Creed will kick off a nationwide tour next Friday the 13th in Chicago. During the month-and-a-half long run, the band plans to play their first two albums, My Own Prison and Human Clay, several times in their entirety. For frontman Scott Stapp, it’ll mean revisiting the records that helped turn his band into one of the top-selling acts in rock over a decade ago. Now 38 years old, Stapp hears the music differently. The singer opened up to Rolling Stone about how his older tunes helped save his life and the advice that Creed received from Eddie Van Halen.
How much have you had to reacquaint yourself with these first two albums to get ready for the tour?
Most of the material, minus the four singles on the first record, we haven’t played since probably ’98. It’s been a real interesting process to go back and go over those songs. Some of them, we kind of chuckle at ourselves because we’ve grown so much as musicians and when we go play them, they’re a little elementary to us now. But there’s something pure and something inspiring about the simplicity of our early work to us.
Do the songs resonate with you differently now?
I think we have a greater understanding of the depth of the subjects we were talking about, much moreso than we did at the time. We had only lived 21, 22 years on this planet and really had minimal life experience. Maybe we were commenting at the time on a friend, a situation that we were observing as a band – now we’ve actually lived it. It brings a new feeling, vibe and passion to the music.
Any songs in particular where that‘s the case?
Yeah, “My Own Prison” and “What’s This Life For,” especially. At the time we wrote “What’s This Life For,” that was a commentary on a friend of ours who had committed suicide. As we’ve lived life over the last 15 years, we’ve had a much more hands-on experience with that issue in particular – with people in our family and closer friends losing their life. I’ve been through some times in my life where I’ve really been at the bottom, and had those thoughts in my mind that I thought I would never think as I was writing that song with Mark back in ’95, ’96. It rings much more close to home when you’ve actually been at that low place. It’s songs like that I can tell you that prevented me from making some very stupid decisions in my life. I start to reflect on things and experiences I’ve written about, and it’s actually given me hope and reminded me to pull myself out of that place.
What do you remember about writing that first album?
On the first record, we were coming from such a subconscious place and really didn’t have our own mind and soul wrapped around some of the issues that we were discussing. I can look back at songs like “Arms Wide Open,” for example, and that song was written in three minutes at a sound check. It’s been years since that song was written, and it has so much meaning now. It really has given me a deeper understanding of myself, my own self-esteem and my own thought processes. When I go back and read the lyrics – “I hope he’s not like me” – that really raised my awareness in the shame and guilt I’ve experienced in my life, and hoping that my own children were not like me. Which is kind of sad, because you’re solely focused on the negative and everything you’re doing wrong, instead of what you’re doing right. It gives me goosebumps to talk about, because it’s such a spiritual thing for me and always has been. Music connects me with something bigger than myself and humbles me and really causes a lot of deep introspection and impacts my life – on so many levels, but especially spiritually.
Did you listen to those songs during the darker times?
In those low points, the songs kind of held me accountable, in terms of the fans coming up to me over the years and saying, “This song really helped me when I was down and it gave me hope and strength and perseverance and really uplifted me.” It’s literally saved my life, because I felt such an accountability. Like, “Wait a minute, I can’t do this. I can’t go down this road that we were talking about in ‘What’s This Life For’ or ‘My Own Prison.’ I can’t go down to that hole and end it all when I’ve had all these experiences with others telling me what these songs mean to them.”
Having gone through the low points, do you have a deeper appreciation for the band today?
I think the things that we’ve all gone through in the positive and the negative have definitely made us better human beings and given us a reference point. Now we know what’s behind door Number One. Now we understand the trappings that can come along with this. When you’re young and fiery and you’re fighting so hard to make it and have your art understood, I think you’ve got blinders on and you stop growing as a human being at some point in time. And that kind of happened to us. Our world got – even though it was getting amazingly big, in our perception it got really small. It began to get so “I-centric,” and all the things that come with that. I know it’s a story that’s been written and re-written and will continue, unfortunately, to be written. That’s one thing that’s inspired all of us in this band, is to give back to young and upcoming artists and help point them in the right direction. (It’s) something that Eddie Van Halen did to us back in 1998. We were so blind and caught up in what was going on that we didn’t even really hear him.
What did he tell you?
We were playing Madison Square Garden for the first time. The first and only band that we ever opened for was Van Halen at Madison Square Garden, and he came into our dressing room and gave us kind of a “music 101” about how we should handle our commissions, how we should approach each performance, how special this whole thing was and we should never take it for granted and how quickly it could be gone. He even gave us pointers: “Keep your hotel room key with your room number in your back pocket, because there’s gonna be a time when you freaking pass out somewhere and you don’t know where your hotel is.” It went from how to responsibly party, which I think you have to learn yourself, to how we should properly handle a record company and management and not get taken advantage of, which unfortunately we had to go learn the hard way ourselves.
How much writing have you done for the new album?
We’ve got about 12 songs right now. We’re putting our heart and soul into this record in a way that we haven’t done since the early years of the band. Given all the experience that we have, it’s really making for an exciting record for us – a record that really covers a whole gamut of emotions. It’s gonna have a lot of heavy music on it, but of course there’s another side to our band which, if you’re familiar with, you’ll hear. It’s heavy and hard as we can be as a rock band, but we always had that other side, that introspective, emotional side with a dark slant to it. When you get away from something for a period of time, you can lose your identity, and everything you’ve been doing and all the projects that you have been working on apart from each other can bleed in and confuse the identity of the band. We’re just reconnecting with our identity.