Neal Schon Bought 150 Guitars During the Pandemic: 'It Was Like Being Hooked on Something'
Suffice it to say that Neal Schon has open arms when it comes to guitars.
Not only does the Journey founder own about 650 guitars, but he's also not done buying them. In fact, in the pandemic alone he purchased about 150 guitars.
"I kept buying, buying, buying, buying, and it became like a hobby," he told PEOPLE exclusively on Tuesday. "It was like being hooked on something, like gambling — [and] I don't gamble. That became the thing that I liked doing during the pandemic, besides writing new material."
Stating the obvious, he added, "It was a lot, and it was a lot of money, too."
Oddly enough, Neal, 68, claims he actually used to own even more guitars, but he sold a bunch of them off.
While Schon clearly has a soft spot for all of his guitars, one in particular has special meaning — a 1954 gold Les Paul. His wife, Michaele Schon, bought that for him on his 65th birthday.
"It's the oldest guitar I own and it sounds amazing," he said.
Asked if he now has to write a song about his wife on that very guitar, he joked, "It hasn't been a requirement, but it's inevitable that it will happen. I've written her other songs already, but I didn't have that guitar when I wrote them."
While he says Michaele, a former Real Housewives of D.C. star, was supportive of him "piling up" guitars all over the house, she "was happy to see them go to the warehouse." Still, he maintains, "I couldn't possibly have a better fan. My wife, she is amazing."
Like his wife, Journey fans will soon be able to experience something different. In July, the band will descend on Las Vegas for four special symphony orchestra performances at Resorts World. During those shows - July 15, 16, 22 and 23 — the legendary band will play chart-topping hits and new material from the forthcoming Freedom album in an orchestral fashion, a clear (and brief) break from the high-energy rock shows Journey is known for.
Although Schon is excited for the symphonic shows, which the band has only done a handful of times over the past six decades, don't expect him to promote them on Instagram, as he recently shut his personal account down after "constant imposters and hackers."
"I'm not saying it's going to stay like that. It's just become too much for me to keep up with," he explained. "There are so many scams. I shut down imposters every day when I was on there and I just got so tired. I'd look at my phone at the end of the day and go, 'How many hours did I spend on here trying to clean up stuff?'"
Not a day went by when someone wasn't asking for money… even in roundabout ways.
"A cousin of mine wrote me and said, 'Neil, did you just ask me for $500 because I was going to give it to you, and I was really worried. What's going on?' They completely mirrored my image and everything and it looked exactly like me," he said. "It's just too out of hand. It's gotten so crazy. The world is so crazy. And [social media] is just something I don't want to know about right now, you know, it's too messy."
In other words, he won't have social media for these upcoming Vegas shows, but he will have a guitar… maybe 650 of them.
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