The Unlikely and Inspiring Story of Arnel Pineda

After Arnel Pineda‘s mother died when he was thirteen, he endured many hardships, including a brief homeless period. Blessed with an amazing voice, he eventually became lead singer of a cover band in his native Philippines.

Then came the phone call that changed his life. Neal Schon, the guitar player from the iconic rock band Journey, found Arnel on YouTube and invited him to audition. Arnel is now living the dream as lead singer of  Journey. . . and counting his blessings every day.


Arnel Pineda, lead singer of Journey

I first became aware of Arnel while watching videos of Charice, the sixteen-year-old singing sensation form the Philippines. On December 21, 2008, Charice and Arnel sang a duet of a Heart classic on ASAP (All-Star Afternoon Party), a Philippine TV show.



Step by step, Arnel Pineda has made it to the top

I love hearing about talented people who refuse to give up in the face of overwhelming odds. Arnel’s triumph is inspiring countless others to keep fighting, keep learning, and keep hope alive.

I think it’s so cool that a guy in a cover band ends up as the lead singer of the band he idolizes. And this isn’t the first, or even the second, time that’s happened. Here’s a brief article from National Public Radio’s website about a few other super fans who landed their dream gig.

March 13, 2008 – Blind Melon is getting back together. They had a hit back in 1993 with No Rain, but they disbanded a little while after their lead singer, Shannon Hoon, died of a drug overdose in 1995. They’re re-forming mainly because they’ve found a new lead singer, a guy named Travis Warren, who’s basically a Blind Melon superfan. He has a 12-inch tattoo of Shannon Hoon on his back. And now he’s got his dream job, as the lead singer of his favorite band.

But this is far from the first time a superfan has followed this path. The first time we witnessed this phenomenon was in 1997 when Tim Owens was hired to replace Rob Halford as the frontman for Judas Priest. Owens had been in a series of Judas Priest cover bands before he got the real gig. (A quick side note: Owens was also in a band called *Brainicide* at one point. Had to mention that.)

Two Judas Priest fans videotaped Owens in his role in a Priest cover band, and got the tape to the real band, and the group eventually hired him and gave him the stage name Ripper Owens.

And if the tale of Tim Owens sounds like a story fit for Hollywood, it was. Four years after he got that job, Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston starred in a film inspired by Owens’ story called “Rock Star.” That film had the tag line, “The Story of a Wannabe, Who Got to Be.”

“Rock Star” was also the name of the 2005 reality TV show that selected the new lead singer of INXS, but that isn’t quite the same thing, so it only gets honorable mention.

Moving on to 2007…The heavy metal band Anthrax took a cue from Judas Priest and named a 31-year-old personal trainer and part-time singer from Long Island their lead singer. (Anthrax fans apparently tend to congregate in the gyms of Long Island.) His name is Dan Nelson, and he met Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano on MySpace a few years ago. One thing led to another, and now Nelson is the lead singer of Anthrax. And actually, when he got the gig, his friend gave him a DVD of Rock Star as a gift.

And all that leads to the best story of a wannabe who got to be. We all know and love the band Journey, right? Well their guitarist Neal Schon was searching for a lead singer to replace estranged frontman Steve Perry. So of course, he looked on YouTube.

He spent days on YouTube and was almost ready to give up when he came across a Filipino band called The Zoo that performs original music and covers, especially—you guessed it—Journey covers. Their lead singer is a guy named Arnel Pineda, who’s been called “The Filipino Steve Perry,” which is just about one of the highest compliments you can bestow on anyone. And this guy is pretty amazing.

So Pineda got an email from the Journey guitarist and he thought it was a hoax, so he ignored it*. But then his friend said, “Hey, What if this is real, this could be your big break.” So Pineda wrote back, and eventually he got the gig. And now he’s on tour with Journey.

So to all you musical superfans out there, Guitar Hero and Rock Band players alike, I say to you…Don’t Stop Believin’. This could be your story.

Here is Journey’s complete set at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival in Viña del Mar, Chile, on 2/21/08. It’s Arnel’s first performance with his new band!
















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22 Responses to “The Unlikely and Inspiring Story of Arnel Pineda”

  1. Perry Says:

    Hi Phil.

    Awesome blog. Arnel is a great talent and inspiring….thanks!

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You are more than welcome, Perry!

  3. miyi Says:

    hi Phil, excellent blog, first you write about Charice, now Arnel! thanks man..I was touched with Arnel’s CBS interview. Please keep up the great work!

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I’ll do my best, miyi!

  5. archiemr4 Says:

    I first discovered about you, your blog & your book of inspiring stories because of Charice … and it is good to know that you found Arnel Pineda too .. because of Charice …

    You did great on following on Charice’s career (now also Arnel Pineda’s) , both Charice & Arnel Pineda started from humble beginnings & they still remain humble.

    Keep on inspiring more people, the world needs persons like you.
    Take Care & God Bless …

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for the kind words, Archie. I appreciate it very much. Yes, I am very impressed by Arnel as well!

  7. Charlene Says:

    Your blog is very impressive and most of all very inspiring. I’m not good at words but I want you to know that reading your excellent article concerning our dear Charice, complete with videos highlighting her great performances, brings so much joy to us who love this young charismatic singer. Your biography presentation of charice on her website is also quite admirable. Thank you for the time and attention you have spent on both Charice and Arnel. You are a big help in paving their way to stardom.

    God Bless and more power to you.

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for the kind words, Charlene. If anything I do is helpful to Charice and Arnel, I am humbled and grateful for that.

  9. Donnie Says:

    You are a wonderful person Phil Bolsta, the world needs people like you. Thank you for your hard work.

    All the best and God Bless.

  10. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Donnie. I appreciate it!

  11. maria Says:

    thanks for liking the filipinos. thanks for not being a racist!

  12. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Hmmm, I’ve never been thanked for not being a racist before, Maria. I guess that’s a good thing!

  13. Agnes Yasay Says:

    Thank you for the heartwarming articles about Charice and Arnel. You really make our day!

  14. Phil Bolsta Says:

    It is my pleasure, Agnes!

  15. tipenski Says:

    Just watched Oprah’s Oct 5 episode where Journey (and Arnel Pineda) was guest. The episode was all about don’t stop believing and rising above challenges in life. Journey sang two songs – at beginning and end of show. Before last song at end of show, Oprah mentioned that that Arnel Pineda’s life story will hit the big screen (US) next year – title is ‘Don’t Stop Believing: Everyman’s Journey’ – how awesome is that! Wonder who will play Arnel?

    Here’s the link at 6:08 where oprah mentioned life movie of Arnel P..

    Thanks Phil, for your wonderful and inspiring work.

  16. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Awesome! Thanks for the heads up, tipenski!

  17. vivian Says:

    Hi Phil,

    you are really doing a good job. your blog is amazing. appreciate people like you with that talent. Good luck and more power.

  18. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for the kind words, Vivian. I’m glad you enjoy my blog!

  19. Translation Chicago Says:

    Thanks Phil,

    I really like your post. Arnel is kabababayan. He and Charice makes us proud!

  20. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I’m glad you like my post about Arnel, Translation Chicago. His story inspired me! He seems like a wonderful guy.

  21. Barbara Graves Morgan Says:

    It’s a great story and I love him!!!

  22. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad to hear that, Barbara!

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