Why Steve Perry left Journey — and came back with his first solo album in 20 years

You may not understand why Steve Perry left Journey. He gets it.

In 1998, the former frontman walked away from the iconic power-pop band. Together, they had scored top-10 hits including “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Open Arms” and “Who’s Crying Now.” He had left the group 11 years earlier, when they temporarily disbanded as he cared for his ailing mother, only to reunite for 1996 album “Trial by Fire.”

But something about his second exit stuck. It was necessary.

“I knew in my heart the only thing I could do was to walk away from this dream come true that I had lived and see if I could be OK on my own,” Perry says. “I know that sounds kinds of crazy. Why would somebody walk away from adoration and applause? But the passion that had made it so rewarding was gone. Burnout, to the point of PTSD, is what it was.”

“The only kind of music I could listen to (in the years that followed) was ambient music, because I didn’t want to hear voices or guitars or drums or songwriting. It would just remind me of too much.”

Perry retreated for years to his quaint hometown of Hanford, California, where he bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and spent much of his time roaming down old, country roads: “My face to the wind, just thinking about a lot of things,” he says. It was the first stop on his trek to the long-awaited “Traces” (out Friday), his first solo effort since 1994’s “For the Love of Strange Medicine.”

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The album, Perry explains, tells “the story of where I’ve been.” The cover art is a collage of sorts, depicting various iconography from his life and career: the Spanish-style house he was raised in; a theater where his father, vocalist Ray Perry, used to perform; and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, where Perry moved in 1977 to assist a then-struggling band known as Journey.

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