Creed Band Lead Singer Scott Stapp
Book and Song Reveal the Journey for Scott Stapp
Written by Henry Ortlip
Scott Stapp has sold over 30 million records as the lead singer of Creed. The Grammy Award-Winning artist has had a long journey involving addiction and rebellion against his faith. This past fall, Stapp released his book Sinners Creed, along with his second solo album, Proof of Life. By his own admission, his remarkable journey and the fact that he is still alive is evidence of God’s mercy. Stapp has done it all, and seen it all. In his new book, he candidly shares his story and how his new album is a commentary on his journey.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: You were the man of the house at a young age. Describe your family life growing up?
Scott Stapp: Yes most definitely, my father left when I was five years old, or sometime around that age. I kind of took on that role, to take care of my mom and two baby sisters. A lot was thrown at me at a young age. Until my mother remarried when I was ten, I definitely felt that I had that role.
Risen Magazine: How did you react with your mother remarrying when you were ten?
Scott Stapp: It was a dream come true. I wanted a dad, I was picked on, I guess in today’s words you could call it bullying. I was picked on at school and at church because I didn’t have a dad. I couldn’t go to certain functions, where it was father/son. I felt different from everybody else; coincidence would have it that I was very much into sports as a child, my whole life actually still to this day. My favorite football team, college football team independent of even knowing who this man [step father] was, was University of Alabama, and the Dallas Cowboys. But I say Alabama because he [step father] was a former University of Alabama athlete, basketball player and baseball player. When I met him I was just enamored by him because I had wanted a dad so badly and we had all these connects especially through sports. I had been running track and playing on the all-star team in baseball and he was a former All-American. I just fell in love with him from a kid’s point of view. He paid attention to me and played catch with me.
Risen Magazine: In your book you mentioned you told your mother that you would sell more records than Elvis as a way to provide for your family. How did you navigate that growing up?
Scott Stapp: We were always listening to Elvis records and she loved Elvis Presley and I’d imitate him and sing like him. One of the things I did outside of sports at school was, one day I tried out for chorus and the teacher loved me, and I ended up having all the solos. Part of it [reason for Elvis reference] might have been a little bit of child’s jealousy; I don’t know what it was, but all this talk of Elvis music, which was playing in the house. I recall the president at the time; I believe it was Ronald Reagan. My mom loved him too. One day when my mom was upset and worried about how she was going to feed us and how she was going to pay the power bill I just felt compelled as a very, very determined and very passionate young boy, at that age I thought I could do anything, and with all those factors thrown in, I wanted to console my mom to save the family. I remember she was on the bed crying, I stood up on the bed and said, “Don’t worry mom, one day I’m going to sell records and be more famous than Elvis, and when I’m done with that I’m going to be president. Then you will never have to worry about anything again.”
Risen Magazine: When you left home for college what were your goals and where did you start?
Scott Stapp: There were a couple things going on in my mind. One thing was I was very disappointed and upset that I wasn’t going to Vanderbilt University on a full baseball scholarship. I wanted to play; another boy’s dream I had was to play pro baseball, and did pretty well in high school and had earned some baseball scholarships and had decided that I wanted to go to Vanderbilt and play in the SEC (Southeastern Conference) thinking maybe I would get a chance to play pro-ball too. Well, to make a long story short I was confused by what a full scholarship meant to my father, he wanted me to go to a small Christian college in Tennessee for a year. He told me just for a year, and then we would see how that went and he could help me for what the full scholarship didn’t offer and then I could go back to Vanderbilt. So aside from my athletic dreams I wanted to be a lawyer, not knowing what a lawyer’s job really was; my view of a lawyer was to change the world and do things that made a difference and help people. So aside from the baseball dreams I wanted to get a law degree.
I think the imprint of song structure and how a song was supposed to be written was imbedded in me from the time I was probably three years old.
Risen Magazine: How did that transition into music?
Scott Stapp: Music was always a part of my life as far back as I can remember. It was just there. I remember being a very little boy before my sisters were born and mother was singing in the choir and I was playing in church pews and crawling under the pews and taking the little grape juices they would use for communion, while she was in choir practice. That was just normal to me; that is what people did. Music was always on, my mom was singing around the house, my grandmother played guitar. So that’s what you do in life and everything else comes with it.
Risen Magazine: When did Creed take shape?
