Published in the Lake Champlain Weekly
September 11, 2019
By Joshua Miner
Photos by Aaron Farrington
At the height of their popularity in the late 1990s, the post-grunge rockers known as Creed were one of the most well-known bands in the world. Selling over 53 million albums, front man Scott Stapp was living the Rock & Roll dream playing sold-out shows night after night as he led his band across the globe. However, by 2002 Stapp began to see his success slipping away – fighting his demons as Creed fell apart around him. After becoming sober for a time, by 2014 he was fighting for his life once again – only this time homeless and teetering on the razor-sharp edge of insanity.
After years of substance abuse and undiagnosed bipolar disorder, Stapp had found himself living in an alternate reality full of paranoid delusions and mania. During one such episode, he had become convinced he was under surveillance and subject to mind-control by government agencies. These hallucinations eventually led to a real-life visit from the Secret Service when they learned Stapp thought he was on a mission from the CIA to assassinate President Barack Obama.
With his son tweeting his father was in the midst of a nine-week binge at the time, Stapp was on the verge of losing everything he had worked so hard to achieve – and most frighteningly, his grasp of reality.
Unlike many people who struggle with mental health and addiction issues, Stapp’s descent was widely publicized as he numerous brushes with the law and hospitalizations. In 2014, he posted the now infamous Thanksgiving Facebook video in which he claimed millions of dollars had been stolen from him. Stapp claimed at the time that shortly after criticizing President Obama on Fox News, the IRS froze his bank accounts. When he inquired as to why, he was told it was a clerical error due to an address being incorrect. Still, he was told it would take close to a year to have the accounts unfrozen, during which time Stapp says he spent two weeks living in his truck – nearly penniless.
This time, it would take rock bottom for Stapp to finally allow the healing powers of faith and love back into his life.
With the help of MusiCares, a charity organization established by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Stapp was able to slowly get back on his feet again. Created by the same body responsible for the Grammy Awards, the group is made up of musicians who have also struggled with addiction and provides a safety net for artists in need.
Grateful to now be on the other side of those experiences, he takes his sobriety very seriously, and he’s now able to pay forward the same love he found from the music community during his own time of need.
“When people go through difficult situations in life, whether it be something that’s of their own making or [not], sometimes they look at it as lost time,” he says. “For me, I really learned through the advice of some friends [that] I could take those experiences and help someone else going through the same thing.”
Now five years sober, Stapp writes that the experience was a baptism by fire. With the release of his new album, The Space Between the Shadows, Stapp is taking full advantage of this new lease on life – travelling across the United States, Brazil and Mexico. Perhaps no song embodies his recovery better the album’s first single and name of the tour, Purpose For Pain, which speaks of this process of transforming negativity into positivity. While many people might do their best to forget, Stapp says he doesn’t look at that chapter of his life with anger or frustration anymore. On the contrary, he’s decided to tap into that pain to create a new light from those undeniably dark days.
“It’s repurposed that entire experience and time period in my life, and really changed the way I look at it. It wasn’t a waste,” he says. “It was part of my journey.”
Name, the second single off the album, exemplifies another central theme of the album: disrupting toxic patterns of behavior. The song recalls his childhood growing up without a father – a man who left him with nothing more than a name. The lyrics lament the abandonment he experienced as well as a promise his own children will never experience that same pain.
“The global theme and the overall message of that song, despite specific stories that I share, is breaking cycles,” Stapp explains.
All too often, he says, unhealthy patterns of behavior are passed on from generation to generation. It’s our duty to recognize and end it in order to make the world a better place for those who follow.
Breaking the cycle is something Stapp knows only too well. The bipolar diagnosis he received in 2014 came as a relief at the time, although he says he now realizes much of the extreme mood swings and delusions he had been experiencing were due to the never-ending cycles of alcohol and substance abuse causing chemical imbalances in his brain. While he says he wasn’t aware of it at the time, with half a decade sober he now realizes much of what he experienced was a direct result of this abuse.
“It was fortunate for me that as the years went on, that diagnosis evolved,” Stapp says.
Once you cleanse yourself of these substances, your body and mind have a chance to reset and balance its own natural chemicals and processes. In the throes of drug addiction, he explains, what may seem to be mental illness is often just manifestations of the insidious disease of addiction.
Throughout it all, Stapp says his perseverance and strength was due to his Christian faith and trust in God. It’s because of this faith and the love he has for his family that he’s not only still alive, but able to continue to do what he loves.
“My faith is the core of who I am as a human being, and it really adds the foundation and stability for everything that’s positive in my life,” Stapp says. “It’s the core of my relationship with my wife, it’s the core of my family and how we operate.”
The new song Last Hallelujah tells of a moment of spiritual reawakening for Stapp. After living for years at odds with his love of God, he found himself reconnecting to that higher power and a new chance to make things right once again.
