“Don’t stop believing
” - that’s always been the mantra for Zoo
lead vocalist Arnel Pineda
. He never did; and look at what he will be doing in 2008 - touring the world as the new lead vocalist of rock ballad legends Journey
Skeptics dismiss him as just another one-hit YouTube anomaly, but fact of the matter is Arnel Pineda more than paid his dues before turning into the new international pride of the Philippines. The 40-year old singer started his career in his teens, when the death of his beloved mother forced him to stop school. Growing up in Sampaloc, Manila, he entered a showband called Hijos
as an apprentice. Although Pineda already had a promising voice then, he still had to sharpen his edges and learn how to sing 70’s and 80’s rock songs quite different from his favorite Beatles and kundiman songs.
After a few years of honing his craft, Hijos eventually evolved into the AMO Band which joined various band competitions alongside bands such as Fahrenheit, the precursor of the ever popular band Side A. From there, he shuttled from Hong Kong to the Philippines to chase his dream of being a rockstar until health and lifestyle problems brought about by his separation from his former live-in partner destroyed his voice. He went back to the Philippines to have his throat examined. He was devastated to learn that the doctors concluded that he will never be able to sing again.
“Pakiramdam ko noon, kalaban ko ang mundo,” says Pineda. “Hindi ako naniwala because singing is my life.”
Arnel persevered until he finally regained his singing form after six months of rehabilitation. He continued singing and touring until he was signed up as a solo recording artist by a major record label.
But his rockstar dream continued to elude him as he was being packaged differently from his rock persona. Being packaged as a straight-up pop balladeer proved to be detrimental, as he was already accustomed to power ballads and rock hits. He continued until fate brought him to be discovered by well-respected TV director Bert de Leon in Hong Kong, who was prompted to bring Pineda and his mentor Moneth Cajipe back to the Philippines, form the band and help them get signed to MCA Music. This was the birth of the band Zoo.
Zoo released their debut album Zoology late 2007. The band established itself as a dependable act in major bars such as Bagaberde and Hard Rock Café to name a few. A friend of his posted a video of Zoo performing on YouTube which in turn was discovered by Neal Schon of Journey. He was so impressed that he arranged to have Pineda go to the United States and audition until he was picked as Journey’s lead vocalist.
Pineda’s story is now an inspiration for people to never stop believing.