After eight years and hundreds of shows, DEPARTURE, the most widely-recognized Journey tribute band in the biz, is a true testament that you can’t stop believin’ in your dreams.
“I get to play the music of one of my favorite bands with my best friends by my side and entertain thousands of people. Can life get any better than that? Not in my book,” said Joel Hayes, keys and vocals.
You may never guess that these five matured rock stars who flawlessly replicate their 80s super group counterpart work day jobs as human resources business consultants or software engineers.
“I guess you could say that performing in a band is my musical outlet,” said Doug Ballard, bass and vocals. “I’ve made the role of bassist my own in this band. My influences for stage presentation were out of the 1980s when bands wore spandex and the bass player was no longer relegated to the back line to be heard but not really seen.”
Lead guitarist, Mark Schwartz, was the catalyst in bringing together the other four musicians back in 2007. He knew the magic they could make after getting a taste of Brian Williams’ angelic pipes.
“One night, Mark called me up and said, man, you’ve got to come see this guy singing karaoke. I drove over to the club, and this kid was fantastic,” said Michael Watkins, drummer. “Some time passed, and he was still doing karaoke, so we decided to get together and jam. It was great. We just all clicked.”
And after a few cold ones, who doesn’t enjoy belting out Don’t Stop Believin’ on a raised surface in their favorite bar? Journey is one of those iconic bands whose music transcends through time and resonates with people of all ages and backgrounds.
“Steve Perry has a very unique quality to his voice and an incredible range,” said Ballard. “Brian Williams has a similar range, which is very unusual in the music world. Couple that with the popularity of Journey and that tributes are doing well in our area, it only made sense.”
Whether they’re playing a show for 20 or 20,000, DEPARTURE knows how to bring a crowd to its feet. They perform all of the hit songs everyone knows and loves, and it’s all live.
“Journey was and is one of the greatest bands of all time,” said Watkins. “I mean, Journey is iconic and everybody loves Journey, especially the ladies. I wanted to attract that middle-age female demographic. People in the live music business know that what gets you gigs is not your musical prowess, but your ability to attract and hold a crowd.”
If you enjoy the musical stylings of Journey with a little bit of added flair, DEPARTURE delivers. This band is pure head banging, guitar-ripping rock and roll.
“I try to mimic Steve Perry as much as possible, but usually my personality ends up taking over. I love patting people in the crowd on the head and messing up their hair. I’ll also take people’s phones from them and record the boys while they are hard at work on stage. I love getting the crowd pumped up,” said Brian Williams, lead vocals.
But to this group, there’s nothing like the thrill of being on stage, fulfilling every young boy’s childhood dream and entertaining a crowd.
“Weird to say we have fans when we’re really just huge Journey fans ourselves, but people go out of their way to connect with us at shows, travel to see us, make us feel like we’re having a positive impact in their lives,” said Ballard. “There’s nothing like it in the world.”
Schwartz recalls some of his most treasured memories with the band, from rock star moments at the House of Blues to playing a sold out amphitheater in Peachtree City, but his absolute favorite is sharing a stage with Russell Hitchcock and Air Supply.
“Every show with my DEPARTURE brothers is memorable. It’s been a wild journey, pun intended,” said Williams.