How it all began.

Where to start?  I have an idea, let's start at the beginning. 

How did you start Trial by Fire? 

I get asked about the origin story of the band all the time.    It is one of my favorite stories to tell. 

I was at the end of my first marriage.  Yeah this posting stuff is going to be real.  It's going to be raw.  No bullshit.  Just the facts as I remember them.  You've been warned.   

Like I was saying, it was the end of my first marriage.  I had spent the better part of the last 10 years trying to be someone I wasn't.  I did this to try and make someone else happy.  I've learned  that kind of behavior just doesn't work, but like all things it took time to learn it.   

I could go into the ugly details but that is not the purpose of this post. 

The short story is that here I was 10 years later and without a clue of who I was. 

The Family had gone home for the Holidays and I was left alone in our massive Charlotte home with nothing to do.   It was the wednesday before Thanksgiving 2008. 

I grabbed my guitar. 

Now mind you I'm no guitar player.  I know 5 chords...maybe.   I had played some worship songs at church home groups, but never a rock tune.  I had not honestly listened to Traditional Rock music in almost 10 years.  At the time we only listened to Christian music in my home. 

I played every worship song I could remember.  For those who have ever done this kind of thing it can be quite a moving experience.  I believe I was into it about 2 hours, singing and crying.   I remember asking the empty room, “what do I do now?” 

I waited for an answer. 

Now I'm not going to say I heard a voice.  I will say I had a deep rooted feeling.  The source of this feeling can be debated, but again that's not the reason for this post. 

I got a response. 

“What do YOU want to do?” 

To which I replied, “I don’t know, thats why Im asking you!” 

And then I heard/felt, “Ernie What do you love?” 

I sat there for what seemed like hours. 

I remember talking out loud a lot.  I remember being very upset.  I remember saying something like, I want something for me.  The voice came once again. 

“What brings you Joy?” 

“I love to sing!”  I almost shouted.  I felt foolish.  I knew from things I have learned that you can’t make a good living by “loving to sing.”  Almost as if I was trying to bribe this higher power voice I offered, “maybe I could become a worship leader?”  Singing in a church is admirable thing to do and I wanted to be a good man.  The voice interrupted, 

“If I wanted that I would have asked you to be a worship leader, I asked what brings you Joy...think back to when you were a child….think of a joyful moment….what did you want to be?” 

And I blurted, 

“I wanted to be in Journey”   

Specifically I wanted to be Steve Perry.  As a 10 year old boy I had fallen in love with the music of Journey and the amazing tenor of Steve Perry.  I would listen to those records for hours, torturing my older brother whose musical tastes were much heavier...think Led Zeppelin...think Ozzy...Think AC/DC.  We shared a bedroom and we’d take turns with the record player.  You can just imagine it I am sure.  The voice from inside came to me once again awaking me from my flashback, 

“Sing Journey” 

And like the crazy person I was sure I was in the process of becoming I grabbed the guitar and tried to figure out how to play a journey song.  Madness.  Just utter and  complete madness. 

I chose the song “Lights”  Key of D...4 chords  D A G and a minor Bm.   

I sang that one song for three hours.  When I was finished it was dark out.  I had lost track of time.  The more I had sang it the better it sounded.  My voice started off deep.  When I was finished my voice was in a much higher pitch.  I thought I had gone mad, but I was starting to think that maybe I could actually sing Journey. 

Now I know there are many people out there that say, “sing Journey...what's the big deal?” 

I see many singers out there that say they can sing Journey, I mean look, Journey has had 3 singers since Steve Perry left the band.  So I can see why people think it's no big deal. For me though, it was huge.  I had idolized this man’s voice for a large part of my life.  To me to say anyone could sound like him was ludacris.  So after my 3 or more hour jam session of the song “Lights”, I was once again lost at what to do. 

In the months leading up to this I had tried to start a Christian Rock band, I had a cool name(my opinion) all picked out.  I wanted to start a band called 40dayReign...I actually got the band together and played a show.  The Christian Rock band wasn't meant to be….Sometimes the door just doesn’t open and that's okay.  The good that did come from it was I had discovered that you could find musicians on Craigslist!  “Hey maybe there is a band out there that needs a guy who can sing Journey?” 

I grabbed the laptop and did a quick search and found a band that was looking for a singer.  I read their ad and at the bottom was a list of bands they covered, one of which was Journey.   I called the number, now mind you this is 9pm or so on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.   I wish I could remember the guy’s name but the conversation was brief and strange...all on my end of course. 

