‘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.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Arnel Pineda by Clicking Here!

‘Bloom’: Jim Ivins Discusses New Ivins Single, Quarantunes Solo Project

 

The year 2020 was set to be a monumental one for loud-alternative rockers, The Ivins. The band, still riding the wave of success from their acclaimed album, The Code Duello, had spent the last two years working on the follow-up, Conditions, when the whole world came to a screeching halt.

Once the lockdown began guitarist Jim Ivins tapped into what would become one of the most creative periods of his life. He began writing songs in earnest, without any direction or limits in mind. It began with a new Ivins single, “Bloom.” An infectious musical jaunt with guitar-driven groove and an Ivin-esque signature, hook-laden vocal.

The song was soon followed by Jim Ivins’ new solo album — the aptly-titled, Quarantunes. A 12-song collection of material covering the spectrum of rock, pop, r&b and punk. For this project Ivins recruited an arsenal of Nashville heavyweights to lend socially-distant performances, including renowned players from the area and bands like Florida Georgia Line, Daughtry and Three Doors Down.

Fans can also expect a future release of The Ivins’ Conditions album as well, which was engineered by Michael Zuehsow (Colt Ford, Cherub) and mixed by Robert Venable (Kelly Clarkson, Twenty One Pilots)

I recently spoke with Ivins about “Bloom,” his new music and more in this exclusive new interview.

How would you describe The Ivins sound? Is there a way you can put into words what your music is all about?

Jim Ivins: I’m trying to make loud-alternative a genre classifier. When I was growing up alternative meant powerful guitars with deep, introspective lyrics. Today it’s more melody-driven and almost dance/pop. I’ve taken the position of taking the music I grew up with and bringing it into the now.

What can you tell me about the band’s most recent single, “Bloom?”

Jim Ivins: Bloom” came out of what ended up becoming one of the most creatively fruitful periods of my life. The Ivins had just finished an album we’d be working on for almost two years, and the week it was mastered was when the lockdown happened and everything came to a halt. With the unfortunate reality of 2020 I found myself with a lot of time on my hands and no distractions. I started writing anything that came to me. I wrote the music for “Bloom” as a nostalgia-driven track and brought it to the guys. They all liked it and put their own stamp on it. Lyrically, I wanted to write a song about my longtime girlfriend and what she means to me. It’s a song about a lost person meandering through life, and how it only takes one person or connection to change things around.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Jim Ivins by Clicking Here.

Interview: Carol Lewis Discusses Tony Lewis’ Posthumous EP, ‘More Than I Dared’, The Outfield

Photo: Carol Lewis

Following his unexpected death last October, the family of Tony Lewis, lead singer and bassist of the 1980s rock band The Outfield, as well as accomplished solo artist, posthumously released his sublime new EP, More Than I Dared.

The EP follows Lewis’ acclaimed debut solo album, 2018’s Out Of The Darkness, and is rich with the spirit of The Outfield; particularly on songs like the hook-laden “Gonna Make You Love Me,” and “I Feel Alive.” Other highlights from More Than I Dared include the guitar-driven “One By One,” and the colorful “Then There Was You.” The latter of which an intriguing departure from Lewis’ signature style.

There’s a magical element to More Than I Dared that’s undeniable. A showcase of elements in Lewis’ musical arsenal as songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. With music by Lewis and lyrics contributed by his wife, Carol, More That I Dared is a welcome treat for fans and a fitting honor to the legacy of a man who’s music will live on for generations to come.

100% of net proceeds from the initial release of More Than I Dared will be donated to MusiCares, an organization Lewis was very fond of.

The Outfield [which also featured Lewis’ friend and longtime collaborator, John Spinks, who passed in 2014] took the 80s by storm with their 1985 debut, Play Deep, and songs like “Your Love,” “All The Love,” and “Say It Isn’t So.” More than thirty-five years later, “Your Love” and Lewis’ signature vocal opener: “Josie’s on a vacation far away…” continues to be featured in compilation albums and commercials as well as streamed nearly a million times a week.

I recently spoke with Carol Lewis about More Than I Dared, Tony, The Outfield and more in this exclusive new interview.

What inspired the new EP?

Carol Lewis: The EP was inspired by Tony’s newfound solo career. He wanted to show that he had grown in confidence as a composer and producer and was keen to show another side to his talent.

How would you describe More Than I Dared in terms of its sound and how it relates to some of Tony’s previous solo work or with The Outfield?

