It has been a whopping 14 years since Creed’s power ballad “With Arms Wide Open” (the song for whom lead singer Scott Stapp’s son, Jagger, was written) became a mainstream hit. In an endearing full circle moment, Stapp once again looks to his son for inspiration, but in his second solo album release, Proof Of Life.
Stapp’s son, who has become a musician himself, actually wrote the opening lines for “Break Out,” the sixth track on Stapp’s record: “I’m gonna break out, I’m gonna break free.”
It’s a serendipitous sort of seal on the envelope of Stapp’s recent dark chapter in life struggling with depression and addiction.
“Inspired by my son, I got back in touch with the determination that I had first felt back in 1995 with the beginnings of Creed,” Stapp says of the November 2013 album release. “This time, though, I reconnected to that drive with a far more mature perspective.”
The album exposes Stapp in a vulnerable, yet ambitious way. The track “New Day Coming” celebrates Stapp’s “coming out of the fog,” as he calls it, marking the positive influence sobriety has had on his life. He chants, “I’m standing still on the edge of a knife, just ready for a fight.” The battle he confronts is his own egotistical demons.
We caught up with Stapp for an in-depth interview before he kicked off his short summer tour in support of Proof Of Life. He opened up in refreshing detail about his road to recovery, the spiritual awakening that birthed his record, and the wrongs he is making right with his music.
Your album Proof Of Life really is a musical extension of your memoir. What was your inspiration for creating the record?
The main theme that began the inspiration process for the entire record was coming out of the darkness of depression, and dealing with the demons that came along with that depression. I attempted to self medicate with alcohol and drugs, and then developing a dependence on that I realized the underlying issue, and began to “come out of the fog,” so to speak.
The record definitely is some honest and deep reflection, and then my newfound connection with my spiritual life and how that resolved itself in my mind through that process, which I think is so important for me. My whole life, although I always believed in God, I would go back and forth in terms of doubts and questioning, and I think through this dark period of my life, the depression and everything that followed it, that was erased.
It became clear and evident to me—without a doubt—and so I have no regrets for that period in my life because of what it did for my faith. It gave me a new appreciation for the simple, the ordinary, and for people, with a new mentality of serving and giving and sharing my experiences. My hope is to share with others who may be suffering from the same things in life; that my experience will enable me to be of service to them.
All of those things came out through this record. It’s really the soundtrack of my journey to recovery. When you listen to it and look at it from that perspective you can hear it loud and clear.
What is your favorite track on the album, or a song that you really love to play live?
“Who I Am” is definitely one of them. I enjoy the attitude and performance of it. “Proof Of Life” defines my style and who I am as a rock artist. I play all the songs on the record because all the songs are important to me in sharing my story and sharing with the fans the places that I’ve been and where I am now. [All the songs] have a special role [in my set]. It’s almost like a play: I couldn’t leave any one out and it’s meant to be played in order almost, for full understanding. Each song has a different emotional pull.
You’ve said that personal accountability is something that you struggled with, as well as “accepting your own story.” What were your personal reasons for that?
When I sat down to begin to understand how I had gotten to where I was in my early moments “coming out of the fog,” someone suggested to me that it’s time to figure out how you got here to write your story. “Start off with your birthday, introduce yourself, and just keep writing.” So I started writing, “I was born Anthony Scott Flippen on August 8, 1973,” and boom, just started writing my story.
It led me to going back through a journey as an observer with a real honest assessment of everything that was still in my mind that I could remember throughout my entire life, looking at things from when I was wrong, putting myself in other people’s shoes but in the same scenario to understand there were certain things I couldn’t blame myself for, eliminating denials and things I had dusted under the carpet to really ask myself, “Who am I?”
It was tough, but it was definitely needed for me to get to that present moment so I can say I unloaded that bag of rocks we all subconsciously carry on our backs throughout our entire lives. I made a list of about 200 people whom either I felt wronged me, or whom I had wronged, as far back as five years. Everyone that was an adult situation that I felt I needed to call, I called to make amends on my end and it really began a process, but at first I didn’t want to do it. I found out what it was doing to my soul and the resolution and emotion and feelings I didn’t know were still there. I began to free myself of them. It’s almost like a clean slate. It was an amazing feeling to be able to do that and to put things in the right place.
You’ve cited creative differences with other members of Creed. How is the solo dynamic different for you and contrast that to your time as a frontman of a band?
With Creed and me as a solo artist, and looking at the guys and myself, we’re all in different places in our lives and have different goals and agendas and are on different journeys and paths. That’s the core reason why we’re all going in different directions right now. As a solo artist, I love working with new artists. I love to vibe with new people and feel the energy between someone that I’ve never worked with before. It’s great to hear their thoughts and learn and grow from them.
There’s nothing else, in terms of a story, between me and whomever I’m writing with that day. It’s all what we’re bringing to that moment. It helped me reignite my love for creating. It helped me connect with the stream of consciousness type writing that I love to do, when you can go with what’s inside you and allow art to come from the core. That’s something I think easily can go through waves when you’re in a band situation and have ben writing with the same person since you were 14. I think that’s only natural to want to grow and expand your knowledge and your collaborators. There’s nothing negative about that. There’s nothing negative to talk about. That’s one of the things I love the most about continuing to grow as an artist in a solo situation.
Who are your favorite musical influences, both from when you started making music and today?
My introduction to rock and roll came from Def Leppard when I was nine years old. I saw the video for “Photograph” and heard the guitars and knew right at that moment that’s what I wanted to do. Then as I grew up I saw U2. The Doors had a huge influence on me, as well as Led Zeppelin. Otis Redding and Donny Hathaway influenced me with their soulfulness.
I’ve really gotten into some of the new pop music. I’ve never been a big fan before but having a teenage son and a daughter who’s seven it’s always on in the car. There are a lot of talented artists on the radio right now that I never would have known if it weren’t for my family. I really like what Pharrell Williams is doing. Rihanna is extremely talented. I like the grooves in the pop music right now. It’s cool to see how [enjoying that] will affect me as an artist.
Scott Stapp will play the Newton Theatre in Newton, NJ on June 16. His latest album, Proof Of Life, is available now through Wind-Up Records. For more information, go to scottstapp.com.