Nothing has the power to throw you back to 1999 like listening to Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open.” (Let’s be honest though, Brittany’s “Baby One More Time” is a close second.) Scott Stapp wrote that Grammy-winning song when his son, Jagger, was born. And now Jagger is already writing his own songs and performing in shows with his dad and cousin. Yes, time flies, and we are further away from the days when we can call ourselves young.
I recently got on the phone with Stapp after his new album dropped last week. Yes, he’s still alive, still making music, and as far as I could tell from the sound of his voice, still has that lush shoulder-length hair. Along with Jagger, his six-year-old daughter is already writing songs and playing the piano. For a rock star like Stapp, who never learned to read music or had any proper training, he is astounded at his children’s talent and gushing with pride. “It’s a bond that we have,” he tells me. “It’s just amazing.”
While Creed may be the brunt of many jokes nowadays as people try and impersonate that smooth, deep voice (face it, we’re all a bit jealous), you have to admit — there’s some talent going on. I was eager to ask Stapp about the changing face of rock music and how the genre can be relevant to the millennial generation that seems to prefer banjos and twang over drums and thunder. “One thing that I’m trying to do in rock ’n’ roll is bring depth back into the genre where it’s relevant to real life and the human experience,” Stapp says, “and really allow it to be that soundtrack for life that’s been its history over the years.” In his eyes, rock ’n’ roll is a timeless genre that never loses its potency.
Like most famous artists, Stapp hit a point where he “overdosed on ego.” He says, “I think ego can manifest in so many different ways. It can manifest in this ‘I’m better than other people’ or ‘You’re beneath me,’ or it can manifest in this kind of isolation mentality where you’re afraid to ask anyone for help or you’re afraid to reach or extend a hand,” Stapp says. “From an artistic perspective, we’ve had some of our greatest artistic accomplishments in music and in the arts when it’s been a community of artists and when we’ve exchanged ideas. And in order to exchange ideas and work together there has to be a surrender of ego.”
Stapp says he longs for a place where ideas and expression can flow without judgment, where we can lose the ego that “makes us see it as a competition and not as connection between artists.” For Stapp, rock ’n’ roll is about good song writing where singers are “uttering from their soul the human condition and the human story…to express really how dynamic it is being alive today in this world.”
I remember when Creed broke up. The word on the street was that the lead singer abandoned everyone because he turned super Christian, or something like that. The true story that Stapp told me is actually quite Donald Miller-esque, but instead of driving across country and hanging out with hippies, Stapp did the other ultimate form of rebellion — he started a rock band.
Stapp says, “The way I was raised was that rock ’n’ roll was of the devil and the electric guitar was the devil’s instrument.” He goes on to tell me, “I was really raised in a culture of spiritual abuse where I lived every day of my life in fear of making a mistake and going to hell and getting beat over it via my father…you know, I couldn’t be perfect, and perfection was what was demanded of me.”
Stapp took the journey (“from narrow Bible-thumping literalism to a more inclusive theology” as he puts it) that many Christians have to take, but in his journey everything is to the extreme. It took a near-death experience in 2006 where he laid debilitated for 11 months on his back to finally begin “soul searching.” Looking back he realized that God was with him, even in the places he was told God wasn’t supposed to be.
“That’s when I really began to understand what love was,” he says, “and understanding that was when I could finally realize that even in the darkest days of my life, God was there all the time…I learned the hard way, but in doing so I found grace, and I found love and that compassion. It was never about how good enough I could be because I could never be good enough.”
He recounts his full story in his recent autobiography Sinner’s Creed and in his new album Proof of Life. He asks that his listeners judge him not by what they think they know or by the past, but by the present. Stapp says he has a lot left to give as an artist, and he says to give his latest album a shot. He thinks it’ll connect.
Photo courtesy of Wind-Up Records
This piece was originally titled “An interview with Creed’s former frontman.” This is an error; after breaking up, the band got back together in 2009. We have changed the title to reflect this. We apologize for our mistake.