Last Hallelujah seeks to preserve that transcendent experience forever, serving as a reminder of just how powerful and real such an encounter with divinity can be – lest he forget it once again, he says.
“Faith has always been a part of my life, whether I was living it, running from it or questioning it. I think that’s all part of the human experience and the human journey. And for me, it was nice to finally get through all that and get back to having a faith that’s on solid ground.”
Building his new life upon this foundation, he had to prove himself during those years to his wife and family – who he has long since reconnected with. This meant regaining their trust as he worked on his mental health and substance abuse issues in a sober living home. Today, Stapp says a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise are the most important things for his own mental well-being and sobriety.
Stapp also attempted to reach out to his old bandmates in Creed following his new-found sobriety, although there are currently no plans to reunite.
The band had originally broken up not long after an infamous 2002 concert in Chicago, where Stapp had reportedly been so inebriated fans filed a lawsuit in order to recover the cost of their tickets. The lawsuit claimed he could not remember the lyrics to any of the songs the band performed that night and left the stage numerous times during the performance.
“You’re single and you’re just caught up in the rock & roll machine and living that lifestyle. It kind of snuck up on me, it wasn’t something that I initially thought would catch me. But it did,” he explains of the pitfalls of fame.
During the following year while Creed had disbanded, he held two MP5 submachine guns to his head after drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels, prepared to end his life and the pain he had been feeling. He had become convinced that his bandmates wanted him dead, a Kurt Cobain-style martyr which would forever cement Creed’s legacy in Rock & Roll.
It was only after looking at a photo of his son Jagger that he realized just how important his life was, firing the rounds into his home rather than himself. With a family now depending on him, that love brought him back from the brink of death – forcing him to put down the drink and the drugs. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the end of Stapp’s troubles as run-ins with the law and constant battles with substance abuse and mental health continued.
Creed briefly reunited in 2009 and 2010 after recording Full Circle and had plans to record another album in 2012. Stapp and Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti spent some time in the studio, although Stapp now admits that his subsequent relapse into substance abuse stalled those efforts.
Stapp did take part in another band in recent years, teaming up with brothers Jon and Vince Votta, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and John Moyer for Art of Anarchy, replacing Stone Temple Pilots’ singer Scott Weiland following his untimely death in 2015. By 2018, Stapp faced yet another lawsuit to the tune of $1.2 million. His Art of Anarchy bandmates claimed he was in breach of contract for failing to take part in a slew of concerts and photo shoots to promote their album. As a result, the group failed to take off.
With Creed and Art of Anarchy behind him, Stapp seems to have finally found his comfort zone with his current solo project. But regardless of the outlet, Stapp says his method for writing has remained consistent throughout his career, no matter who he was writing for,
“I only know how to write one way. If you go back through my catalog, you’ll see that I’ve always written from that deep and personal space,” he says. “The only difference would be the people that I’m writing with. The process is still the same.”
While his writing style may not have changed, his life as a father today is a far cry from his days as a Rock & Roll superstar. No longer living the party life, his focus is now on what’s truly important in life – being the best father and husband he can possibly be. This includes coaching his son’s baseball, basketball and football teams.
In the past, touring kept him from taking part in his family’s lives in the way he wanted to. He now realizes that nothing is more important than this relationship with his family, and he makes sure to have all the time he needs to be the father he wished that he had growing up. Stapp says it’s great to be able to spend time with his son as a coach, but he also truly enjoys helping other kids learn the fundamentals of teamwork.
As evidenced in the track Ready To Love, to be able to give back means everything to Stapp. In the song, he celebrates breaking down the barriers which prevented him from developing those crucial bonds during those difficult years.
“Everything in my life that had been an obstruction to me having real, authentic relationships was gone,” he says of the song. “So [now] there’s this renewed clarity to experience and feel love, and also to give it.”
Stapp is making the most of these new opportunities, fortunate to have survived the ongoing battle with his demons and still be able to continue creating music. A living testament of faith, Stapp’s strength looks to inspire others struggling with similar issues.
He takes one day at a time in this new, healthy life – truly grateful for the support and love from friends, family and fans throughout his career and especially during the Purpose For Pain tour.
“It feels great, man. It’s even been made more special in the fact that the fans have really been responding to the new music,” Stapp says, proud of the success The Space Between the Shadows has had on the radio. “It’s been everything I could have hoped for so far.”
Scott Stapp will be performing at the Strand Center for the Arts Saturday, September 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29-49 in advance and $34 to $54 day of the show. Tickets are available at strandcenter.org or by calling the box office at 518-563-1604 (ext. 105). Opening for Scott Stapp are the Dallas-based Messer and the Southern California band Sunflower Dead.