride. I literally saw the world on two wheels. The cornfields of Iowa and the Mississippi River. You name it, I saw it, but staying away from talking. I zipped it up and saved my voice for the next show. That was one way I kept it together.
Those are not easy songs to sing night after night. It was even hard for Steve Perry near the end of his time. You have to hit those notes over and over.
Yeah. Whether you did or not, you were expected to. You did everything in your power to make it happen. It was diet or exercise. We used to say you literally lived the life of a monk. And it worked for a while, but what happens is it starts to compound over the years. And your voice was going to change anyway. No athlete is going to perform at 30 like they did when they were 20. That’s just the reality of your physicality. It’s just inevitable. It’s going to happen. There’s going to come a time where you can’t do five shows in a row. It’s not possible.
Tell me about making Generations. That was a different sort of record since they all sang on it.
Correct. I don’t think that necessarily would have been the case had I not been on the ropes at the time. We had come off the road and I was experiencing vocal problems, or not recuperating as quickly as I used to. And so it was a great idea. “Let’s just share the vocal responsibilities amongst the band. This way, when we go out for the following tour, Steve doesn’t have to sing as much. We can take some of the workload off him.” Frankly, that was a pretty good idea. And that’s exactly what we did.
It’s sort of a lost record. It’s not on Spotify, or anything. Do you know why that is?
Well, I can only imagine. I’m speculating. But for one reason or another, they just perhaps felt it wasn’t necessary or worthwhile to put it out there. I know for a fact there are a couple of songs on there that are extremely worthy. I’m sad that they haven’t done that. But that is still the case. Maybe that might change in the future going forward. Maybe not.
In 2005, you guys get the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Steve Perry shows up out of nowhere. Tell me about that day and what it was like to meet him.
This was kind of nerve-racking for me, obviously, for several reasons. We had never met prior to this. I don’t think there was bad blood, but nobody was necessarily sending each other Christmas cards.
So here we are being honored. What a great honor to get a star on the Walk of Fame. It was exciting for me. I brought my whole family over. And Steve had an obligation to his fans. If you ask for my opinion, and I shouldn’t speak for anyone else, I think he showed up out of respect to the fans. It was a day to take a bow and accept a great honor. That’s why we were all there. Steve deserved it at least as much as anyone that was receiving it.
We did have a cordial, “Hello. How do you do? Great to meet you. Honored to meet you.” That was the extent of it. I didn’t expect much. I’ve always had a great respect for him. I continue to. But that’s that way it was. That’s the way it went down.
How stressful was it to go on tour at this point when you’re having vocal problems and there were that many shows booked?
I don’t think I ever experienced anxiety in my life like that before. I was pretty low key. Everything rolled off my back. Nothing really stuck to me. I was pretty chill until the later years of my career with Journey. I saw the writing on the wall. I knew there was no way I could keep it up and sustain. Frankly, the day that they released me, my voice was completely “in the weeds,” as Jonathan Cain used to say. I guess that’s a golf expression. I was terrible. I don’t think I’ve ever physically and emotionally felt that much pain in my life.
It was also equally liberating. There was a relief and a weight off my shoulders that I soon embraced and accepted that I had a pretty decent run. I achieved something that, from a musician’s point of view, you only dream of. These are dreams that are so far out of reach, but somehow they came into my clutches. I had it for a while. Like everything good in life, nothing lasts forever.
Near the end of your time in Journey, some fan reports suggested you were using pre-recorded vocals onstage. Is that accurate?
Well, I can’t … I’ll put it to you this way, and I’ll keep it short and sweet. Each and every day I went out and performed with Journey, I sang every show to the best of my ability and with every ounce of my heart and soul. I can’t answer that question. I can’t legally answer it. But I will tell you that much. Perhaps someday, someone else will answer it another way. That’s the best I can do.
How did they tell you it was over?
At first, they sent me to some of the best doctors in Nashville and a coupe of voice therapists. It was coming together. But they had this tremendous summer tour planned with Def Leppard. Neal was working at the time with this great artist named Jeff Scott Soto. They tapped Jeff to step in and help them out for the remainder of the year. He did.
I don’t recall the precise day they gave me the pink slip, but I wasn’t surprised. I was certainly hurt. I was certainly saddened, but I wasn’t surprised because the last thing that Neal said to me before we parted was, “Steve, it’s not personal. It’s business.”
I understand. What puts it in perspective and what got me through what was one of the most difficult times in my life is that if they were able to part with the likes of Steve Perry and the talent of Steve Perry, this is a no-brainer for them. And so I was able to accept it easier. Not 100 percent. That’s because I’ve never experienced pain like that, emotional pain. But it was easier to accept.
Have you spoken to Jonathan or Neal since then?
