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The Essentials

Journey guitarist Neal Schon talks touring essentials, prized guitars and favorite songs

Journey guitarist Neal Schon gets real about touring the country and his favorite songs from the group for 鶹ý's weekly series, The Essentials.

In a new series 鶹ý’s The Essentials, celebrities share what fuels their lives whether it's at home, on the set or on the road.

Guitarist Neal Schon started making waves on his instrument as a Bay Area teen during the summer of love in 1968, and eventually joined Carlos Santana's band at 17 in 1971. He's never looked back.

Schon, who teamed up with Santana band colleagues and went on to found the radio-hit juggernaut Journey, is back on the road this summer hitting stadiums and arenas around the country along with '80s giants Def Leppard. Now 70, Schon seems more dialed in than ever.

"I love what I do. I'm in good health since I've been taking care of myself for the last 20 years, after a bunch of years doing everything you shouldn't be doing," Schon says with a laugh. "Besides, I like being involved in all the details of our tour. And the business people don't enjoy you as much when you're paying attention."

The members of Journey stand on a rock in Central Park. From left: Todd Jensen, Jonathan Cain, Arnel Pineda, Neal Schon, Jason Derlatka and Deen Castronovo. The band is out on the road this summer co-headlining with Def Leppard.

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The road inevitably presents an array of challenges for all touring musicians, but combine a legendary band with the comforts that come with success and the months ahead promise to not be as hard as they once were. Schon shares with us some of his on-the-road rituals, his passion for guitars and the best way to travel.

Journey guitarist Neal Schon dishes on his backstage ritual

Neal Schon and Journey played a hometown show in San Francisco in March 2022. The band's 15th album – and first in 11 years – "Freedom," arrives July 8, 2022.

While rock band green rooms have been known to be dens of iniquity, that's not the case for Schon, who prefers to prepare for an upcoming gig by sitting with his guitar.

"I don't really even listen to music backstage before going on, but I'll play music," he says. "That's one way to stay young when you're older, practicing all the time. I play many hours a day, because you never stop learning on your instrument."

Schon's says his father was a jazz musician and bandleader, and he remains intrigued by getting new and innovative sounds out of his six-stringed instrument. "I'm finding ways to incorporate horn lines into my playing. Now, that might not work with a Journey song, but it's fun to challenge yourself. So before we go on, that's what I'm doing. That, and just chilling out."

What is Neal Schon's favorite guitar?

Neal Schon and Journey released the band's first album in 11 years, "Freedom," on July 8, 2022.

Schon just laughs at the question. "I've had more guitars in my life, but right now I still have about 750 or so," he says. "They're all great, and I don't really have one in particular that I favor."

The guitarist says that depending on what model his is playing, his style will immediately shift. "If I'm playing a Fender Telecaster or Strat(ocaster), or if I'm playing a (Gibson) Les Paul, I'll play totally differently. I also have jazz-style guitars such as a Gibson 335 and an L5. Big hollow body guitars that can produce feedback if you're not careful, but they can also provide such a huge, huge tone."

A number of years back, Schon sold a number of his prized guitars including , as it was used during the recording of Journey's 1978 "Infinity" album which featured the hit song, "Lights." The price? $65,000.

The best and worst things about being a touring band all summer, according to Neal Schon

Journey formed in the San Francisco area back in the mid '70s and scored their biggest hits in the '80s. The band, featuring founding member and guitarist Neal Schon (second from right) is still going strong and tours with Def Leppard this summer.

We all love our beds. And that's what Schon dreams of when he's on the road with his band.

"If I could beam myself from the stage to my home bed, that would be amazing," he says. "To be in that bed and not in a hotel, wow. But that said, we as a band have made a lot of friends at a lot of nice hotels in cities around the world, and if you're kind to the people there, they are kind to you. So it's not that bad at all."

At this point, says Schon, being in a traveling band is second nature. "Remember, I started this life when I was a kid," he says. "I'm not only used to it, but I don't see myself stopping either."

鶹ý's The Essentials: Neal Schon opens up about touring with Journey.

For Neal Schon, the days of barnstorming the country by bus are long gone

Schon's touring memories are filled with now comical memories of trying to get some rest on a loud, cramped bus as he and his bandmates shuttled from city to city trying to make a name for themselves. No more. These days, those journeys have wings.

Journey formed in the 1970s when guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Gregg Rolie left the Santana band. They're touring still, with stadium gigs this summer with Def Leppard.

"For us, it's a (private) plane, definitely," he says. "We've flown private for years now, and it's hard to break away from that. It's still the best and safest way to get from one gig to another."

In fact, some recollections from tours past include many a black-and-blue ride. "I did many, many years in a bus, with those tiny bunks. Then there were the private coaches, but they were really expensive and then you learned what roads in the country were no good. In some states, I'd find myself literally bounced onto the floor in the middle of the night."

Neal Schon reveals his favorite Journey songs

Asking Schon about his favorite Journey tunes is a bit like the proverbial request for a parent to name their most adored child. Can't be done.

Def Leppard (from left): Vivian Campbell, Rick Allen, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen and Rick Savage, will embark on another stadium tour July 6 with Journey.

"The truth is the audience makes all those hits come alive, honest," he says. "I've played these songs so, so many times, whether it's 'Lights' or 'Wheel In The Sky' or 'Faithfully,' but the emotions that run through me each time as you play them never gets old, especially when you see how the audience is moved."

For Schon, filling the air with those classic songs is all about trying to be a guitar therapist. "You're trying to remove people from whatever kind of funk is going on in their lives," he says. "The music becomes the ultimate healer."

What Journey opening act made a huge impression on guitarist Neal Schon?

Countless bands have opened for Journey over the band's five decade existence. But one group left a particularly huge impression on Schon.

Members of Journey, Steve Smith, from left, Ross Valory, Aynsley Dunbar, Gregg Rolie, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain at the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York on April 7, 2017.

"It was Bryan Adams," he says. "This was in the '80s and he was just out with his (1983) album 'Cuts Like A Knife,' and I remember listening to them and I thought, 'Wow, he's amazing, and his band is amazing.'"

Schon has high praise in particular for Adams' guitar player, Keith Douglas Scott. The Canadian ace "plays slowhand, meaning, only what's necessary to serve the song. But one day I was walking past his dressing room and I hear the most amazing sounds and I couldn't believe it, it was him. Just really experimental guitar. I'd love to co-headline with them again. Bryan Adams and Journey really go well together.”

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