This weekend, Steve Perry released his first studio album in 22 years. The 69-year-old former Journey frontman with one of the most unique voices in rock-and-roll history retired from the microphone after his 1996 Journey comeback album, Trial By Fire, and never looked back. The new album, Traces, is the culmination of a heart-rending labor of love.
In a recent interview with Tracy Smith of CBS News, Perry discussed how a serious hip injury caused him to part ways with Journey, as the band was pressuring him into a surgery that he didn’t want to undergo. After Trial By Fire, Perry says that he quit singing altogether.
“Completely… I swear,” said Perry. He struggled through a long period of depressive isolation after leaving the band, but ultimately he decided he never wanted to go back into the music business. “I just wanted to move forward,” Perry said. “And in moving forward, I found Kellie.”
“Kellie” was psychologist Kellie Nash. According to the New York Times, the pair were introduced by Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, who, in 2011, had directed a segment of a Lifetime anthology film about breast cancer that featured Nash as an extra. Perry happened to visit Jenkins in the editing room on the day that she was cutting Nash’s scene, and Perry was intrigued. He asked Jenkins about introducing him to the woman in the film.
“And she says ‘OK’,” Perry said, “‘but there’s one thing I should tell you first. She was in remission, but it came back, and it’s in her bones and her lungs. She’s fighting for her life.'” Perry asked for the introduction anyway, and Jenkins connected him with Nash.
The first time Nash and Perry spoke to each other, they talked for five hours. That initial talk soon blossomed into a full-fledged romance, and for the following 18 months, the two lived in lover’s bliss.
“I was loved by a lot of people,” Perry said, “but I didn’t really feel it as much as I did when Kellie said it.”
Then came the tragic turn. In the fall of 2012, Nash began to have persistent headaches, and an MRI revealed the cancer had metastasized into her brain.
Soon afterward, Nash asked Perry to make her a promise.
“She said, ‘If something were to happen to me, promise me you won’t go back into isolation, because that would make this all for naught,” as Perry recalls.
Kellie Nash died on December 14, 2012. Perry mourned her death for two years, then decided to make good on his promise. He wrote new songs, returned to the studio, and began recording. Traces marks the lines on Perry’s soul, the love in his heart, and the promise kept that brought him back to his fans.