Q&A: Scott Stapp
Like many of his peers, singer Scott Stapp has ridden the turbulent rock ’n’ roll roller coaster throughout his nearly three-decade long career. Which is to say the founding member of Creed has been to the top, the bottom and all points in between. These days, Stapp is enjoying the benefits of stability and sobriety, as well as the freedom that comes with being a solo artist. He touched on these topics and more during a recent conversation with Las Vegas Magazine’s Matt Jacob in advance of his Sept. 29 concert at Brooklyn Bowl.
You’re on the road right now as part of the Make America Rock Again tour. Who else is on the bill?
It’s myself, Trapt, Sick Puppies, Drowning Pool and Adelitas Way, with other bands popping in and out along the way. It’s just a tour we were asked to be a part of, bringing rock ’n’ roll to every city that we go to.
After touring on and off for more than two decades, what do you still enjoy about it?
I love the live show. I love the energy of the crowd. I love that connection. It’s something that’s just indescribable. It’s an adrenaline rush and a high. The only other time I experience that feeling is when I’m in the creative mode and feel like I wrote a really good song.
What are some of the challenges you encounter on the road in 2017 that weren’t there in, say, 1997?
The challenges nowadays are much less than they were in 1997. These days, I’m in charge of the things I’m exposed to and what goes on in my environment on tour, so I can keep and maintain a sober environment and surround myself with people who are living the same way and support what I’m doing. So I’d say it’s much easier touring now than in 1997—especially being on a tour bus. In 1997, we were driving around in a van and trailer. There are a lot of things that are better now!
You’ve experienced touring as the front man for a hugely successful band and now as a solo artist. Do you prefer one to the other?
I enjoy both. Touring solo is a lot like touring with Creed, because I still play the Creed catalog as well as my solo songs. With Creed, it’s a big machine—a big over-the-top rock ’n’ roll experience—and I enjoy that as well.
Let’s go back to the early days with Creed. When you had your breakout success in the late 1990s/early 2000s, did you see that tornado coming?
We did see it coming, because we thought that’s just what was supposed to happen when you got a record deal. We were kind of naive and ignorant—and I’ll specifically speak on my behalf—of really how much of an anomaly that is for an artist. We were just living in the moment and didn’t feel like we were caught up in any kind of whirlwind—it just felt like that’s what we were supposed to be doing, and we were enjoying it all the way. We didn’t even look at it as a storm. It was just a beautiful, dream-come-true experience. We were living our dream.
As hugely popular as Creed got, the band in general and you in particular were frequently a lightning rod for critics and old-school rock fans. Were you ever able to wrap your head around why that was?
I find that at some point in any majorly successful rock band like Creed was, you’re always going to have your critics. That’s just par for the course, especially when you get that big, when you go from no-name to totally mainstream—and at a point in time, we were the biggest band in the world.
Did the attacks on you directly ever seriously tick you off?
I can’t lie and say that at various times I wasn’t affected by some of the criticism that I didn’t understand or some of the harsh words that were being said, because it didn’t fit into what my rock ’n’ roll dream was. I was in my 20s, and didn’t know that came with the territory. But I do now, so if anything comes up, it just bounces off. Because it’s usually somebody who just doesn’t particularly like your music, and you have to remind yourself that there are millions and millions and millions of people who do, so don’t let the one squeaky wheel bug you.
Was there anyone you could lean on for advice when the criticism got particularly harsh?
No. I was just flying by the seat of my pants. I didn’t have anyone to lean on for advice. In hindsight, I sure wish that I would have.
It’s been several years since your brief reunion with Creed. What, if anything, do you miss about being part of that band?
There was definitely—and still is—an amazing songwriting chemistry between (fellow founding member and guitarist) Mark Tremonti and myself, and that’s something that is always special to me. When we go spurts where we’re not creating together, that’s definitely something I miss.
In addition to your solo work, you took over for the late Scott Weiland as lead singer of the supergroup Art of Anarchy last year. How satisfying has that experience been, and has it rejuvenated you in any way?
Oh, it’s been great. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is a super talented guitar player, producer, writer, musician and all-around great guy. John Moyer is the same—just a super talented (bass) player, songwriter and artist. All the guys in the band are very talented at what they do. It’s definitely different than anything I’ve done before in terms of songwriting. It was a collaborative group effort when it came to the music aspect—the band left (writing) the lyrics and the vocal melodies to me—but I’d never worked with a band where there were five guys who all have opinions on music. So it was unique and a positive experience and definitely has been fun so far.
Your formative years were in the 1980s, when rock music was at a crossroads with traditional hard rock bands from the late 1970s running alongside the so-called L.A. glam-metal scene. What were you listening to back then, and who were your early influencers as a singer/songwriter and performer?
When I was 9 years old, Def Leppard’s Pyromania album had a huge impact on me and inspired in me a love for rock ’n’ roll and a desire to one day, when I grew up, be in a rock ’n’ roll band. As I moved into my mid-teens, I got into U2’s Joshua Tree (album), which had a huge impact in terms of how I approach lyric writing and how I wanted songs that I wrote to make people feel.
You have one of the most distinctive voices in rock, but if you could trade pipes with any singer in history, who would it be?
I would say the late Chris Cornell. I’ve always been a huge fan of his voice and his vocal range and his soul and everything that he could do with his voice.
In recent years, you’ve gone public with your struggles with addiction and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Was it easy to be so free and open about such very personal ordeals?
No, it wasn’t easy. But due to the nature of what was going on (in my life), my falls and struggles played out in public. So there was a definite need and feeling for me to address them publicly and let the fans and anyone who had been following me know what was going on, and what I was doing with my life to overcome those struggles and continue to move forward as a husband, a father, an artist and a human being. Now, I’m in one of the best places I’ve ever been.
Finish this sentence: If not for rock ’n’ roll, I would be …
… hopefully, a pro baseball player. I played ball my entire life—I was a shortstop—and had multiple scholarship offers, and at one point in time thought that had I gone down that road, I may have had a shot at it.