The world's perception of Scott Stapp changed with one grainy, black and white, vertically filmed Facebook video.
Uploaded on Nov. 26, 2014, the 16-minute clip featured Stapp, alone, in the throes of a paranoid breakdown, calmly updating fans on what he perceived to be the reality of his life. He was broke. Living out of his truck and a Holiday Inn. Under a "pretty vicious attack" from his music associates and family, who he said was trying to have him committed.
As the singer of Creed, one of the most successful yet critically maligned rock bands of the 25 years, Stapp had always been a target for derision. This video, and a few more that followed, made him seem tragic, broken, at the end of life's rope.
"I was kind of shattered into a million pieces," Stapp said in a recent phone interview from his home in Boca Raton. "I went through an experience in dealing with bipolar (disorder) that nearly took my life, and definitely changed me forever."
More than a year after the video, Stapp, 42, is launching his public comeback with a solo tour that begins Friday at the Palladium in St. Petersburg. His life, once laid so threadbare on social media — and, later, the VH1 reality show Couples Therapy — is on the mend, thanks to months of counseling and rehabilitation. And he says the support he's received from thousands of fans along the way means as much as it did when he was topping the rock charts with singles like Higher and With Arms Wide Open.
"It's repurposed the struggles in my life," he said. "Things that I think and know were messes, that my circumstances and choices I had made put me in, had now turned into the message that I share that others are relating to. ... That motivates me, that other people can use that as inspiration as they continue on this path."
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For many, there was likely a bit of schadenfreude at play with Scott's public breakdown.
Formed in 1993 in Tallahassee, Creed sold tens of millions of records and even won a Grammy. But like a lot of Florida rock bands, from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Matchbox Twenty, they never earned much critical respect — indeed, they were frequently held up as an example of everything wrong with music's watered-down post-grunge era.
As the group's roaring, preening frontman, Stapp did Creed's reputation few favors. Raised in a strict religious home in Orlando, Stapp was always upfront about his faith and religiosity, even as his questionable rock-star antics — drug and alcohol abuse, a domestic assault arrest, an appearance in a Kid Rock sex tape — made his public righteousness ring hollow. His bizarre collapse must have felt to some like a cruel but inevitable comeuppance.
"One thing that I've always felt in my music is I make myself vulnerable," Stapp said. With a collapse like this, "you definitely feel more vulnerable."
Ironically, while social media and a 24-7 celebrity news cycle put all of Stapp's struggles out there, it's also what gave him his best shot at public redemption. He and wife, Jaclyn, agreed to work through their crisis on Couples Therapy.
"Most people don't get an opportunity to get a platform to work through the details of what really happened, then resolve it and work through the issues," he said. "That really gave us an opportunity to resolve this and show my fans that we're aware of what happens to real people in real-life situations. And it's working."
Stapp said he's living sober, receiving treatment for his bipolar disorder, exercising and working on his diet. "In the first nine weeks, I lost 12 pounds," he said.
But while getting clean and clear-headed was the most important step in righting his life, it wasn't the last. There were times, he said, when he didn't know if he'd be able to write music or perform again.
"My confidence was shot," Stapp said. "I just didn't feel inspired."
He holed up at home and in Nashville, writing songs for a pair of projects he hopes to release this year, including this third solo album.
Friday's concert is Stapp's first public North American gig in well over a year. It's not a Creed show by any stretch — his bandmates have, for the time being, moved on to other projects — but to Stapp, it's pretty close.
"I'm the guy that's carrying the Creed torch right now," he said. "I put together a band and specifically made sure that I found guys that had the chops enough, the style enough, to play these songs exactly as Creed would. And I take pride in that."
The few shows he's played thus far have felt good. They're a far cry from the haze of his darkest days, when it felt like a life in music had slipped from his reach.
The man in those Facebook videos isn't totally gone. But day by day, he's fading away.
"Changing every aspect of your life at 41 years old is not easy," Stapp said referencing his turnaround last year. "But it was absolutely necessary for me in order to keep everything that I love, to keep my family, to keep my health, and to keep being a musician, where I can do what I love."
Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.