Scott Stapp: The band started to take shape when I left Lee College and my dreams of playing [baseball] in the SEC were shattered. I came back to Florida and that’s when I began to get further into rock and roll music, especially older rock and roll music, like The Doors and Led Zeppelin. I began to wonder what I was going to do. It finally clicked in my brain that there were other ways to reach my dreams besides playing pro-baseball. I reconnected with the promise I had made to my mom and decided I was going to do it. I went to Florida State University and by coincidence, I don’t really believe in coincidence now but back then I did, and I met Mark Tremonti who was a year younger than me. We had gone to the same high school. We have had a couple brush meetings over the years with him playing guitar and me walking up on him and making that glance at each other like, “We both are into music and could play and sing.”
At Florida State it all kind of came to fruition, without me knowing he was there or he knowing I was there. I connected with him through a mutual friend. When he [the friend] mentioned Mark’s name, I remembered those brief encounters in high school and asked the guy to give Mark my number and tell him to call me because I was looking to start a band.
Risen Magazine: Creed started out as Naked Toddler before the name change and your first album went platinum. How did the band become polished and so well produced by the release of that first album, My Own Prison?
Scott Stapp: [Laughing] Naked Toddler was only our name for one week, just one week then we changed it. [Laughing] I believe there are a lot of factors that go into that. One is just an innate music sensibility from being raised around music and having pop songs like Elvis and everyone in between all the way up through the 90’s, before we got together. I was constantly playing at home and being involved in different choirs. I think the imprint of song structure and how a song was supposed to be written was imbedded in me from the time I was probably three years old. I think that definitely had an impact. I had the ability to create songs without any real song writing training. It was just in me to know how a song should be structured. I believe a lot of people can relate to that.
I think another coincidence or serendipitous thing was for us to run into a fella named John Kerswick in Tallahassee who had a brief music career and had some pretty big success in the south east. If it weren’t for some drug/alcohol problems of his own, we might be saying John Kerswick instead of John Cougar Mellencamp. That is who filled his [Kerswick’s] void when he had his issues. But he was on the rebound of losing that opportunity and for extra money would make demos and helping young artists record their songs out of his house. I think we paid him ten dollars an hour to record us. The experience Mark and I had throughout our entire lives in music, and then through John Kerswick with all his recording knowledge and experience, [made the needed difference]. [Kerswick] was the son of a preacher and raised in church music ministry. He went on to become a professional musician at Atlantic Records. It just was the perfect synergy to create that first record and for it to turn out like it did.
Risen Magazine: Your lyrics with Creed come across as very self-aware. During your struggling times did you understand your self-destruction?
Scott Stapp: I think a lot of that self-awareness came from addiction and the struggle that was going on within me and in my life spiritually. It all came from there, growing up having a father that made me write the Bible, particularly Psalms and Proverbs, over and over again. And then, [I would] write commentaries on what each chapter meant to me. I think there was a definite imprint of the Bible within my soul. I knew right from wrong. There were moments of guilt and shame and confliction. I think that is where the self-awareness came from, the spirit inside of me knowing what is right and that still small voice speaking through me that got planted in me by the Word of God. It gave me a commentary on myself, and that is the power of God’s Word. Thank God for that. It’s so funny that even though we know the truth, how quickly we can get fooled by the lies. I continued that struggle back and forth dabbling in the things I knew I shouldn’t have, all the way until that sin and very bad choices nearly killed me. Just like the Bible says, the wages of sin is death, and that’s what sin wants to do.
I knew that I wasn’t really living the life of a Christian and to have that type of lens looking at me, I knew that I was a hypocrite.
Risen Magazine: When did you first meet your wife Jackie? How has your wife supported you throughout your journey?
