JOURNEY guitarist Neal Schon recently gave a college radio simulcast interview to WMSC and WNUW where he discussed the progress of the songwriting and recording sessions for the band's upcoming studio album. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I learned how to play keyboards better than ever during the pandemic, which I'd never really done before. And that's where our first single ['The Way We Used To Be', which was released in June] came from. [I sent it to] Jonathan [Cain, keyboards], and he did the lyrics on it and put a rough vocal on it. And then we had Arnel [Pineda] sing it, and we cut it and re-cut it in the studio, and it was just released. And a lot of people went, 'Wow, man. I love it.' 90 percent of people love it; the other 10 percent went, 'I don't think it sounds like JOURNEY.' I go, 'I never wrote it to be a JOURNEY song.'"
According to Schon, he and his bandmates have written over 30 new songs for the upcoming JOURNEY record. "Some of 'em are unmistakeably JOURNEY without sounding like another song that we have; it just sounds like a new version of the band, because we do have a new rhythm section," he said. "It's ballistic, man. And there's no lack of guitar on this record. So I'm excited about it getting out there. I think any guitar player out there is gonna love this record, because I'm just kind of unleashing on this record — like I do a lot live, but sometimes hold back in the studio. I don't think it's O.D.ing on the guitar at all and going overboard, but I like to check out the times and where I see music going. I usually have a pretty good gut instinct about it, and I feel like the late '60s, the time and era of early Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart and [LED] ZEPPELIN when they first came out, Jimi Hendrix, the CREAM with [Eric] Clapton and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, that whole era, there's a lot of younger kids out there, younger generation, that never got to experience that era. So I'm feeling like that is the era that I grew up in and that's what I truly love doing and the type of music I love playing, so I'm going more there and I'm writing for that, to be able to do that on stage. And I think it's really gonna trip some people out, when we finally do get this album out there and can combine it with all the hits that we do have."
He continued: "There's certain songs that are being mixed by Bob Clearmountain, that mixed our 'Raised On Radio' record, and he's made it sound really amazing, really pulled it together. You have mixers out there sometimes that have this incredible ability to take work that you've done throughout a year, even though they were recorded at separate times, and different sounds here and there, and they pull it all together and they make it sound like it's a tight album that has a focus sound-wise."
As for when fans can expect to see the new JOURNEY album released, Schon said: "If it doesn't drop later this year or before the first [of 2022], I think some time after the first. But I believe that if we do not release this year, then we'll probably follow with another couple of singles to keep people going and get them excited about the whole album. But the whole album, there's not a filler on the record; that's what I can tell you. I look at it, and I'm listening to it now, and many others that have known our music for a long time that have very good ears have said, 'Look, this is the modern-day-and-age 'Escape'. I think this could be the next 'Escape' for you guys.' And I think that's a bold statement, but honest to God, I feel like it's that good."
JOURNEY made its return to the live stage on July 29 during a special "aftershow" at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom. The concert took place just two days before JOURNEY's appearance at Lollapalooza on the Bud Light Seltzer stage at Grant Park.
JOURNEY's lineup for both shows included the return of drummer Deen Castronovo, who shared the drum duties in the band with Narada Michael Walden. Walden, bassist Randy Jackson and keyboardist/backing singer Jason Derlatka all joined JOURNEY last year following the band's acrimonious split with drummer Steve Smith and bassist Ross Valory. Jackson — who previously played with JOURNEY during the mid-1980s — was forced to miss the Aragon and Lollapalooza gigs because he was scheduled to undergo back surgery. Filling in for him was Marco Mendoza, who previously played several shows in 2019 with Castronovo and JOURNEY guitarist Neal Schon under the "Neal Schon's Journey Through Time" banner.
Castronovo's 17-year tenure with JOURNEY ended in 2015 when the group fired him after his arrest for a variety of charges involving his now-wife (including physical abuse, coercion, and unlawful use of a weapon).
"The Way We Used To Be" was the multi-platinum band's first new music since 2011's album "Eclipse", and the first song released by the band's revamped lineup. "The Way We Used To Be" marks Walden and Derlatka's first studio recordings with the band, and Jackson's first since 1986's "Raised On Radio". The song was produced by Narada Michael Walden at his Tarpan Studios, with co-production by Schon and Cain.