The story begins in Florida, the swampland from whence ex-Creed frontman Scott Stapp spawned.
Frequently reprimanded by his religious father, Stapp tested his faith privately and, with the success of Creed in 1997, very publicly. After the ensuing hell of legal issues, drunken TV interviews, and one show during which he was so intoxicated that he couldn’t remember his own lyrics, the oft-mocked Stapp let Jesus take the wheel. He’s now back, with 2012’s tell-all, cringe-inducing bio Sinner’s Creed (Tyndale), and his second solo album, Proof of Life (Wind Up), just out. He arrives with arms wide open at C-Club on Sunday, April 27.
There must have been a lot of pressure, balancing your personal struggles with everyone watching you. Did you know while it was happening or were you in the moment?
I, you know, became an alcoholic and became dependent upon drugs and I wasn’t making good decisions and a lot of that for me was impulsive behaviour. And I think I got so confident with my instincts in the past because of the success with the band that I began to react that way in every area of my life. It’s something that [producer] Howard Benson and I worked on; he was really trying to pull that out of me and then my wife began to do the same thing. I said, “Listen, this is what I feel, this is my instinct and I gotta go with it.”
And when it came to that aspect of my life, my instinct seemed to be jivin’, you know? I think part of this record is I’m saying it’s “proof of life” because I know I’m having to earn back some of my fans that had to sit on standby while I was fighting dragons and trying to deal with demons. I think I had to earn that back as a human being.
You really do have to prove your life. Do you get questions about that from people who know what you stand for but aren’t convinced?
All I can do is be true to who I am. And it’s not about words anymore. You know, in battling demons, when you say you’re done [drinking], it’s about actions. I can’t make promises about the future because I’m human: I’m inevitably going to make mistakes, make wrong decisions, not do something right. I fight every day not to have a relapse. I gotta keep it real, and I gotta just say, “Hey, this is where I’m at on my journey in life” and the same applies to my journey in my faith.
You know, ever since I was a little kid, I would sit in my bed and I would pray: “God, if you’re real will you turn my bedroom light on?” And I was making deals with him, like, “Alright, I’ll do whatever you want me to do and da-da-da, but not be a missionary, but, yeah, I might be…”
He didn’t turn on the light.
And, literally, this was like a mind game because I wanted to see a sign. For me, in my journey, I have to say I have had my Burning Bush moment, and my light has been turned off and on. The fact that I’m alive today is just one of those. I’ve been on a spiritual journey for a long time, since I was a little boy.
I talk to my buddies and we’re like Jedis [sic] trying to follow the Force in Star Wars. We’re human and that’s why we want to do that. I think that’s the answer that I’ve found: If you look for it, and you really look for God, you’ll find him, and you’ll be blown away.
Was being the face of the band more difficult in terms of dealing with critics?
I think that we all had a hard time dealing with it. We were just flying by the seat of our pants, all of us. But I believe that in certain ways, through my performances and maybe comments here and there, as we began to kind of lose touch with reality, maybe that brought on some of the criticism. I was really naïve to it, like, “Why is he opening his arms [in Creed’s “Higher” video]?” Well, I didn’t have any other reason except that that’s how the music made me feel at that moment. Maybe I watched The Sound of Music too much and saw that “hills are alive” part as a kid. I don’t know.
Had you not been in the position where you had this persona to maintain, you might not have succumbed to the alcohol and the drugs.
I definitely think that I was getting too drunk before, a couple times a month, but I only drank on the weekends. I was kind of a college kid, you know, I was putting myself through school. Probably it wouldn’t have gotten to the scale that it got to. It became a way to deal with the pressure and to help me get through the day because my body was going down. So it was, “Take a shot for this” and “This’ll help you go to sleep.”
No, I never got to that point, but I definitely battled alcohol, Jack Daniels, and then that led to, in 2006, finally discovering cocaine. And so whenever I drank it turned into coke and the party was on. But before that, through the last two or three years of the Creed thing, it was Xanax to go to sleep, antidepressants, painkillers sometimes, especially after the car accident before the “One Last Breath” video. I became dependent upon the pills and they had to give me shots for inflammation for my voice. Mix that with alcohol, and then crazy things began to happen and I didn’t really have any idea why.
That must have been very disorienting.
Well, looking back on it now, it’s just like, “My God,” you know? I was just so naïve and I had no idea you don’t mix alcohol with painkillers and Xanax. I went to a doctor and said “Yeah, I can’t sleep” and he gives me this, you know what I mean? So yes, people took care of me, but then I took advantage. And then I wasn’t responsible and the addiction within me began to roll.
Did you have to learn to apologise?
I’ve always been quick to apologise because I would always have so many things to apologise about. I was always hardest on myself. But what trying to follow Christ has taught me is it just naturally starts making you think different. One of those things is to be quick to apologise and take your part, you know. It’s part of the Jedi Manual.
You have a new song, “Jesus Was a Rock Star”. I suspect your personal idea of what a rock star is has changed.
I thought a rock star was sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. I thought it was one big party, and that party went on forever. I had to make Jesus my rock star, instead of Jim Morrison. ‘Cause we all know what happened to Jim Morrison. It didn’t turn out good.
Scott Stapp Sun, Apr 27, 20:00 | C-Club, Columbiadamm 13- 21, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Platz der Luftbrücke
Originally published in issue #126, April 2014.