Carol Lewis: A lot of people thought Tony just sung the songs but he was so much more than just a vocalist. He was a very accomplished musician who could play lots of instruments. He had a vision of how he wanted to sound, and although there would always be Outfield influences he wanted to add a different dimension to show where his own personal influences and style came through.

What was the songwriting process like for the two of you?

CL: Tony was always producing backing tracks and working on new ideas. He would sometimes spend all day in his studio and then play them for me. Then I would ask him what he was trying to say, and he’d say something like: “I have no idea, but it should go something like this….” Then he’d sing me something that made no sense. So I’d sit and think about scenarios from life and words would generally follow. The best time for me was while I was out running. It gave me clarity to make sense of things and what he wanted to say.

Read the rest of my
With Carol Lewis by Clicking Here

Back To School

Me, June 11, 1987

Thirty years ago I had an epiphany. It was March of 1990 and I was in the middle of my second semester at West Chester University. My goal at the time was to major in education and, eventually, go on to teach young, impressionable minds about the only subjects I truly cared about: guitar and music.

Before we go any further, allow me to give you a little back story:

I had already graduated high school three years prior to this revelation but things didn’t turn out the way that I planned. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved music, but back then all I wanted to do was be the next Eddie Van-Halen. I knew that was something that wasn’t going to hapen overnight, so I decided to enroll at Penn State University in the Fall of 1987 as a music major.

I had no money set aside for school and my parents, who’d recently divorced, had no means of helping to fund my education either. So I applied for grants and took out loans. Quite a few loans if you really want to know. I was told at the time I wouldn’t have to worry about paying them back, at least not until six months after I’d finished school. It was almost too good to be true. I’d be rich and famous by then.

Most of my tuition for that first semester was covered by loans, and the people at the bank were kind enough to give me plenty of extra money as well. Checks made out to James Wood rolled into the bursar’s office faster than cars at a Chik-fil-A drive-thru, and every day I’d sneak down to the office in between classes to see if another one had arrived. Ones that were supposed to be set aside for schooling but instead I used to buy important things, like guitars and amps and treating my friends to coffee and cheese french fries at the local Perkins. I went to school three times a week, didn’t have to work and the money continued to roll in. I was living the life, or so I thought. Don’t believe me? Here’s an entry from a journal I kept back in 1987:

Journal Entry: Sept 2, 1987 while sitting in Psychology class.

By November, I was getting pretty tired of going to school. I just wanted to rock, and there was no one who could tell me otherwise or point me in the right direction. I dropped out of Penn State and spent most of 1988 working odd jobs while trying and failing, often miserably, at starting a band.

One day I received a letter in the mail informing me that, since I was no longer enrolled in college, the funds from my student loans would have to be repaid. The bill had come due. Not just for all the classes I dropped, but for all those guitars, amps and five-star meals I’d consumed. I needed a way out and fast.

I decided to attend the local community college with an emphasis on music education and an eventual transfer to West Chester University. This worked out well for me in two ways: First, it put the money I already owed on the back burner again. Second, and even more importantly, it allowed me to continue to take out more loans for tuition while pocketing the rest. By August of 1999 and my first semester at West Chester, I was already looking at some serious debt, and I was not even twenty-years-old.

“This is going to be worth it,” I assured myself.

Which leads me back to the ephipany of 1990 and to when I’d once again pretty much given up on college. Sure, I was going through the motions, but I wasn’t paying attention in class and was driving home almost every weekend. One day two of my roomates who, unlike me, had just finished studying, asked if I wanted to join them for a night out. When I reached into my pocket to see what funds were available, I fished out a single dollar bill and thirty-seven cents worth of loose change. It was all the money I had to my name. I reluctanly told them I’d have to pass.

That’s when I had the epiphany. Even though I’d given it the old college try, school just wasn’t going to be for me. I had to face the inevitable and do the one thing I hated most in life….. find and keep a job.

I decided to drop out of West Chester. Well, let me rephrase that, I didn’t actually drop out of school. I abandonded it. Yep, I packed my things, drove home and never went back. Eventually received the report card stating I had received all “F’s,” save for an English II course where the instructor was kind enough to put down a WP (withdrawl passing) for me. I would wind up spending the next ten years slowly making payments on my loan while working as a garbage man and pharmacy technician. I did try going back to community college in the mid-nineties and, although grateful my loan payments were again put on hiatus, once again never finished more than just a few courses.

Around the turn of the century (still blows my mind to say that) I decided to change careers and enrolled at the now defunct Allentown Business School where I received a quick diploma in Information Technology and have spent the better part of the last twenty years resetting passwords. Yes, I do a LOT more than that but don’t want to bore you with tech stuff. It took more than a dozen years but I even managed to pay back every penny I owed in student loans.

