Iconic rocker Steve Perry sat down with award-winning newsman Dan Rather for a candid discussion of his life and career last night (April 16) on the season seven premiere of “The Big Interview” on AXS TV.
Fans and critics alike consider Perry to be one of the best rock vocalists of all time. As former Journey front man, he helped pioneer the “power ballad” and stole the hearts of fans all over the world with romantic songs like “Open Arms,” “Faithfully,” and “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).”
Perry found success both with the band and as a solo artist. The band put out seven multi-platinum albums from 1977 to 1987. At the peak of Journey’s success, Perry put the brakes on his music career and walked away.
AXS TV host Dan Rather is an award-winning newsman because he cuts to the heart of every story and his interview subjects in a sharp, well-researched, yet laid-back and easy interview style. His questions are as compelling as they are complimentary. In short, among journalists, he’s a joy to watch and a master of his craft.
Perry pointed out how good Rather is, in fact, during their time together. He also opened up about many personal topics, including his parent's divorce at a young age, his break from music, and the huge loss he suffered when his girlfriend, Kellie Nash, lost her battle with cancer.
Overall, Perry was vulnerable, generous and articulate as he and Rather explored his tumultuous rise to fame.
SPOILER ALERT: In case you missed it, we picked out five things we learned from Steve Perry during his chat with Dan Rather below.
1. He largely credits his musicality to his father, who was a singer.
It was fascinating to learn more about Steve Perry’s musical roots. He is an only child, born to parents who met as high school sweethearts. He told Rather his father would sing to him every night when he was a baby. Around the age of five, he was at a show in which both of his parents performed. He described looking up at his father while seated, swinging his feet (clad in white socks and sandals) and thought “I can do that.” Little did he know then how far he’d go in fulfilling that childhood vision.
2. Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” had a profound impact on him following his parents’ divorce.
Perry mentioned looking up to a few legendary singers during his interview. He felt his dad’s voice was a cross between Tony Bennett and Perry Como. In his video for “Foolish Heart,” he paid homage to Como in singing into the suspended microphone. (Watch the video below).
Sam Cooke’s “Cupid,” however, had a profound effect on him following his parent’s divorce. Music pulled him through a tough time. While listening to the song in the car, he was captivated by the “emotionality” in his voice and the way he used echo. The influence resonated with him throughout his own career.
3. His Journey bandmates had “trepidation” about recording “Open Arms.”
Many Journey fans would probably argue “Open Arms” is one of the best love songs of all time. It was surprising to learn the band, who was primarily a jazz fusion band when Perry joined them, were reluctant to make the creative “leap” to record this kind of song.
Neither Perry nor the other members of Journey realized at the time, they were helping pave the unchartered path of the power ballad with this song. The song resonated with fans everywhere, and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It’s also been covered by many other artists including Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow and more.
4. He couldn’t make music at all during the time he split the band.
Like many rock stars, Perry reached a point where fame and fortune “lost its luster.” He began to lose his passion for music and tried to fill a growing void with “party behaviors.” He walked away from Journey in 1987. During his time off, he told Rather he rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle, visited his deceased loved ones’ graves and tried to ground himself.
Through that time, he revealed he couldn’t make any kind of music and described his feelings as having “musical PTSD.”
5. His love, Kellie Nash, pulled him out of isolation and his new album “Traces” is dedicated to her.
Perry revealed many different tidbits about his life (like, he has one daughter and some grandkids, and he has a sort of love/hate relationship with his voice) and one fact was clear: Steve Perry loved his late girlfriend, Kellie Nash, profoundly.
Perry and Nash met in a very unconventional way. His friend and “Monster” film director Patty Jenkins made a documentary about cancer patients and survivors. He saw Nash during a camera pan and was immediately struck with an intense desire to get to know her.
After accepting his email invitation to dinner and going on the date, Perry and Nash “were inseparable.” She endured a three-year cancer battle. Perry told Rather he’d never experienced a connection with anyone like that before. He credited her for pulling him “out of isolation.” Furthermore, he dedicated his new album, “Traces,” to her. Many songs on it are about losing her.
In “We’re Still Here,” Perry sends an urgent call for all of us to band together “brother to brother” and “sister to sister” and let love guide us. He told Rather the song reminds him (and hopefully all of us) that music has the unique power to pull us together as one.
Tune into the “The Big Interview” on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on AXS TV.