I have. Very infrequently. I had the desire to see them when they came locally once or twice. It was fun to see them. They embraced me. It was very kind of them to have me come. I’ve met Arnel [Pineda] on one or two occasions. Aside from having a great voice and a great instrument, I love his story and how he came to be. I’m actually thrilled for him since I was him. I saw what it was like. It’s a rags-to-riches story. I’m happy for him.
Your job was harder. You were coming right after Steve Perry. You had to deal with all sorts of fan expectations and pressures that he did not.
You know what? I think that’s very true. I did some of the lifting. I can’t take all the credit. After me, they really exploded. I think you could call me the buffer or the primer. I was the one that really took the hits, maybe. Again, it’s all relative. I didn’t expect any less. I took the criticism. I didn’t accept any less. It’s natural and it’s just the way it was.
If it happened again, would I do it any differently? Yeah. I’d probably diminish the shows from five to four a week. That might have saved me a little bit. But who knows?
You’ve been touring a lot recently and you’re still doing the Journey classics.
I’ve been fortunate in that. I formed the Steve Augeri Band 10 years ago. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a group of really great guys that love to play the music. Of course, the scale is minuscule compared to, again, playing Yankee Stadium. We’re playing what sometimes is even the sandlot. But the joy is still there. The same joy is still there. I’m not exaggerating. As long as the joy is there, I’ll continue doing it.
You’ve also done shows with John Payne and Lou Gramm and these other former singers of big bands.
Yes. In fact, we just came back from Sweden yesterday. I’m still adjusting to the timezone. I’m going out tomorrow to be with John Payne and Asia. We’re playing with Lou in another few weeks. I still carry on with my band and other situations. I’ve got another situation in Nashville with the group. Sixwire. They are some of the great Nashville players. They keep me humble. They are great musicians.
Tell me about your new song, “If You Want.”
Over the last 10 years, just to make people aware I haven’t completely disappeared, I’ve made sure that I’ve released at least one song a year. It’s not on a label. I just put it out on social media and YouTube and Amazon and all these platforms.
And then 2020 rolls around. We get locked down in March. I took a good look at myself, especially living in New York, and I said, “We may not get out of this alive. And I have a laundry list of material, songs I want the world to hear. Whether it gets to their ears or not, that’s another story, but I need to release them.”
I went from performing mode and I pivoted to creative mode. I don’t recall ever being this gung-ho and this enthusiastic about writing music. I wrote a bunch of stuff immediately and I started collaborating with two band members of mine, my guitarist, Adam Holland, and my keyboard player, Craig Pullman. We were sending files back and forth and we wrote about a third of the record together in that manner.
And then I had about a third of the record that I had written prior to the pandemic. I felt I had to get them out since it would be fruit dying on the vine. Then I wrote some songs in the past couple of years. I put together an album that I’m super psyched about. More than anything ever, I feel like I’ve found my voice. I don’t think I’ll get the comparisons to Steve Perry. As wonderful a compliment as that is, I feel like I finally found something that sounds like me both writing-wise and performance-wise. This summer, we’re releasing Seven Ways to Sunday. That’s the name of the record.
Your voice sounds great. I hear no signs of the damage from years past.
It gets back to what I was telling you. My vocal coach told me, “When you do your thing and you’re not chasing anyone else’s expectations and you’re not imitating, you’re less likely to put yourself in a position that’s unnatural.” That’s basically what it boils down to. I would say that I’d be able to do this music without having to second guess myself and without the anxiety. [Laughs.]
How does it feel emotionally when you’re onstage these days and you’re singing “Faithfully” and “Don’t Stop Believin'”?
Obviously with “Don’t Stop Believin'” there’s a different feeling mainly because it’s so iconic. You can almost sing just half the lyrics and the audience will sing the rest. You can literally kick back and skate a little bit. I don’t, but I could. Everyone knows it inside and out. Boy, wouldn’t you want to write a song like that? But kudos to Steve Perry and Journey.
To get back to your question, I do find joy in singing those songs. However, I will be honest with you. I do some songs in my set that are non-Journey songs, like a Rod Stewart song or a Tina Turner song. I do feel a certain freedom doing these songs and a certain comfort because I’ve hand-picked them. I have a desire to do something like this. I would do anything by Rod, but we happen to do “Forever Young.” That’s kind of apropos because as we age, going out in front of an audience literally makes you feel 20 or even 40 years younger.
As more time goes by, I imagine you’re very grateful that you had the Journey experience. It changed your life in so many ways. They brought you the audience you have now.
I have no regrets. I can never say a negative word. Maybe if I really dug down deep, I’m sure you could find darkness and negativity anywhere. But at face value and even just in the big picture, it’s been nothing but a huge positive in my life and continues to be. I can only be thankful and I’m continuing on doing exactly what I did then. I’m still doing it now. Again, even if it’s going from Yankee Stadium to the sandlot, as long as it continues to be a joy, which it is, I’m going to continue doing it.