By Geoffrey Rowlands
Many fans insist the music of American rock band Journey has never been as good since the departure of songwriter and lead singer Steve Perry. His last work with the band was on their 1996 album, Trial By Fire, after which he largely disappeared from the music scene.
Steve recorded two songs for the 1998 film, Quest for Camelot, and issued a solo album, Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased, in the same year. But he has since been seen in the crowd at baseball games rather more frequently than in the recording studio.
“I simply fell out of love with music,” explained 69-year-old Steve. “I had found music as a life-sustaining thing when I was about six years old. My parents were about to split up. But immersing myself in music allowed me to kind of turn off what was happening around me in my family life and just live in the songs. It saved my life.
“Walking away from writing and performing music probably did exactly the same. There was nothing left in my heart for music. It was a really scary feeling. I knew instinctively I’d have a hole in my soul which would get bigger and bigger if I stayed in music. I also knew I was likely to fill that hole with the wrong kind of things so I had to stop.
“After getting out, I never wrote music, I didn’t even sing in the shower. I didn’t listen to conventional music. I could only listen to ambient music. Liquid Mind was my favourite. No vocals, no drums, just ethereal synths.
“It was years before I could listen to songs again. Give Me The Reason, an album by Luther Vandross, was the breakthrough. He sung so beautifully. I would go for walks and listen to the album on my headphones.”
Steve’s return to music began as long ago as 2009. He resumed songwriting and accumulated around 50 songs over an 18-month period.
“I never thought I would write again. But I decided to open up that room and see what I could find. Some of the songs sounded familiar, some were really contemporary, others I couldn’t put a label on. I didn’t know if I’d ever do anything with them but I was at least open to the possibility of someday doing another solo album.”
The delay in creating what has become his Billboard 200 top ten hit album, Traces, came from Steve falling in love. The fact that he has now released it is born from the tragic loss of that love and a promise he made to the woman who he regarded as his soulmate.
“I have a friend, Patty Jenkins, who was editing a Lifetime Channel special on breast cancer. I was in the editing room with Patty while she was working and saw this lovely laughing girl on the screen. It was Kellie (Nash). I asked Patty if she would send Kellie an e-mail saying her friend Steve would love to take her to coffee or lunch sometime.
“Patty agreed but told me Kellie had been in a three-year battle against breast cancer. She was in remission for eight months but the cancer had come back in her lungs and bones. She was in Stage 4 and fighting for her life.
“I was frozen. I had lost all my family. I was an only child. I could see myself spending the rest of my life with Kellie and I’d been hit with the news that this was unlikely to happen. Patty asked if I still wanted her to send the email. My heart still said yes. Kellie was a psychologist so I thought she could be my friend or my shrink if nothing else.”
It was love at first sight when the couple met. They were together for around 18 months until Kellie died in December 2012.
“It was the most wonderful time of my life. Kellie didn’t let the cancer ruin what time she had left. We were like a couple who would be together forever.
“The album came about from something she said when we were just talking one night. She said she needed me to promise that if anything happened to her, I wouldn’t go back into isolation.
“She knew I hadn’t been singing or recording so I understood what she meant. I gave her my promise and Traces is me keeping that promise by going back to music.”
The intensity of his grief made it initially impossible for Steve to keep his word.
“I’d written a song called In The Rain. This was before I met Kellie. But the song is about a profound loss. I never played it for her because I didn’t want to bring this kind of subject matter into the struggle she was in to save her life.
“It really hit home after I lost her. One of the lyrics is Your face in a photograph staring back in silence. This was exactly what I was going through. I was sitting alone in my house, looking at Kellie in our photographs and just crying.”
As time passed, Steve gradually came to terms with his despair. It was his film director friend Patty Jenkins who helped him return to music.
“She introduced me to the Eels’ album, Daisies Of The Galaxy. I loved it and went to some of the band’s shows with Patty. She then introduced me to (band leader) Mark (Everett).
“We hung out with him and he became a friend. He then started asking if I would sing a song with the band. I eventually agreed and did one of their encores at the Fitzgerald Theatre in Minneapolis. That was the first time I had walked out on stage in 25 years.”
This experience effectively set the ball rolling in terms of Steve creating his new album and fulfilling his promise to Kellie.
“You could say Traces represents Kellie’s legacy. If I hadn’t made the promise, I’m not sure if I would ever have returned to music, at least not as a performer.
“I’m pleased that people seem to enjoy the album but they should thank Kellie. Through her, I was able to rediscover my passion for music. The album is here now and I already have more songs started so I think Traces will mark the beginning of my second career in music.”
Fleetwood Mac recently announced plans for their latest European concert tour. But the veteran rock outfit have all too often been in the news for off stage controversies as much as their music. Such is the case now as singer and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham is suing band members Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Christine McVie for breach of fiduciary duty and breach of oral contract.
The lawsuit stems from Lindsey being fired from the band last January. No reason for his dismissal was made public but reports suggested it concerned disputes about tour schedules. Lindsey claims to have lost around 12 million USD from what would have been his share of the proceeds from their current tour.
Mick Fleetwood’s only comment about the split with Lindsey was ‘We arrived at the impasse of hitting a brick wall.’ The band now say they look forward to their day in court.
In the meantime, Lindsey has been replaced by two musicians. Fans will know singer / rhythm guitarist Neil Finn from his work with Split Enz and Crowded House. Lead guitarist / keyboardist Mike Campbell was formerly with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. The new line-up began their ‘An Evening with Fleetwood Mac’ tour on October 3 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Lauren Jauregui is the latest member of all-girl group Fifth Harmony to embark on a solo career. She has already featured on collaborative singles with her boyfriend, Ty Dolla Sign, Marian Hill, Halsey and Steve Aoki. But Lauren has now released Expectations as her debut solo single. She wrote the song about a situation with Ty Dolla Sign.
“I’d been working for a lot of hours and just wanted a night cuddling with my boyfriend. But Ty had to work. He had to do an appearance at a club. I didn’t want to go because I’m not a club person so I stayed home and waited for him. Instead of coming straight home, he went to the recording studio with Future and was unreachable.
“I understand Ty likes to get to work immediately when he has his music ideas. But I was pretty mad at him and put all those feelings into the lyrics of Expectations. Doing this kind of purged my emotions. I wasn’t so angry when we finally spoke.”
The video for Expectations can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHXdA-ZkEsw
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