For Arnel Pineda, making the jump from singer for a Journey cover band in the Philippines to the real thing and gaining fans’ acceptance worldwide has been a great accomplishment. The feel-good story is even more remarkable when you consider that Pineda endured extreme poverty growing up and was homeless for a time during his teenage years.
Pineda’s life story is chronicled in a new documentary, “Don't Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey.” The film, which has been playing the festival circuit, is scheduled for widespread theatrical release next spring.
“I think it’s interesting for people to see where I came from and all these hardships before Journey found me,” Pineda, 44, said by phone. “It’s been a surreal, unbelievable experience.”
Journey, which also includes guitarist Neal Schon, bassist Ross Valory, keyboardist Jonathan Cain and drummer Deen Castronovo, performs on Saturday at Ovation Hall at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
Pineda said he began singing at age 5, emulating the Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand and Karen Carpenter songs that played from his mother’s radio. After his mother died when he was 13, Pineda found himself on the streets with many other homeless youth.
“We didn’t give a care as long as we got by,” he said. “As long as you had a little food, a little chair to sit on at night, and then you wake up in the morning and get food and that’s it. You look forward to another day.”
Pineda eventually found shelter and later joined the Journey tribute band The Zoo. He was discovered on YouTube in 2007 by Schon.
“I never thought I would become part of one of the biggest rock bands in America,” Pineda said. “I was weirded out at first. I think I will be indebted to Neal for the rest of my life.”
Pineda was the second singer that Journey worked with after original vocalist Steve Perry’s departure in 1997 following 20 years with the band. Journey first hired Steve Augeri, but many fans did not want to hear anyone besides Perry perform such hits as “Don’t Stop Believin,’” “Faithfully” and “Lights.” Journey released two albums with Augeri that failed to garner significant fan interest.
Pineda, however, immediately won the hearts of Journey fans. His first record with the band, “Revelation” (2008), reached No. 5 on the Billboard chart and has sold more than one million copies. Last year’s follow-up, “Eclipse,” reached No. 13.
Journey band members have credited Pineda’s ability to cover Perry’s dynamic vocal range and his spirited performances for the band’s recent success. Pineda said it is his responsibility to maintain Journey’s reputation as a must-see live act.
“Steve Perry left his legacy,” Pineda said. “It should be that way and the people expect to be hearing something worthy of that all the time.”
IF YOU GO: Journey and Loverboy, 9 p.m. Saturday, Ovation Hall, Revel Hotel and Casino, 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City. Tickets are $105, $125, $175, $250. Call 855-348-0500 or visit www.revelresorts.com/events/journey.