In his dressing room before Creed's first gig of a two-month tour, frontman Scott Stapp was so calm, you'd think the hotly anticipated trek was a victory lap. But he knows they have a lot of work to do if they're going to compete for their share of rock fans from the Nickelback-Daughtry nation that's sprung up in their absence. "Right now, we have feel like we have a second chance to make a first impression as artists," said Stapp, who's weathered addiction and assorted trials since the band split. "And reintroduce ourselves in 2009 and beyond. Our record's going to speak for itself."
Surrounded by candles, Stapp strummed an acoustic guitar, with an annotated Bible open on the table in front of him, next to a closed copy of The Art of War. He put down the guitar, and played the rocking title track from the band's upcoming album, Full Circle, on his laptop as he spoke with Rolling Stone, focused and relaxed.
How do you feel? Any stage fright?
Good. Excited. I have... a butterfly's calmness. If we didn't have any nerves, we wouldn't be human. But I feel comfortable in this situation. I feel comfortable with these guys, in this band. It's almost like a calmness before the storm.
The reunion came together pretty fast.
We talked in December, about some things that needed to be said. The words that were said were, "If I hurt you in any way, please forgive me." And then hugs and talk about families. It was a real organic process. I don't think we could make new music and bare our souls and reclaim the chemistry, that thing we had, if it wasn't real. Just realizing that short period of late 2002, early 2003, was just an aberration.
What's the new album like?
The album's finished. We worked with Howard Benson [Daughtry, My Chemical Romance], and Chris Lord-Alge [Green Day, the Replacements] is going to mix the record. It's very unique. Very fresh. It's got some of the heaviest rock tracks we've ever done, and some slower songs, and some slower songs — straight-up-rock kind of songs that you can't really call a ballad.
What's some of the lyrical content?
It's varied. It's about my experiences. It's about life, love, growing up, loss.
Do any songs address the band's hiatus?
Oh, yes. There's a few. "Full Circle" definitely does. It's kind of an autobiographical song.
How are you different than you were before the band reunited?
I don't even know that guy. That was a personal aberration. I made some poor decisions, not taking care of my body and mind. And I think, 11-18-06, I kind of reclaimed myself, and that aberration died. My wife and children and family have been such a key part, a foundation of support and love.
Is there any symbolism to your shaved head?
It was a very impulsive thing I did in early '07. After this aberration had gone away, the people I loved and cared about, they responded to me with a defensive posture. They didn't know where I was coming from. The outward appearance was a reminder of that. I had this epiphany talking to my wife. I said, "Excuse me, baby." I went into the bathroom and started shaving my head. A lot of baggage went with thatâ€¦. In Cherokee culture, when you mourn, or you go into battle, you shave your head. And in that moment, I realized I'd hurt people I love so much. I was mourning that. I said I want a fresh start.
With Creed underway, is your second solo album on hold indefinitely?
That's the last thing on my mind. My motto now is "To protect and preserve." And as long as [Creed] continue to treat each other with respect and appreciation, I'm sure I'll dabble in other projects. But at the end of the day, we'll gather together and break bread. I'm excited about the future. Life sure is better on this side.