Project Voyager was born in January of 1999. This was the demo project of Chicago-based singer/songwriter Joe Vana. Joe was a member of Jim Peterik and World Stage at the time and was toying with the idea of getting out the songs he had co-written with Jim. Joe informed his friend and melodicrock.com webmaster Andrew McNeice, and since then Andrew's followed the project all the way through. In 1999 Joe knew he was ready to take the first step.
Joe enlisted the help of Mike Aquino. Mike is Vana's guitar teacher and was playing on Joe's demos in addition to writing a lot of material with Joe. Joe then approached Jim Peterik with his idea of doing an album. Peterik agreed to produce, at minimum, the tracks he co-wrote with Vana. Project Voyager was moving forward.
Joe contacted friend Fergie Frederiksen to join the mix. "I've always seen myself as a ballad and finesse type of singer," says Vana. "I wanted Fergie to sing the harder-edged numbers I had earmarked for the album." After meeting with Fergie and the investment group, they informed the project's co-producer Jim Peterik that Fergie was in. Project Voyager was moving even faster.
Vana met with Jim and they discussed the game plan of who else and where? Where to record the album and who to bring into the band. Joe wanted David Hungate, the legendary bass player of Toto and about every other hit song in the '80s. Jim previously worked with Hungate in Nashville on a song written with producer Joe Thomas and Ides bandmate Larry Millas. The song "That's Why God Made Radio" was coincidentally the first song Joe ever sang with Jim Peterik. Joe contacted David by email (what a wonderful thing) and asked his availability. David agreed. Next JP placed a call to Hungate. David Hungate informed JP that Shannon Forrest had to be the drummer. Shannon was an unknown musician to Vana and Peterik. But if Hungate recommends him, who are we to question? Boy, were they glad they didn't! Jimmy Nichols was next to join Mecca's line-up. Nichols played on JP's debut World Stage album and has been a longtime friend of JP's. The studio? The Sound Kitchen in Nashville based on its remarkable capabilities and drum rooms.
During this time Joe was finishing up vocals for an album on the Long Hill Entertainment label. Soon afterwards Peterik and Vana started writing more intently and Jim laid out the beginnings of a song called "Mecca." Joe loved it and they worked together to finish the song within a two-hour timeframe. Songs entitled "Silence of the Heart" and "Without You" soon followed. Vana adds, "Songwriting with Jim Peterik is so easy. He is open to ideas and different arrangements. I thought it would be hard to get the arrangements on certain songs the way I envisioned them. But Jim was real open to change. I am a sucker for breakdowns and wanted a lot of them. We got 'em." Vana further explains, "Jim also helped on songs I wrote with Jason Deroche about a year prior. I wrote those during a trying period. But Jim helped me lyrically pull the emotion through these songs. And his musical ideas and arrangements were breathtaking." Peterik and Vana discussed calling the band Mecca instead of Project Voyager. It was done. With Jim now producing the whole album and the band's team mates established, the recording process was right around the corner.
Look out Nashville, here comes Mecca...