Arnel Pineda was born in Sampaloc, Manila, in the Philippines. His mother instilled his love for singing at an early age, encouraging him to sing. Growing up, his parents entered him in many singing contests.
His mother, who had been suffering from rheumatic heart disease, died when he was thirteen. Her illness had left their family deep in debt. Being a year behind on their rented apartment and unable to sufficiently provide for the family, his father decided to move out and ask relatives to take in Pineda’s siblings. To ease his father’s burden, Pineda quit school and volunteered to strike out on his own.
For about two years his life was spent out on the streets, sleeping wherever he could: in public parks, or on a narrow bench outside a friend’s crowded house. He earned meager money by collecting glass bottles, newspapers, and scrap metal and selling them to recyclers. He would also go to the pier with his friends and take on odd jobs like cleaning scrap metal and docked ships. He didn’t have much to eat, sometimes rationing a small package of biscuit as his meal for two days. Despite all these hardships he tried to remain optimistic about his future
In 1982, when Pineda was 15 years old, he became the lead singer of the Filipino musical group called Ijos Band. He used to sing in Jolibee’s. In 1986, some members of Yjoz formed a group called Amo. Amo entered and won the Rock Wars contest in the Philippines.
In 1988, Amo entered and won the Philippines leg of the Yamaha World Band Explosion. They went on to the finals in Hong Kong, but were not qualified to win due to a technicality. The rules stated the winning song had to be an original composition. However, they also stated that the song entry in the finals had to be the same song with which the band won their country’s leg of the competition. Amo’s winning song in the Philippines was Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, obviously not an original. After the contest, the band continued as Amo, performing live. They opened for Robert Palmer in Manila in 1989.Amo played in clubs in Quezon City, Olongapo City and Makati City, which are located in Luzon, the biggest island in the Philippines. Amo was very popular in the renowned Chinese-owned California Jams club in Olongapo City, which was frequented by United States military personnel.
In 1990, Pineda and other members of Amo formed another band called Intensity Five and once again entered the Yamaha World Band Explosion. Pineda won the Best Vocalist award and the band came in as first runner up.
Later in 1990, five of Amo’s original members split from the band leader, Ulysis Ablang (Uly) and formed another band behind Pineda, “New Age”. This occurred prior to the release of Amo’s one-and-only album released in 1990 titled Ang Tunay na Amo (“The Real Master”) on BMG records which spawned one popular radio hit called “Running Away”. (The song was popularized again in 2006 by another Filipino artist Erik Santos, who won an American Idol type Filipino TV show, Star In A Million.) The remaining members of Amo went on to become “The Boss Band”, while Pineda’s band, New Age, played regularly at Fire and Rain in Makati City.
In 1991, during one of those performances, a talent agent spotted Pineda and New Age and asked them to move to Hong Kong to perform at a very popular entertainment restaurant called Grammy’s. With New Age, Pineda performed six nights a week, Tuesday through Sunday, for several years thereafter.[ After a long-term serious relationship failed in 1994, Pineda suffered health problems, which almost destroyed his voice. He returned to the Philippines. After six months of recuperation, he was able to sing again. He returned to Hong Kong and resumed singing with his band. In 1998, the owner of Igor’s, the premiere theme restaurant/nightclub in Hong Kong, asked New Age to perform there. Dressed in skeleton outfits, they called themselves “The Rolling Bones”.
In 1999, Pineda caught the attention of Warner Bros, record label and flew back to the Philippines on his days off to record a solo album, the self-titled Arnel Pineda. Most of the album’s ten original songs were slow ballads, with only two upbeat numbers, one of which carries a Latin style. One of the songs, “Iiyak Ka Rin” (You Will Cry Too) became a karaoke favorite in Asia, while another song “Sayang” (Too Bad) became a radio favorite. Pineda wrote and arranged several songs. Pineda continued to perform with New Age while making his album and for several years thereafter. In 2001, Pineda sang one song with Filipino band, South Border’s album The Way We Do. The song is called “Looking Glass”. In 2002, Pineda’s band changed their name to 9 mm and played at “The Edge” in Lai Kwai Fong, Hong Kong.
In 2004, three members of the New Age band reformed with a female singer sharing lead vocals with Pineda and called themselves “Most W@nted”. This band played 3-4 hour sets Monday through Saturday at The Cavern Club in Hong Kong. On their only day off, Sundays, the band often performed at Filipino community events.
Videos of The Zoo performing cover songs by Journey, Survivor, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Air Supply, The Eagles, Kenny Loggins and other popular acts from the 70s, 80s and 90s, began appearing on YouTube.com in February 2007. On June 28, 2007, Neal Schon of Journey contacted Noel Gomez, a longtime fan and friend of Pineda who uploaded many of these videos, to ask for Pineda’s contact information. Schon sent an e-mail to Pineda inviting the latter to audition for Journey. Pineda initially dismissed the e-mail as a hoax, but after being persuaded by Gomez, he finally replied to Schon’s e-mail. Ten minutes later, Pineda received a phone call from Schon. On August 12,[7Pineda, along with his manager Bert de Leon, flew to Marin County, just north of San Francisco, for a two-day audition. The star-struck Pineda was welcomed warmly but he described the audition as “nerve-wracking, tense”. On December 5, 2007, Pineda was announced as the lead singer of Journey. CNN Headline News ran the story as part of their “News to Me” segment.
Pineda debuted as the lead singer of Journey on February 21, 2008 at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival held at the Quinta Vergara Amphitheater in Viña del Mar, Chile.
Chilean media acclaimed Pineda’s performance (translated to English): “The new vocalist fit very well with the band, his vocal aptitudes shining through, which are very similar to the legendary musician of the band, Steve Perry.”[ Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain described Pineda’s performance in a radio interview: “We went to Chile just recently, where we had never played and they went crazy, they absolutely went nuts…Arnel’s first show — talk about a stressful thing — we had a televised concert for 25 million people…Is the guy a winner? Yeah, he’s a winner. He’s a clutch player.”
Journey returned to the US for a private Remax Convention event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on March 6, 2008, then performed at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood on March 8, 2008 (this concert was recorded and used, in part, for the Revelation DVD).
On February 1, 2009 he performed with Journey at the Super Bowl XLIII Pregame Show.
Journey’s first album with Pineda, Revelation, debuted at No. 5 in the Billboard Top 200 album charts in the week following its release (released June 3, 2008), and remained in the Top 20 for six weeks. It was certified gold by RIAA with more than 336,000 units sold within the first few days. It achieved platinum status by October 1, 2008.
The US version of the album (distributed exclusively through Wal-Mart) consists of 11 new songs, and 11 re-recorded classics, plus a live in-concert DVD filmed during the March 8, 2008 concert in Las Vegas. The European version distributed through Frontiers Records contains 11 new songs, 11 re-recorded classics, plus one new bonus track, but does not include the DVD. All of the music on Revelation was produced by Kevin Shirley (who previously worked with Journey on their Platinum-certified Trial by Fire album).