Journal Entry: September 1987

Recently, I had another epiphany. My daughter, now a high school graduate herself, enrolled at the same community college I attended. As I looked over her schedule it got me thinking about all the classes I’d taken over the years and how much I’d left on the table. All the money I spent on education, guitars and meals that went absolutely nowhere. Having not thought about such things for the longest time, I decided to find out what classes I had.

I started by logging onto the community college’s website and viewed my transcript. I was suprised to find that I had accumulated 51 credits in subjects ranging in everything from psychology and music to French and philosophy. This led me to check West Chester’s website where I discovered more than a dozen more I’d earned.

Hmmmmm…..

With newfound curiosity I decided to reach out to an advisor at the community college to see what this hodgepodge of classes might get me in terms of a degree… any degree… and how fast it could get me there. After reviewing everything I’d given her, the woman I spoke with told me that if I took an environmental science course over the winter and four other courses in Spring (English II, Developmental Psychology, Environmental Sustainability and Nature of Mathematics) I would earn an Associate in Arts Degree in General Studies and graduate in May of 2021. What’s more, all of the required courses could be taken completely online at my convenience, so it wouldn’t interfere with my current job.

So, guess what I’m doing after more than thirty years? …. I’m going back to school. It is an idea as frightening as it is thrilling.

What do I intend to do with this degree? I’m so glad you asked. Because that was the same thing the advisor wanted to know when I told her I wanted one as quickly as possible.

Initially, she asked me what prompted a 51-year-old man to consider a career change, noting that my answer would be crucial in determining which courses I should enroll in.

“If your goal is to move on to a four-year college and become a teacher,” she said, “you’ll definitely want to make sure you cover your education requirements.”

“I have no intention of becoming a teacher or even changing careers,” I told her. “I enjoy what I do.”

“Then why would you want to get a degree at this stage of your life?” she asked, curiously.

I thought about high school and the three colleges I attended. The classes I took, the guitars I bought, the meals I ate and the loans that were now long paid off. I was grateful to finally be in a position where I wouldn’t have to worry about taking out any more of them. Then I smiled.

“I want it for me,” I said.

Interview: The Revivalists’ David Shaw Steps Into Solo Spotlight

Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

Acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer and Revivalists front man David Shaw recently unveiled the first two singles from his forthcoming debut solo album: “Shaken” and “Promised Land.” The new music, both deeply relevant and poetically poignant, showcases a deeper side of the enigmatic Shaw’s talent as artist and storyteller.

The first track, “Shaken,” is a groove-ridden song about confronting fears and insecurities and trusting the path that makes you who you are. The second single, “Promised Land,” is a powerful statement about systemic injustice and the gap between the haves and have-nots. Both will be included on Shaw’s debut solo album tentatively scheduled for release early next spring.

I recently spoke with David Shaw about his new music and more in this exclusive new interview.

What prompted you to do a solo record at this point in your career?

David Shaw: I always knew I would do it at some point, I just didn’t know when. The band has been a well-oiled machine moving on its own and I thought now was a good time. I was also noticing that I needed to grow in ways a band culture doesn’t necessarily foster. The process of doing everything myself was such a learning experience. The main thing surrounding the project was me wanting to see how much joy it could bring to my life. That’s what I wanted a lot of the songs to focus on. I realized early on just how much my own psyche can be affected by the music that I listen to and the music that I make and wanted that to permeate through the recording process.

What’s your writing process like?

DS: It can start with anything but most of the meat of my writing comes from a clever lyric that will come to my head and then I’ll explore it. Other times I might just sit down with my guitar and play chords and start scatting melodies. Sometimes words will come along with those melodies. If there aren’t words in my “fishing expedition” I’ll go through my notebooks and skim through my random meanderings and put words to the melodies. That’s always been my process.

Let’s discuss the new tracks, beginning with “Promised Land.”

DS: That was a song that was written before George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all of the latest civil unrest. It’s a song about the haves and have nots. There’s a lot going on in this country with people walking around every day with a target on their back. For me, as a white, privileged male, I need to be vocal about how we can change. I hope the song can be a facilitator for good.

Read the rest of my
With David Shaw by Clicking Here.

Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell look back at America’s remarkable 50-year career

The pair discuss their love of acoustic guitars, working with Beatles producer George Martin, and the band’s 50th anniversary box set, Half Century.

