Rockstar Origins: Arnel Pineda

His Journey To The Top

Arnel Pineda may be fronting one of the biggest rock acts in the world today but he receives flak on a regular basis for only one reason – people think he’s trying so hard to be like Steve Perry when in fact, he has nothing but respect for The Voice.

And let’s be honest, he doesn’t deserve the hate. He’s just a guy doing what he loves and frankly, he’s pretty talented in the vocal department too. Journey’s songs aren’t the easiest to sing but he nails the high notes almost effortlessly at that. But if there’s anything we learned from his life story, it’s that we just have to keep moving forward no matter what.

He went from being homeless to fronting Journey and the road to success was a bumpy one.

Born on September 5, 1967 in Tondo, Manila, Philippines, Arnel Campaner Pineda learned to love music at a young age because of his mother. He grew up singing along to his mom’s favorite singers and eventually joining singing contests. However, she suffered from a heart disease which took a toll on their family’s finances. After she died when he was 13 years old, they were up to their ears in debt. They were behind their rent and were eventually forced to move out and his father sought help from his relatives to take in some of Arnel’s siblings. Understanding his plight, Arnel dropped out of school so he could help his father.

For the next two years, he led a tough life – sleeping on public parks or the streets while collecting scrap metal, bottles and newspapers to sell to recyclers. He did whatever he can to make money – it didn’t matter if he took on odd jobs or rarely ate (sometimes he just ate biscuits for two days), he just kept pushing forward.

In 1982, he joined a band out of necessity. Ijos was his first group when he was only 15. They played in small venues like Shakey’s Pizza. Some of the members including Arnel regrouped and formed another rock act – Amo which won Rock Wars in 1986. When they joined Yamaha / Asia World Band Explosion, Arnel bagged the Best Vocalist Award. He continued playing with his band in clubs and they even opened for Robert Palmer. During one of their gigs, an agent offered a contract so they can play in Hong Kong.

Just when he was on his way to the top, his marriage fell apart after he became addicted to drugs and alcohol which in turn, wrecked his voice. With only $100 in his pocket, he went back to the Philippines where his father helped him recover and in six months, he got a second shot at his career back in Hong Kong.


In 2006, he came home to the Philippines for good, formed The Zoo and signed up with Sundance Entertainment Corporation. Aside from releasing a 13-track album, they went around the country for various shows. Noel Gomez, a longtime fan, and his girlfriend began filming their performances and uploading them on YouTube so videos of The Zoo covering Aerosmith, Journey and other ’70s acts began circulating on the internet.



Neal Schon saw them and immediately contacted Gomez to ask for Arnel’s contact information.


via Arnel Pineda Rocks


Schon sent an email to Arnel which the latter ignored initially because he thought it was a prank. Upon the urging of Gomez, he replied and got a call from Schon 10 minutes later. He flew on August 12, 2007 to San Francisco with his manager to audition for Journey. On December 5 the same year, Journey announced that Arnel Pineda will be their new lead singer.

And the rest, as they say, is history.