Ernie: hey man I don’t want to be in your band….but I want to see if I can sing Journey...can I come try? 

Freaked out band member:   AHHHHH UMMMMM AHHHHH okay….we had an audition scheduled for Friday do you want to come sing the Journey tunes? 

Ernie: I would love to!!!!   Which ones do you do? 

Freaked out band member:  Don’t Stop Believing, Faithfully and Lights. 

Ernie: oh cool I just sang lights for like 3 hours! 

Freaked out band member:  AHHHH UMMM AHHHH well okay I’ll email you the address...see you on friday. 

The fact that this guy actually emailed me the address is a miracle in my mind.  I can only imagine the conversation he had with his band members. 

I was too excited.  I was nervous.  I listened to those songs for 2 days straight! 

I arrived early(surprise) on Friday.   I tried my best to appear sane.  I was introduced to the band members.  They were located in Kannapolis NC.  For the life of me I have no idea who they were...If I did I'd call them and apologize.  They handed me a microphone and said, 

“Let's do Don’t Stop Belivin’ first” 

The band started, I was just in shock to hear a band play journey live like this I almost missed my cue.  I was just in shock that here I was about to sing a Journey song with a band! 

The song went by in a blur….I can’t tell you if I did well or not.  I just sang my heart out.  When we were done the band leader formerly known as “Freaked out band member” had nothing to say but, 

“Let's do Faithfully” 

Again the song started and I wanted to bust out laughing at how cool it was to hear someone play that famous piano intro, remaining as clam as I could I hit my cue and sang my heart out once again.  When the song was over the band leader had nothing to say but, 

“Okay let's do Lights” 

And once more I swang for the fences and gave it all I had.  When the song was done I was expecting them to say I did a pretty good job or something, but all I got was silence and puzzled looks.  So I began to apologize, 

“Hey guys I am so sorry I wasted your time, I just always wanted to sing Journey and I'm so grateful…..” 

The leader of the band interrupted me, 

“Man I don’t know what kind of scam you are trying to pull.” 

I was dumbfounded.  I didn't mean to upset anyone.  I didn't know how to react. 

He continued, 

“But if you think we are going to believe that you are some random guy off the street who just came to sing Journey...we are not stupid” 

I was very confused and apologetic.   

“I'm so sorry guys I didn't mean any harm I just figured out I could sing Journey 2 days ago and I wanted to try to sing it with a band I am so sorry!” 

The band leader cut me off, 

“Alright if you say so but I'm pretty sure you are a Journey Tribute singer sent here to mess with us...no one walks in and sings Steve Perry like that just out of the blue….If you are serious and are on the up and up I suggest you start a Journey Tribute.” 

I responded. 

“What is a Journey Tribute” 

And the rest as they say is “history”

17 comments

  • Kimberly Johnson

    Kimberly Johnson Chester , SC

    Ernie my friend, very well written and so deep. Brought a tear to my eyes reading the sadness back then. There's a reason you went threw that cause look at you now. Your Awesome!

    Ernie my friend, very well written and so deep. Brought a tear to my eyes reading the sadness back then. There's a reason you went threw that cause look at you now. Your Awesome!

  • rhonda holloway

    rhonda holloway greensboro

    Thats so awesome your dreams came true

    Thats so awesome your dreams came true

  •  Journey Tribute Trial by Fire

    Journey Tribute Trial by Fire

    Thank you for taking the time to read this. I'm hoping to continue the story and give people an insight to what it's like to be in a tribute band.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this. I'm hoping to continue the story and give people an insight to what it's like to be in a tribute band.

  • Shannon

    Shannon High Point, NC

    Thank you for sharing your personal story with us. I feel it brings us fans closer to you. You are so appreciated, please never stop entertaining us with your beautiful voice!

    Thank you for sharing your personal story with us. I feel it brings us fans closer to you. You are so appreciated, please never stop entertaining us with your beautiful voice!

  • Linda Suggs

    Linda Suggs Durham

    Wow Ernie! Awesome the way you put it out there, now we know how you got started. Your heart is always in the right place & you sing from the heart!

    Wow Ernie! Awesome the way you put it out there, now we know how you got started. Your heart is always in the right place & you sing from the heart!

  • Nancy Burns

    Nancy Burns Stoneville, NC

    Great beginning. Love it!!!

    Great beginning. Love it!!!