Multi-platinum selling group America is celebrating their 50th anniversary with the ultimate eight-disc box set, aptly titled Half Century. Produced for release and compiled by Jeff Larson, the CDs contain rare archival studio recordings consisting of alternate mixes, demos and rehearsals, including several previously unreleased tracks dating from 1970 to 2000.

Along with the remastered 1973 Bremen in-studio performance and two CDs of radio interviews providing audio overview of the band’s career, there’s a DVD of Super 8 home movies (1972-1975) that gives fans a behind the scenes look at the legendary band’s early years.

Guitar World recently spoke with founding members Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell about the new release and more.

What goes through your mind when you think about this 50th anniversary milestone?

Dewey Bunnell: “It’s mind-blowing, to be honest. Those first 20 years seemed to go on forever but these last thirty have really blown by. We’ve been very active the whole time; writing songs, recording, and touring. It’s like what they say about your babies: enjoy them while you can because they’ll grow up before you know it. It’s true.”

Gerry Beckley: “It really is an immense amount of time and we’re as amazed as everyone else. We’re still very happy to do what we’re doing. It’s not quite as easy as it was when we were younger in terms of travel, but the shows have become even more rewarding.”

How did you decide what to include on the 50th Anniversary Box Set?

Beckley: “We definitely have to give a nod to our archivist, Jeff Larson, who for years has been in touch with all of the stuff in between the cracks. There was a lot more than just the yearly album we would make. It’s a lot to keep track of and he’s done a fantastic job.”

Bunnell: “Gerry and I were very lucky to have held on to a lot of our early material and Jeff had the flexibility of finding out what went well together. We did it together but Jeff did all of the heavy lifting.”

What can you tell me about the newly released track, Remembering?

Beckley: “I tend to do multiple recording of things and that particular track was on one of my solo projects [2011’s Unfortunate Casino]. I’d done an earlier version with beautiful backgrounds from our dear friend, Jeff Foskett, and we put Dewey’s vocal on it. It framed the subject of dealing with time and made a nice addition to the box.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Gerry Beckley & Dewey Bunell by Clicking Here.

Zach Myers: “Brent told an audience of 2,500 people that we were making a double album… it was the first I’d heard about it!”

Photo: Sanjay Parikh

One half of new duo and Shinedown offshoot Smith & Myers on the pair’s mammoth debut album, and what’s next for the Billboard chart-topping hard-rockers

Brent Smith & Zach Myers, one-half of Multi-Platinum band Shinedown, recently released their full-length double-album project, Smith & Myers Volume 1 and 2. The new albums are an acoustic-flavored combination of original and covers that showcase the duo’s barebones approach to tasty guitar riffs, hook-laden melodies and intriguing vocals.

Included with the cover material is a re-imagined and poignant version of Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World, a grungy spin on Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, and a darkened take of REM’s Losing My Religion.

The original material is equally as powerful and includes the catchy alt-rocker, One More Time, as well as explores such topics as racial injustice [Not Mad Enough] and romance difficulties [Bad At Love].

Guitar World recently spoke with Zach Myers about the new project and more in this new interview.

How did the Smith & Myers project come about?

“Smith & Myers started with a radio/label contest where they asked us to do a few covers that fans had picked. We didn’t want to do that as Shinedown, as we already have a cover attached to our name [Simple Man], so Brent and I decided to do the songs together acoustically the way they were recorded.

“As far as this project goes, it started when Brent and I did a few shows together as Smith & Myers. I always vamped in between songs while Brent was talking to the audience and one night, he went on stage and said: “You know, a lot of people keep asking when we’re going to do a record. So, I wanted you guys to know that we’re going in and making a double album.”

“It was the first time I’d ever heard about it, in front of 2,500 people, live on stage [laughs]. Brent likes to put things out in the atmosphere to hold himself accountable and follow through, so we did it! We started tracking on February 20, right before the world came to a halt, and finished the last three songs separated from each other remotely.”

What was the criteria for choosing which songs to cover?

“We listened to a few suggestions from fans but most of the songs were ones we just enjoyed listening to. We didn’t want to do them as they were originally written, because if you listen to a song like Rockin’ In The Free World; those are some of the best lyrics ever written.

“Especially when you consider that it’s a thirty-year-old song that’s just as relevant today as when it was originally written. I remember when we had our first meeting and I went in with my own mission statement.

“I said let’s pretend the songs we do had never been written and were brand new. Suppose I handed you lyrics that had never been sung before. How would we play these songs if we wrote them? That was the approach. The cover that really started it all though was Losing My Religion.”

Read the rest of my
With Zach Myers by Clicking Here.

