We’re gaga over the new albums coming from these musicians this fall.
Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY
You may not understand why Steve Perry left Journey. He gets it.
In 1998, the former frontman walked away from the iconic power-pop band. Together, they had scored top-10 hits including “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Open Arms” and “Who’s Crying Now.” He had left the group 11 years earlier, when they temporarily disbanded as he cared for his ailing mother, only to reunite for 1996 album “Trial by Fire.”
But something about his second exit stuck. It was necessary.
“I knew in my heart the only thing I could do was to walk away from this dream come true that I had lived and see if I could be OK on my own,” Perry says. “I know that sounds kinds of crazy. Why would somebody walk away from adoration and applause? But the passion that had made it so rewarding was gone. Burnout, to the point of PTSD, is what it was.”
“The only kind of music I could listen to (in the years that followed) was ambient music, because I didn’t want to hear voices or guitars or drums or songwriting. It would just remind me of too much.”
Perry retreated for years to his quaint hometown of Hanford, California, where he bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and spent much of his time roaming down old, country roads: “My face to the wind, just thinking about a lot of things,” he says. It was the first stop on his trek to the long-awaited “Traces” (out Friday), his first solo effort since 1994’s “For the Love of Strange Medicine.”
The album, Perry explains, tells “the story of where I’ve been.” The cover art is a collage of sorts, depicting various iconography from his life and career: the Spanish-style house he was raised in; a theater where his father, vocalist Ray Perry, used to perform; and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, where Perry moved in 1977 to assist a then-struggling band known as Journey.
Perry dabbled in writing while living in Hanford and made rough sketches of ideas for songs that he would then record and save on hard drives, with no expectations of ever releasing them. It wasn’t until he met his late girlfriend Kellie Nash – a psychologist who battled breast cancer throughout their year-and-a-half relationship, until her death in 2012 – that he found a purpose in returning to music.
One night while lying in bed, “she said, ‘I need to ask you a question,’ and I said, ‘What’s that?’ ” Perry remembers. “She said, ‘If anything ever happens to me, promise me you won’t go back into isolation because I feel that would make this all for naught.’ “
With “Traces,” “I’m keeping that promise.”
Perry started recording the album with co-producer Thom Flowers two years after Nash passed, in a studio he built inside his house. He intends to continue recording solo material, but he added there have been no talks about new music or touring with Journey, which has been fronted by singer Arnel Pineda since 2007.
As for whether he has any regrets about leaving Journey, which was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year, Perry says he has none.
“Everybody has to do what’s best for them,” he says. “I knew that leaving was not going to be a popular thing when I told the band members, but I knew it’d be very disappointing for the fans. Even though it was not a fun thing to watch, I hope somebody out there got the message that you do need to take care of yourself once in a while. You’ve got to do what’s right for you sometimes, even if it’s connected to something as big as we once were.”
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