How Steve Perry Is Gearing Up for the ‘Next Phase': Interview
Steve Perry said the release of 2018's Traces was a promise fulfilled for his late girlfriend Kellie Nash. But he isn't finished creating.
The former Journey singer recently returned to his long-awaited third solo album, offering fans an opportunity to hear the songs in a stripped-down format that revealed new depths. Now, he's ready to move on toward new songs.
It certainly hasn't been easy, he admits. “You’ve got to understand, a little bit of the backstory is that when I left the group, one of the main reasons that I left is that I was totally toast and burned out. I had needed to stop,” Perry tells UCR. “When I stopped, because I had to stop, I was not going to become a rock 'n' roll casualty. So, I stopped.”
As time passed, he became more and more certain that he'd made the right decision – “mainly, because the freshness of ideas and stuff weren’t coming to me like they used to," Perry says. "I was starting to sound like a parody of myself. I was not going to do that; I would rather stop. So, that’s what I did. I took what started off to be a little bit of a break, [which] turned into a long sabbatical – with the intention of never coming back to music again.”
He wasn't sure if his passion for music would return, so he focused on enjoying life as a private citizen for a number of years prior to meeting Nash. He bought a motorcycle and enjoyed cruising the backroads of his hometown, Hanford, Calif. After the punishing schedule he had endured for so many years on the road with Journey, Perry embraced simplicity.
Then he began dating Nash, who finally inspired Perry back toward music before passing away in 2012 after a long battle with cancer.
“I figured if I was ever to be so fortunate to have my passion for music to come back and songwriting ideas start to return, the only way that was potentially possible was to really let it go forever – like I’m never going to do it,” he says. “And if it doesn’t come back, so be it. I did exactly that and fast forward, years go by. I meet somebody I love; I lost somebody I loved.”
Listen to Steve Perry's Radio Mix of 'Most of All'
He built a studio and began to go through some of the musical ideas that had accumulated on various hard drives, finding “sketches and ideas” that felt like something. “Then all of the sudden,” Perry says, “all of this stuff started showing up. Music started coming back to me.”
Traces became his most honest and organic album to date, as Perry bottled the human experience of dealing with grief and loss while celebrating the love that was there – and that still remains. He came to recognize that there was a light in the distance, and an eventual path forward. Traces (Alternate Versions and Sketches), which arrived on Dec. 4, marks the official end of that song cycle.
These days, Perry has returned to the same studio with an eye on the future, though he's hesitant to share many details. “I was down there this morning and I was down there yesterday morning,” he says, describing his studio space as being like a bunker, soundproofed and a “bit underground.”
His days start early, with Perry powering up all of the equipment and beginning to pull up tracks around 9 or 10 in the morning. “I start tweaking here and tweaking there and coming up with ideas and maybe rearranging and editing some things in a different arrangement,” he says. “And then, the next thing I know, it’s 4:30 or 5 o’clock and I’ve got to stop – because I just become overly excited about the potential of what I’m trying to say.”
Last time, he went decades between albums. Perry admits he won't have that luxury again.
“I do have a time deficit, because Uncle Steve is not getting any younger, okay,” he says with a laugh. “Now, where I’m going now, I can’t tell you. I have more music to finish than I probably have time to do so. I’m excited about it and I feel an urgency to get this next phase of what’s showing up now, [which] I did not know was going to show up. But it’s showing up now. It’s showing up because of where we are in the world.”