“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts, such is the duty of the artist” —Robert Schumann
Fifty-three-year-old Filipino musician, songwriter and lead singer of the American rock band Journey Arnel Pineda remains committed. Even in the time of quarantines and restrictions, he remains steadfast in dedicating himself to his craft.
Deciding to revamp a seasonal track and send light and hope to fans facing day-to-day challenges, Arnel is re-releasing his single, This Christmas. Thea Chenelle Pineda, Arnel’s eight-year-old daughter, is another reason fueling the re-release. “I collaborated with my daughter and changed the lyrics to make it relevant during this time,” reveals the singer. The single was originally a part of his 2015 Sounds of Christmas EP.
Like any other worker, entertainers like Arnel have been greatly affected by the pandemic. The excitement, the thrum of live music, the closed-down bars that were tightly cramped watering holes once upon a time—one can’t help but miss the pre-pandemic way of life. If Arnel has learned anything from these months indoors, it is that life is too fleeting and fragile. But as an artist, he’s been inspired to be more sympathetic and empathetic toward the feelings of other people, especially to the heroes at the fore of the fight: the frontliners. Before releasing This Christmas, Pineda collaborated with ABS-CBN Music’s creative director Jonathan Manalo on the song Your Soldiers, an ode to the essential workers earning an honest living during these times.
Aside from the re-release of his Christmas single, Arnel is also busy prepping for a live-stream concert in partnership with Sanre’ Entertainment Group Ltd and Sanre’ Streaming.
Despite the precariousness of these times, one thing is for certain: concerts will never be the same again. Case in point: Arnel Pineda’s upcoming concert. Presented by Sanre’ Entertainment Group Ltd and Sanre’ Streaming, Arnel will be performing in concert on February 21st, 2021—virtually, of course—in an LED CUBE Geodesic Dome.
“I will be entering a futuristic structure, a combination of an LED cube and a Geodesic dome forms, which will look like from the outside a space machine to be placed somewhere in Manila with a safe number of fans around the structure for a live experience,” explains Arnel. “Inside when I enter, it will be a different realm, with interactive panels, 360 degrees of visual effects and virtual interaction with fans from all over the world projected on some of the panels.”
Brought to life by both digital and traditional architects, the 90-minute concert will be a unique experience in a one-of-a-kind venue. Showcasing a different side of Arnel, the singer is showing us more than just the lead singer of Journey. Fans can look forward to original songs and the tracks he grew up singing when he lived in Tondo, Manila.
It goes without saying that social isolation has been tough on everybody. Every day is a challenge not to tip over and dive face-first into the throes of loneliness—but little pockets of normalcy have helped Arnel stay sane. He shares that despite taking time out of the limelight, he continues to take care of his voice first and foremost. Oftentimes, he does this by singing along to Journey’s own music for at least an hour and a half. He admits, “I wanna make sure that my voice is still fit before doing a tour with the band.” Beyond his band’s music, he listens to favorites from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin or to love songs from his Tondo days.
For 13 years and counting as the frontman of Journey, he remains humble. He considers himself a neophyte as compared to Rivermaya’s Rico Blanco and Eraserheads’ Ely Buendia. And despite his tenured career of 35 years, he confesses he is still trying to be the best version of himself. Arnel still does his research to discover new ways to enhance his singing talents. He dreams of preserving his voice so he could perform or sing with his band even after his 70th birthday, singing 60 to 70 shows a year.
Sharing struggles he had encountered onstage, he recalls a particular performance when he had almost no voice for half the set. Swinging it and playing it by ear is a talent in itself, it seems. “You should know how to switch to another note. ‘Pag alam mo talagang hindi talaga kaya. The audience could feel how you sound and you are struggling. They can also sense that you are trying to finish the song with grace and go around your voice and the technique and connect with the crowd.” But despite the arduous preparations and mid-show hiccups, there’s a clear, buzzing excitement in Arnel’s tone as he ruminates on the charm of live music. “I’m still with them—even in the struggles.”
Words Jude Cartalaba
Additional Text Cessi Treñas
Special Thanks Arnel Pineda and Joshua Roque
Art Matthew Fetalver