Steve Perry on Journey Departure: ‘I Was Burned Out’

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(Photo of Steve Perry by Myriam Santos; used with permission)

As full details emerged on the 2018 solo album from Steve Perry, the former Journey lead vocalist and songwriter openly discussed his reasons for departing the band for good, some two decades ago. Following a burst of activity on social media platforms in which Perry began to tease the long-rumored album, he formally revealed its title, artwork and track listing – and music video for the first track on August 15.

On Aug. 17, 2018, Perry was a live guest of  Scott Shannon on New York’s WCBS-FM. The veteran disc jockey’s first question: “Where’ve you been?”

“Wow! That’s the question of the day,” said Perry. “You know, the band was really really fortunate to be successful and at some point I got a little bit toasty, a little burned out, coupled with a serious touring schedule. And like I said, being crispy. Back in the day we all had a little bit of what we might call ‘extra party behaviors,’ maybe — and when you put the ‘party behaviors’ together with a little bit burned out — I was toast.

“It was an unpopular decision I came up with at the time which was just to stop. I told the band and they were not happy about it. But the biggest thing I was really concerned with was the fans. Because I knew it was going to be a painful decision for me to walk away, but sometimes you just have to take care of yourself, even if it hurts to do so.”

In the Aug. 15 album announcement, Perry said: “Putting 30 years into 10 songs has certainly been an emotional experience for me. I started writing and recording these songs with the creative freedom that I was the only one who would ever hear them. Along the way, I rediscovered my love for music. Each track represents traces of my past, but is also a hopeful look into the future. I invite you to listen with an open heart.”

After keeping a low profile, Perry launched a website – StevePerry.com, naturally – and established a Facebook page and Twitter account. Each featured the handwritten words “I know it’s Been a long Time Comin’…”

This message appeared on Perry’s social media platforms Aug. 13. “Long Time” = 24 years

Those words had a double meaning: It had been 24 years since his most recent solo album, For The Love of Strange Medicine, was released in 1994; and they’re the first lyrics in “No Erasin’.”

Watch the music video for “No Erasin'”

At the time of Journey’s 2017 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Perry had announced that he would release a new solo album later that year. He described the process to ABC Radio, calling it a “cathartic” experience. “I met someone and I fell in love with this person,” he told the radio network. “And I lost this person to breast cancer four years ago. In the midst of that, I had written some songs, and before I met her I had sketched some. And so about a year ago, I started recording.

“Basically, the record is an emotional expression, and a reason to make one,” he continued. “It’s been a real cathartic experience going back to that emotional place that I thought I would never go back to. And we really have been doing our very best to capture what I think are some timeless songs.”

Traces was released Oct. 5, 2018 via Concord Records.

The album’s 10 tracks included nine originals, plus a cover of the Beatles’ “I Need You.”

Steve Perry of Journey speaks onstage at the Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center on April 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Used with permission)

At the induction ceremony, Perry used his time at the microphone to thank all of the other members, including Arnel Pineda, the band’s current singer. The band, sans Perry, performed the Journey hits “Separate Ways (World’s Apart),” “Lights” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Related: Journey’s 2017 Rock Hall induction

Journey founder Neal Schon had been paying tribute to Perry with a nightly dedication of the band’s 1978 hit single, “Lights,” while on Journey’s tour with Def Leppard. The song, co-written by Schon and Perry, was featured on the band’s fourth full length album, Infinity, and has become one of their most popular and easily recognizable songs.

Perry, born Jan. 22, 1949, has also written, or co-written, such classic rock songs as “Oh, Sherrie,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” and “Any Way You Want It.”

Before the Rock Hall induction, Perry last appeared with Journey at their Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony on January 24, 2005.

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