Published on February 1st, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Journey’s Neal Schon On Reuniting With Gregg Rolie For “Neal Schon’s Journey Through Time”
Neal Schon is not only the founding member of the legendary rock band Journey — over 100 million albums sold and counting — but also a guitarist with a one-of-a-kind career path. Schon kicked off his career as a teenager, joining Santana while in high school. Beyond his work with Journey and Santana, Schon has also sold millions of albums via his recordings with Bad English, Hardline and Jan Hammer. He has also recorded with the likes of The Allman Brothers Band, Beth Hart, and Sammy Hagar.
2018 is shaping up to be yet another big year for Schon. This month, he will be reuniting with Gregg Rolie — a bandmate in both Journey and Santana — for Neal Schon’s Journey Through Time. This full-band gig will be happening on February 9, 2018 at San Francisco’s The Independent, benefitting North Bay Fire Relief. This will be the first concert that Schon and Rolie have played together in years. Schon, as part of Journey, will also be embarking on a co-headlining tour with Def Leppard, gigging at arenas and stadiums throughout North America. The 58-city tour kicks off in Hartford, CT on May 21st.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Schon by phone, learning more about Neal Schon’s Journey Through Time and what else the influential guitar player has coming up in the near-future. More on Schon can be found online at www.schonmusic.com.
How did your reunion with Gregg come about?
Neal Schon: Gregg and I have been talking for years, but actually when we got together a couple of years ago after working on the reunited Santana. We had a blast doing that. I’d been thinking about doing this sort of a show, going back to our first three [Journey] records… There’s a huge volume of work that diehard Journey fans are aware of, but many are not.
When the fires happened up here in Marin County, there was such devastation. I drove by it and there’s nothing left. I wanted to jump on one of these shows to donate and help everybody in the community. They were already booked with different acts, so I grabbed what I could grab. It’s really tough when you don’t book so far in advance, and I managed to get The Independent, which is a great venue, very intimate. It holds 550 people.
I’ve always loved playing small places like this, so I said, “For now, this will do and we’ll raise as much as we can.” Actually, the deal we cut with the promoters was awesome, so we’ll be able to donate almost everything we get. It’s a good opportunity to get together and do what we’ve been talking about for a long time. Gregg and I have talked about it for years.
Do you know what you will be performing live with Gregg? Will it be any Santana? A mix of songs from throughout your career?
Neal Schon: No, it’s not Santana, we’re playing Journey stuff. This is about Journey.
I’m surprised that there will be no Santana songs, since you two are also synonymous with your work with Santana.
Neal Schon: Eventually that could happen further down the line. I plan on playing more shows than just this one, but I’m already committed for the whole year with Journey and Def Leppard. That’s going to be a monstrous tour, we’re going to have a lot of fun with that. But I’m going to love digging back into the streets, getting back to San Francisco, where this whole band started, playing at Winterland [Ballroom], and diving back into that material.
Setting up the other day — we’re rehearsing before the 9th and going through all the material — I gave all the guys a list of, I think, 55 songs. They’re album-deep and stuff that we never play, and everybody’s like, “Are you crazy? That’s a seven-hour show.” (laughs) They’re just songs, and let’s just check it out, and when we get together, we’ll do whatever works for us. We definitely are going to play stuff off of the first, second, third, Infinity, Evolution, and Departure records.
Journey seems to be as big now as it ever was, having turned things around within the last decade. When did you first start to realize that you were no longer just a “classic rock” sort of band?
Neal Schon: I think it’s come with time. I don’t think anyone imagined at this point that we’d still be around. I really never thought about it, but if I had thought about it back then, I’d never have thought we’d still be around. We have a lot of brand new fans every year, and when I look out in the audience, I see definitely three generations, sometimes four generations. The audience is getting younger and they’re getting more aware and digging into the records and finding out about it.
Finally, Neal, any last words for the kids?
Neal Schon: It’s a rough business out there, but we’re doing everything we can do to get the laws right for streaming and all that, so all the young musicians out there can actually pursue the career that they want and love. It’s very difficult these days for younger kids that are playing. It’s astounding how fast kids are learning, they have all the tools on the Internet to learn from. It’s just mind-boggling to me. I had a record player and I could slow it down half-speed, you know?
Keep pursuing what’s in your heart, follow your heart, and stay hopeful. Don’t listen to anybody, because someone tells you you’re never going to make it, like a lot of people told me when I was in high school. I loved driving up with my first car — a Maserati — and grabbing all of the teachers that told me I was going to be a bum and going nowhere. (laughs) Follow your heart, and there’s many musicians like myself that are working to change the laws to get the music industry in a better place where it should be in the digital world.