Scott Stapp: Oh man, I’ll never forget meeting her. It was New Year’s Eve 2004. I was by myself, just taken a shower and put on a bathrobe sitting on the couch. I was just going to sit there and enjoy feeling sorry for myself that I was alone on New Year’s Eve. I kind of found a feeling of romanticism and satisfaction as the lonely artist, so that is the state I was in. My buddy comes in my door about 11:15 and says, “Hey man you going to come down?” Referring to going to our friend Jonah’s who had opened a bar called the Rock Bar in South Beach, Miami. I was living right in the heart of South Beach so it wasn’t a big ordeal to throw on some jeans and walk three blocks and he talked me into it. I was in a really retrospective place mentally and emotionally. I was kind of beginning to feel another moment of all this around me having everything. All these women and all this money and all these things mean nothing and are so unfulfilling, and I’m not happy. I walk in, say hi [to my buddy] and add, “Well, alright man I’m out of here.” I watched the ball drop and then I was gone. As I was trying to catch a cab, I see a whole strip of bars and outside the door of each bar it’s just a mob of people all crowded around each door trying to get in. As I look to my right, there is a girl doing the same exact thing that I’m doing about 50 feet down the street. What struck me about her was that she was dressed conservatively and beautiful, just stunning. My buddies called to me; they had four girls around them all skimpy, South Beach clad, and they were telling me that these girls want to meet me. I remember I didn’t even know who Jaclyn was, but I said no to my buddies [and pointed] “That girl down there is the kind of girl I want to meet.” And I turned around and put a hand up for a cab. About two minutes later I look to my right and see my friend talking to Jaclyn. He had been drinking and ran over to talk to her. I felt embarrassed so I began to walk towards her and apologize for my friend and offered to get her a cab. In my showboat fashion, wanting to impress her, I pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and stood out in the middle of the road and got her a cab. When the cab came I had to work my moves, and asked if she would mind if I rode with her, [Laughing] saying that the driver could drop me off before her. She paused for a second and looked at me funny. I asked if she was going to say no, and she says, “You are Summer Stapps’ brother.” “Yeah that’s my sister Summer, but her modeling name is Summer Posey.” And what do you know that Jaclyn had worked with my sister Summer for six years, everyday traveling around the world doing marketing promotions and modeling gigs. Because of that connection at that moment she felt comfortable enough with me to sit in the cab with her.
Through that cab ride about three blocks, I totally played up on the fact that she knew my sister and then asked for her number. For three months I courted her by phone. She comes from a strict Jordanian family and she honored those traditions. Before I could take her on our first date I had to fly to Baltimore, Maryland, and ask her mother and meet with her mother, her brother and three sisters. We got to go on our first date and it’s all history from there.
Risen Magazine: What was your state of mind when releasing The Great Divide in 2005? How does that differ from where you are now?
Scott Stapp: I think when I released that; I had somewhat of a chip on my shoulder. I felt jaded from how things had ended up with Creed at that point in time. Unfortunately, by the end of that record I had discovered a drug I had never done before and it had taken control of me. Anytime future for that record was going to be quickly demolished because of that, and it was. My downward spiral began there. What was different between then and now is that spiritually, I now know where I stand and I live in that faith. I know that my motivations behind this [current] record were in a real pure organic place of love as opposed to the chip that the other record had, and I was doing it for different reasons. I made the Great Divide for my ego, and this record came from just trying to share my heart, and I think those are dramatic differences.
Risen Magazine: The song Slow Suicide has been a theme from the way you were living. Can you expand on that?
Scott Stapp: Most definitely that song is a commentary and an honest reflection of what I was doing to myself and what I think I was doing to myself even before alcohol and drugs came into the picture. We can slowly begin to kill ourselves spiritual and emotionally and then physically by many things that we choose to put ourselves into, whether that is in relationships or other poor choices. That epiphany, that choice, is that I want to choose life. So articulating that and being honest with myself was important to me in that song.
Risen Magazine: When you were younger you were frustrated with Creed being labeled Christian. Do you still feel that way about Creed or your solo work? How would you define your craft?
Scott Stapp: I’m a Christian without a shadow of a doubt, and I boldly proclaim that when asked. My music is a reflection of my soul and my heart and what matters to me. I was afraid of saying that Creed was a Christian band, even though I would say I’m a Christian, because I had three other guys in the band that didn’t believe in God. They were very angry with me that they were getting asked that [about being a Christian] so part of me was trying to preserve the relationship with the band. Also, I knew that I wasn’t really living the life of a Christian and to have that type of lens looking at me, I knew that I was a hypocrite. I knew that I was living in sin and that I was willfully living in sin. But the word of God couldn’t stop coming out me in the moments of honesty and clarity in which I found the most inspiration. So today, I’m very clear with what I am as a human being and as a spiritual being and knowing that and sharing that, can be easily assumed by the type of spirit and heart that generates this music. I have yet to feel that being a Christian limits you in the type of music that you can write; I don’t think there is mold. I don’t know how that applies to my music except that it’s written from the mind and from the heart of someone that loves Jesus Christ and loves the Lord. And I am trying every day to live to the word of God and be more Christ like in everything that I do and say. I’m far from perfect in that, but that is the spirit that the songs are inspired.
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Winter 2013
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