‘Beacon of Hope’: Journey’s Arnel Pineda Discusses His Timely and Relevant Single, ‘This Christmas’
The year 2020 has brought about many challenges for the world. Whether it’s the ongoing Covid crisis, the loss of wages and homes, or the devastating effects of volcanic eruptions and typhoons in places like the Philippines. Every one of us has been affected this year but has also played the hero or given hope to someone else in their time of need.
In the spirit of the holidays Arnel Pineda, lead singer of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee band, Journey, has unveiled his timely and poetic single, “This Christmas — A Beacon of Hope.” The track, originally released in 2016, has been given new life by Pineda, with a fresh arrangement that includes the addition of the singer’s daughter joining him on vocals.
Pineda has found other ways to give back. The Arnel Pineda Foundation, Inc. (APFI) is a non-stock, non-profit, and independent Philippine foundation that provides underprivileged children quality education, health services and medical attention. Pineda’s ongoing tenure as frontman Journey has allowed many individuals with shared goals to join him in helping children rise above their circumstances.
I recently spoke to Pineda about “This Christmas — A Beacon of Hope” and more in this exclusive new interview.
What made you decide to release a Christmas song?
Arnel Pineda: I first released the song in 2016 but decided to release it again this year because it was very timely. It’s a song about being Santa to our friends in need — mother, father sister, brother, or strangers who are homeless or in despair. It’s about making a choice to step out of the dark and into the light and telling you that it’s all going to be ok. I changed a few lines and included my daughter in the song. It’s the older and younger and a song for everybody.
Do you find it easier to write a Christmas song as compared to a rock song?
AP: I think it’s easier to write a rock song. A lot of hits are usually just a few chords with the bass and drums steady and the singer carrying the melody. With “This Christmas” I went through a lot of process with the lyrics and arrangements. I was fortunate to be able to tap into others who helped shape the song into how I wanted it to be heard.
What inspired you to start The Arnel Pineda Foundation?
AP: It was back around 2009, shortly after I started touring with Journey. I was hanging out with friends and some of my old classmate from high school. I didn’t finish school but told them about the idea of forming a foundation. It could be our way to help people turn back to education instead of doing things like begging for money, scavenging for things to sell, or becoming a small-time criminal or prostitute. That was the start. As of today we have thirty-four scholars that we support and I’m so thankful to our sponsors for supporting us for such a long time.
You had a difficult upbringing. How did you get by during those difficult times?
AP: Growing up I lived in a mixed-street neighborhood where some kids were disciplined and respectful while others like me were running with the wrong crowd. I was on the wrong path and was experimenting with cigarettes and beer. After my mom died, I turned to drugs. It was a tough life with no guidance and I was really lonely a lot of the time. But you know what saved me? It was the music. I realized I could sing on my own and take myself somewhere that only I could see. It got me by. At one point, around 1987, I’d be traveling back and forth to the American Naval Base in Subic Bay. From Manilla it’s a three-hour drive. On the way there all I’d listen to was Journey — especially “Patiently,” “Winds of March,” and “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever.”
What’s the biggest thing you missed about not being able to tour this year?
AP: I miss the band, the music and especially the fans and the thundering sound of their roar. When you’re up there [on stage] it’s addicting. It lifts you up and makes you fly.
What goes through your mind when you think about your tenure with Journey? What’s been the biggest highlight?
AP: There’s a lot. I’m thankful and grateful about these last thirteen years and being able to travel and represent a legacy that will outlive us all. Just being able to be in the moment and sing those songs to the fans. Having Steve Perry approve of the job I’m doing and thanking me for tirelessly singing the songs of the legacy is overwhelming. Who would’ve thought that a little guy from The Philippines would be doing the big boy’s job? It’s a one in a billion chance but it happened.
What’s your wish for everyone this Christmas?
AP: For the world and humanity to heal and to feel Christmas and peace every day.