INTERVIEW: Journey's Jonathan Cain- Why He Never Stopped Believin'

posted by Dan Mitchinson - 

"When I sat down to write my story, I didn't realize how little I knew about it."

Journey keyboardist and songwriter Jonathan Cain says he had to hit a low point in his life before he could start "believing again." The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is out with a new book, ironically called Don't Stop Believin': The Man, the Band and the Song That Inspired Generations.

Cain covers all the bases in his book, from the time he thought about about giving up on his dreams, to the encouragement he got from his dad, and the day lead singer Steve Perry broke the news he was done with the group. "I knew something was over, that this particular season was coming to an end, yet even I couldn't fathom the idea that we had just played the last official concert ever with the front man who had sung his heart out since 1977" writes Cain.

So when he started thinking about writing the book, Cain told me during a half hour long interview "My memory served me well, going back to all the way when I was a little kid," but then things got tough. Cain admits it was hard trying to organize those memories and periods of his life into a narrative that would please not only fans of Journey, but also Cain himself, warts and all.

The 68 year old is the first member of Journey to write a book, and says he got the idea while standing on stage during last year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. "I knew (standing there) that was how I was going to begin the memoir. I was going to start with one of the crowning achievements. Standing on the stage I had my intro." He says standing there with other band mates like Journey founder Neal Schon and former lead singer Steve Perry brought back all the memories. "People had asked me a lot of questions about what happened with Steve and and all this stuff and I thought I would write it the way I saw it."

What follows are excerpts of my conversation with Jonathan Cain, who talked about life with Journey, how he's become a better songwriter because of God, and why he gives it his all every night he's on stage.

What he thought was going to happen to the band when Steve Perry told him in 1987 he was leaving Journey.

I didn't know. I was going to leave that up to the Lord at that point. Those four (previous) years were crazy. We were touring, recording, rehearsing, we made two album, and it takes its toll. We're only human, and I think there's a burnout factor that can happen when you work that hard.

Did he think Steve Perry would sing with the group when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

I was looking for him at soundcheck the day before. I thought he was going to surprise us, but he played it like how he wanted to play it, and I respect that. 

On Perry's replacement, Arnel Pineda, who (Journey founder) Neal Schon found on YouTube.

I loved his voice, I was just wondering how he was going to handle the rigors and transition, and he was just going to have to grow into it. He's got a beautiful voice and a great heart and brings something unique to the table that makes us a world band. Nobody else in the world should be singing "Don't Stop Believin'" but Arnel, he lived it. He grew up with quite a broken childhood, they pretty much left him for dirt. He was homeless...his mom died when he was young, and then he was told he couldn't sing anymore, and he proved them wrong. If you can dream it, it's possible.

On writing the book.

I found myself writing a lot on the road. A lot of this book I wrote, um, while moving. For some reason I do well when I'm traveling, when I'm hurling through space and I'm on an airplane or bus, ideas come to me. It's an encouraging look at a musicians life, overcoming odds and...that dreams are possible in your life. It's a love story from a son to a father who loved him.  

Since becoming closer to God has he become a better musician?  

Yes, I feel renewed , restored, people say I look younger. I feel a sense of renewal, and the grace that I feel surrounds me, I like it. I like having grace in my life. I owe that to Paula (his wife) for pulling me back into the fold and recognizing that I was a man of God, I appreciate that.

When he's on stage, and looks out at the audience, how he keeps his songs fresh night after night.

You have to put yourself in the audience's shoes. And you have to say alright, these people gave up their evening to come all this way to see us play, probably have babysitters at home or had to pay this crazy parking fee, had to come from miles away, so there's this  sacrifice out there. You put yourself in their shoes, they chose us, they chose to come to our show, they chose Journey, so what else are you going to do but honor that?

You can hear the rest of my interview with Jonathan Cain above, and connect with me on twitter @dmitchinson

Dan Mitchinson

Dan Mitchinson

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