A difficult period won't keep Journey from finding their groove again on an upcoming shared tour with Def Leppard, founding guitarist Neal Schon says. The credit for that goes to the music they've created together.

"It's like a healer," Schon says in an exclusive interview with Ultimate Classic Rock. "Music is the healer, you know? That's the thing that pulls people together."

Journey announced a string of co-headlining dates with Def Leppard earlier today, confirming a long-rumored reunion of two bands that previously toured together in 2006. In the meantime, Schon was part of a lengthy and very public dispute with longtime keyboardist Jonathan Cain over the role of religion and politics in the band. Schon argued, quite forcefully, that Journey has never let those kind of outside forces in, for fear of alienating one segment or another of their fan base.

Some fans understandably worried about the future of Journey, but Schon tells us that these kind of furious debates have been part of their personal dynamic since Cain joined the group before 1981's multi-platinum-selling Escape. Again, Schon points to the role of music – this time, in the form of a long-awaited follow up to 2011's Eclipse, their most recent studio effort – as a potential bridge builder.

"Even in the early days," Schon adds, "in the '80s when I first pulled in Jonathan Cain to take Gregg Rolie's place, we always butted heads pretty much musically. We came from opposite sides of the spectrum, and when we joined together, that's kind of what made the sound. I would suspect that it's still there. We just haven't messed with it in a while, and tried anything. I've been wanting to, but it just hasn't happened."

Over the years, Schon says Journey learned to set aside whatever was going on behind the scenes in service of their career and out of respect for fans who've stuck by the group through thick and thin. That history of musical detente helps him put their more recent differences into perspective, Schon says.

"We've had some hard times," he admits, "mainly because I think everybody is just going in different directions, away from everything we had done for many, many years. So, it was hard for me to understand. But the bottom line is, I respect all of the work that we've done together as a band – and I respect our fans. I love our fans. So, it doesn't really matter if we don't see eye to eye any longer. When we get onstage, it's about the music, and it's about the fans."

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