  • Craig

    Craig WS

    Ernie, it was meant to be,, cheers my friend!

    Ernie, it was meant to be,, cheers my friend!

  • Deborah

    Deborah Lexington, NC

    Ernie thanks for sharing your story. I think it helps to connect as a fan to the band. As a teenager Journey was one of my favorite bands and I was blown away the first time I heard you and the band! What an awesome tribute Trial by Fire is to Journey!

    Ernie thanks for sharing your story. I think it helps to connect as a fan to the band. As a teenager Journey was one of my favorite bands and I was blown away the first time I heard you and the band! What an awesome tribute Trial by Fire is to Journey!

  •  Journey Tribute Trial by Fire

    Journey Tribute Trial by Fire

    Thank you for all the wonderful comments....I look forward to seeing you all very soon!

    Thank you for all the wonderful comments....I look forward to seeing you all very soon!

  • Angela Vineyard

    Angela Vineyard Summerfield

    I loved reading how you got started! It's awesome that you are living your dream now!! Keep on rocking!!

    I loved reading how you got started! It's awesome that you are living your dream now!! Keep on rocking!!

  • Brent

    Brent Snow camp

    You are awesome singer love the story I enjoy listening to you sing .

    You are awesome singer love the story I enjoy listening to you sing .

  • carol burnett

    carol burnett Dayton ohio

    What a great story. I love listening to people stoires for we all have them. God Bless and keep on singing.

    What a great story. I love listening to people stoires for we all have them. God Bless and keep on singing.

  • Debbie Swanger

    Debbie Swanger S.C.

    Great story! I love your band!!!! 😊

    Great story! I love your band!!!! 😊

  • Aida Marti

    Aida Marti Boston

    Thanks for sharing Ernie... Nice seeing and reading, how someone you went to school with achieving their goals and dreams!

    Thanks for sharing Ernie... Nice seeing and reading, how someone you went to school with achieving their goals and dreams!

  • Patrick Helm

    Patrick Helm Greensboro, NC

    Ernie, Great post you did here. Well bud, you are a great Journey singer. I enjoyed the heck out of the performance the other weekend at CDEC. Loved how the band thought you were there messing with them. Going to try to make it to New Year's Eve show. Might get to one before then, too.

    Ernie,
    Great post you did here. Well bud, you are a great Journey singer. I enjoyed the heck out of the performance the other weekend at CDEC.
    Loved how the band thought you were there messing with them.
    Going to try to make it to New Year's Eve show. Might get to one before then, too.

  • Wendy Butler

    Wendy Butler Randleman NC

    WOW...thanks so much for sharing this story...it is amazing that sometimes we have to get so down for us to find out what it is we are meant to be doing!...And you my friend are definitely meant to be such a huge part of a Journey Tribute band by sharing your big heart and great voice with all of us!...Also thanks so much for really wanting to know what your fans are interested in!...I love my TBF!!!

    WOW...thanks so much for sharing this story...it is amazing that sometimes we have to get so down for us to find out what it is we are meant to be doing!...And you my friend are definitely meant to be such a huge part of a Journey Tribute band by sharing your big heart and great voice with all of us!...Also thanks so much for really wanting to know what your fans are interested in!...I love my TBF!!!

  • Jackie

    Jackie VA

    We caught Trial by Fire tonight in Woodbridge Virginia and they were amazing! Ernie’s voice is a finely tuned instrument. People were on their feet and screaming!!! I was waiting to hear “Foolish Heart” all night, but unfortunately it didn’t make it into their already jam packed sets. After the show, Ernie was greeting his fans and shaking hands. I told him I will go to every one of his shows on the off chance to hear “that” voice singing “Foolish Heart.” What happened next was epic! He led me over to our table and sang a rendition of “Foolish Heart” a cappella. What an amazing and generous artist! I was completely floored! Ernie, that really was so generous. Thank you.

    We caught Trial by Fire tonight in Woodbridge Virginia and they were amazing! Ernie’s voice is a finely tuned instrument. People were on their feet and screaming!!!
    I was waiting to hear “Foolish Heart” all night, but unfortunately it didn’t make it into their already jam packed sets. After the show, Ernie was greeting his fans and shaking hands. I told him I will go to every one of his shows on the off chance to hear “that” voice singing “Foolish Heart.” What happened next was epic! He led me over to our table and sang a rendition of “Foolish Heart” a cappella. What an amazing and generous artist! I was completely floored!
    Ernie, that really was so generous. Thank you.

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