Creed's Scott Stapp: 'I was just flat-out stupid'

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August

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Scott Stapp speaks slowly, in a soft voice that sounds nothing like his trademark onstage roar.

“I was just flat-out stupid,” he says by phone from his home in Palm Beach. “It’s been a blessing that I’m alive, and I thank god every day for that, and my wife. It’s good to be back to myself.”

If you think of Stapp as a preening, bare-chested, self-righteous rock star — and many do — you might not expect him to sound so contrite for his years of bad behavior.

But after a decade of troubled living — drugs, arrests, breakups, a sex tape — Stapp and his band, Creed, might finally be back on track. The Tallahassee grunge group released a reunion album, Full Circle, in 2009, and their lengthy comeback tour hits the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre on Sept. 1. (Tickets are $22.25-$35. Click here for details.)

“When you talk about Creed, and the four of us as one, we really feel like we can do anything,” Stapp says.

But for years, it looked like Creed would never play major venues again.

From Tallahassee to Top 40

Stapp and Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti met during high school in Orlando, but didn’t start playing together until both were college students in Tallahassee. Even then, Stapp admits he had the ego of a rock star.

“We only played four shows before we got a record deal,” he says. “I was under the same illusion that 99 percent of artists are at that age, even now, and that is: We got a record deal, we’re going to be the biggest rock band in the world. That’s just what happens. It’s that youthful ignorance — not understanding that there’s 10,000 new artists and 10,000 new releases out every day, and less than 1 percent of those ever sell over 10,000 records.”

Creed was the exception to the exception. Just three years after independently releasing their first album, My Own Prison, they were opening for Metallica and Kid Rock before 35,000 fans at Tropicana Field. On the strength of quasi-inspirational grunge ballads like My Sacrifice, With Arms Wide Open and Higher, Creed dominated modern rock airwaves in the late ’90s and early 2000s, selling 25 million albums and winning a Grammy in 2000 for With Arms Wide Open.

Things began to turn south in 2002, around the time Stapp suffered injuries in a car accident on Interstate 4 near Orlando. To explain exactly what went wrong, Stapp points to another troubled singer: Michael Jackson, who in 1984 was hospitalized after suffering burns on the set of a Pepsi commercial.

“He was introduced to something that he had never been introduced to before, and that was painkillers,” he says. “I can’t say he was like me, but for some reason, it hit me different than other people. It puts other people to sleep, but it just took the edge off for me. I was sucked in by the feeling of, 'Hey, this makes me a little calmer, and able to handle stress better.’ That’s how things can get in. It got in there, and it led to other things, and started taking my meaning away. I became something else, and then that something else made another bad decision, and another bad decision, and then it just spirals from there.”

Over the next five years, Stapp would be arrested multiple times on charges related to drunkenness and domestic violence (the charges were later dropped). A sex tape surfaced featuring Stapp and Kid Rock with several women. Even Stapp’s music was fair game for ridicule — in 2007, Blender magazine named him the third-worst lyricist in rock.

His own prison

Creed fell apart, and the band moved on without Stapp. Tremonti, drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall formed Alter Bridge, a successful project in its own right.

“A lot of the ways that it went down and a lot of the ways that it happened, I don’t agree with,” Stapp says of Alter Bridge. “I don’t agree with how it was presented. I don’t agree with a lot of the things that were said and how it was done. A lot of things were happening based upon some feelings being hurt. People being pissed off.”

So what was to stop Stapp from co-opting the Creed name for himself?

“You know,” he sighs deeply, “trust me, I thought about that. I had a lot of irrational thoughts, and irrational feelings. And I wanted to. I was hurt. I was devastated. We’d made a lot of promises to each other, as, I thought, best friends since we were young guys. I felt betrayed. And looking back, and them not understanding that there was a chemical reason why I wasn’t the guy that they knew at the time, I’m sure they felt betrayed, too.

“But it’s not the same, you know? Creed is me and Mark Tremanti and Scott Phillips, and Brian Marshall on the first two records and now on this record. Although Creed can continue with Brian not involved, the sound will never be Creed in its classic sense without him. Creed is the four of us. It’s not one person. It’s the sum of its parts.”

As for the music generated by Alter Bridge — and his own solo work — during Creed’s breakup, Stapp says: “There can never be any comparison between the two. Nothing I do and nothing they do will even be able to scratch the surface of what Creed has done.”

Can he take them higher?

Creed is a year and a half into its reunion, and although Alter Bridge is also still together — they’re touring Europe this fall — Stapp says he no longer feels like the odd man out in the band. He says he’s chemically and spiritually stable again, and with the birth of son Daniel on July 3, he feels like a regular “dad and husband, changing diapers and going to baseball practice.”

Being a new father for the third time, he says, has changed his perception of what it means to be a rock star.

“I think the definition of what that is depends on who you’re talking to,” Stapp says. “If you were talking to me when I was 22 years old, it had a completely different meaning, and that all got exposed. But at this point in my life, it’s just being an artist and a musician who loves rock 'n’ roll, and a family man and a husband first.”

With that, he sounds content.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 5:46pm]

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