Narada Michael Walden Shares The Ultimate Challenge About Journey

Narada Michael Walden recently joined an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, where he revealed the most difficult aspect of working with the Journey members.

After sharing his experience of touring with Journey, Walden talked about how he became friends with the former Journey drummer Steve Smith and exchanged knowledge. However, learning to play all the parts he did with Journey, exactly as he did was a whole different challenge due to Smith’s complex style. He explained:

“Man, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. You see, because [playing with] Mahavishnu Orchestra, although it’s hard, it’s open to interpretation. It’s open to spontaneity. You know, you join Tommy Bolin, you can play whatever. But it’s opened up, there’s a lot of room to do stuff.”

The Rigidity Of Performing With Journey

Detailing this hard process for him and why playing with Journey felt different, the rocker continued:

“That’s not the case with Journey. Journey was like playing a Broadway show. It was like stepping into definite fills that people have grown to love and expect. If you don’t play those same feels, it doesn’t feel like Journey. So that’s what I had to learn. It’s not as open to interpretation as one might think. It’s really like, play the book that we’re used to hearing – with new gusto – but play the book.”

The Importance Of Authenticity In Journey’s Sound

Walden also reflected on the Journey fans’ expectations of the band, noting:

“Because if you change it around too much, the fans don’t jell, like it’s Journey. When you play those exact drum fills, it’s like, ‘Whoa, this is Journey.’ Because there’s a lot of imitation bands out there, which I didn’t think about that much. You know, there’s a lot of imitators doing their own thing. So when Journey shows up, they’re expecting Journey! [Laughs] So that’s what I had to learn. It’s a lot of music, man. Oh my God, it’s a lot of music.”

Walden’s Role In The Creation Of Journey’s ‘Freedom’ Album

Besides performing live with the band, the drummer also contributed to Journey’s 2022 album, ‘Freedom.’ While Deen Castronovo handled the drum parts, Walden was one of the producers and songwriters. Recalling the making process, he initially explained that they didn’t know what to do when COVID appeared. Then, someone suggested working on an album, as he said:

“So somehow or another, it was suggested, ‘Why don’t we just do a Journey album?’ I’m not sure if Neal suggested it, or I suggested it, or how it came down. But it was like, ‘Maybe I could just join up and do it with Journey and make a new album.’ That kind of thing. It was very organic and natural, how it kind of fell into that.”

In 2020, Narada took over as Journey’s drummer from Smith. He was one of the two drummers the following year, sharing the stage with Castronovo. He departed from the band in 2022 due to health issues.