Brad Gillis on his modified Strat, working with Gary Moon and that time he bought a wig for Ozzy Osbourne

The longtime Night Ranger guitarist checks in ahead of the release of his solo album:

What can fans expect from your upcoming solo album?

It’s aggressive and heavy but there are also a few ballads. There’s a track called Sex and the Money that’s about meeting who you think is the girl of your dreams – only to find out that she’s really a hooker. There’s also a song on which I’m singing called World Shut Down.“

The last time you worked with Gary Moon was on Night Ranger’s Feeding Off the Mojo [1995]. What was it like working with him on your solo project?

“Gary’s a great bass player and his voice is so pure; that’s why I brought him back in. I’ve also got [keyboardist] Derek Sherinian, plus drummers Larry Howe (from Vicious Rumors) and Matthias Montgomery playing on a bunch of tracks.“

What’s the story behind your 1962 Strat?

“I’d just finished my stint with Rubicon back in 1978 when a friend knocked on the door with pieces of a sanded Strat he didn’t want. I had a gallon of orange paint and took it to a shop where it was primed and painted. I then had the neck painted black and the original Fender decal put on. Around the same time, word was getting around about the new Floyd Rose tremolos. 

“I loved how Eddie [Van Halen] worked the bar and did dive bombs. I found the third one at a shop in San Francisco and traded a Les Paul Custom for it. They installed the tremolo on my Strat and threw in a fret job. The deal was done and a new ball game began.“

Read the rest of my
Interview with Brad Gillis by Clicking Here.

Birthday Reflections At 51

October 5th, 2020: My 51st Birthday.

This is my eighth entry in this series of birthday posts. Something I started shortly after I began my writing journey in the fall of 2011. 

To be honest, especially with everything that’s happened over the course of the last twelve months, I didn’t feel like posting one at all. But instead of rehashing all the gloom and doom about viruses, failed leadership and elections, I’ll try to remain upbeat about it. So here goes:

Birthdays are the one day where we, collectively, celebrate the individual. And by that I mean we don’t use the day as a reason to inundate social media with over the hill jokes, pay for lavish lunches, or give someone a number of spankings equivalent to their new age, plus an extra one to grow on–although I do remember that was the best part about attending birthday parties as a kid in the 1970s, so long as you weren’t the one on the receiving end.

No, the real reason people blow out candles, consume large quantities of cake, receive greeting cards (hopefully, with a few greenbacks in them) and open whimsical presents is to commemorate the day you arrived on Earth.

You’re alive, and that’s reason enough to celebrate.

For me, it seems like it was only yesterday that I was a youthful teenager; driving me and my buddies around in a beat-up, 1972 Toyota Corona (honest, I’m not talking about the virus. There really was a car called a Corona). Going to the mall on Friday nights after school, pouring my hard-earned, summer lawn mowing earnings into video game cabinets and drinking gallons of Orange Julius. Wishing I could somehow muster the courage to go over and talk to the cute girl who stood with her friends outside the Listening Booth record store. Ah, youth.

Wasn’t I the one who was able to go to rock concerts and stay up til the wee hours of the morning? Sitting in some dingy diner; smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee while talking to friends about what would happen when we took on the world and made all of our dreams came true? Now, I’m lucky if I can stay up til 10 p.m. most nights.

There’s an odd sense of immortality you have when you’re young that makes you believe time will always stand still and that you’ll never be as old as your parents. But then, one day, you take a nap and wake up in their role.

I promised I would keep things upbeat for this post so I won’t rehash the past. Instead, I’ll talk about the future. In addition to continuing to do interviews, I’m also heavily in the writing process of my next book. Something that has been put off for quite a while but something I am extremely excited about. I am giving myself to the end of the year to finish. More on that in the months ahead.

I’ve also been dabbling a lot in watercolor painting. Not only has it been a great stress reliever but it’s something you can do that doesn’t cost a lot of money and where you can literally see your progress every day:

I called this one “The Road Beyond 50.” If you visualize yourself in it, the painting is a metaphor for life. You can’t see where you’ve been (the past) or the scars that you carry. All you can see is where you’re standing now and the road to what lies ahead of you. As in life, there is beauty all around us and a brave new world just waiting to be explored. 

I hope my next trip around the sun, and walk down this path, brings us all a sense of hope, peace and love. 

 

Interview: Shinedown’s Brent Smith & Zach Myers Preview Relevant Tracks From Forthcoming Smith & Myers Duo

Photo: Paris Visone

Read the rest of my
Interview with Brent Smith & Zach Myers By Clicking Here.