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,
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.
“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.”
“What is a Journey Tribute”
And the rest as they say is “history”