How Steve Perry Started Believing in Christmas Again
The man who told us to "Don't Stop Believin'" did, in fact, stop believing last year. In Christmas.
But he got his holiday mojo back by recording some holiday music. Steve Perry, who fronted Journey from 1977-87 and again from 1996-98, released The Season, a set of eight holiday standards, last month. It debuted high on several Billboard charts, including No. 4 on Top Holiday Albums, but most importantly it allowed the now San Diego-based singer to get his Yuletide mojo back after losing it during last year's COVID Christmas season.
"For myself, personally, it was such an empty Christmas because it was filled with more anxiety than spirit of Christmas," Perry explains to UCR. "I could not access the fantasies of believing in Christmas. I couldn't access it through the music I love. I had a hard time even listening to my favorite traditional Christmas songs last year because we were all going through such a pandemic Christmas."
Perry decided to take proactive steps to avoid a repeat this year. Having released the holiday EP Silver Bells in 2019, he began "playing around with ideas of doing some more holiday music" this past June, working remotely with multi-instrumentalist Dallas Kruse. Co-producer Thom Flowers, who worked with Perry on his 2018 comeback album Traces, came on board as well, with Vinnie Colaiuta joining on four tracks. "I never sang these songs before," Perry confesses. "When I was really young I heard them being sung, but I never sang them. So this was a first for me. I just needed to sing these songs. It was touching the reverence of the original spirit that I think got me back in the Christmas spirit. I realized how important they are when I started singing them."
Listen to Steve Perry's 'I'll Be Home for Christmas'
Channeling the likes of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald and Smokey Robinson, Perry and his cohorts were judicious in winnowing down a long list of potential songs to include on The Season. "The ones I recorded were the ones that touched me most when I was a child, that emotionally meant the most to me and conjured up the spirit of Christmas — that was my decision-making process," Perry explains. "The spirit of this record is a fireplace burning, sitting in front of it quietly, no media going on, just a cup of eggnog — with ice and a little bit of fresh nutmeg on it. That's it."
That is, in fact, how Perry is planning to spend Christmas this year, sitting with his girlfriend "and having some reminiscent thoughts about her life and her Christmases and mine." And, oh yeah, throw in a grilled cheese sandwich. "I use food in the holidays as a portal to access memories long past, but I never can recreate the flavors my grandmother used to make ... so I've given that up," he says. "I think I'm gonna have a grilled cheese sandwich, but it has to be some really beautiful Irish cheese on sourdough bread with some really good dill pickles and a lot of butter, and then you grill it slowly so it gets the browned thing. There ain’t nothing better than that, come on!"
And for those Perry fans who might have more music from him on their holiday wish list, it may be coming. Perry says that since completing The Season he's written two more new songs and he also has plenty of other material in various stages of completion.
"The good news is I have too much original material," says Perry. Traces — which debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 in 2018 — was his first solo album in 24 years and first recording of any kind in 22. "I just hope people out there want to keep hearing some material from me, but I'm gonna finish the stuff no matter what," Perry promises. The new music, he adds, is "definitely different from the Traces record," but he says it's too early to start talking about it specifically.