Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Driven by unbridled passions and haunted by ghosts that defy definition, the great rockers keep getting better, stronger, more determined to get it right. Proof of Life is proof that Scott Stapp is among the great rockers. It’s also proof that this time he’s gotten it right.
“I made up my mind to face myself as a man and an artist. This record is my first no-holds-barred statement of exactly who I am” Stapp says. That statement is simultaneously simple and complex. The simple message is a straight-up confirmation of Stapp’s prowess as rock and roller of the first rank. He’s alive and kicking, singing with greater grit than ever before. The self-portrait emerging from this extraordinary suite of songs is multi-layered and nuanced, the compelling drama of a man unflinchingly reexamining his past as he fights for his spiritual sanity.
The music—hard-edged, explosive, fiercely spontaneous and emotionally super-charged—frames the story of Stapp’s remarkable journey, beginning with his long relationship with Creed.
It was 1997 when My Own Prison, the debut multi-platinum Creed album, kicked off Scott’s musical journey in spectacular style. As the lead vocalist and sole storyteller, Scott sculpted his own aesthetic. From the start, his spiritual conflicts galvanised a worldwide audience. Three other mega-selling records followed—Human Clay (1999), Weathered (2002) and Full Circle (2009), in addition to Stapp’s successful solo venture, The Great Divide (2005). Awarded a Grammy in 2001 for his number-one hit, “With Arms Wide Open,” Scott was celebrated, in the words of one Rolling Stone writer, as “a singer with an enormous emotional range and a composer of startling originality.”
With the publication in 2012 of Sinner’s Creed, his autobiography, Scott detailed his struggles with drugs, alcohol and depression. It paved the way for Proof of Life.
I recently had the opportunity to chat to Scott, and have him give me a personal insight into the songs, stories and experiences that created his “Proof of Life”album.
Hi Scott. I understand that you are currently in tour rehearsals,how are those going?
Scott”Oh man ,it’s going really good. The band have gelled, we have been going at it now for two weeks. It’s going really well.”
Who is in the band lineup/New musicians or seasoned pros?
Scott”Well I have got Chad Szeliga on drums and he is formerly of a band Breaking Benjamin”
Yes I am familiar with them.
Scott”Then I have got Andy Waldeck on bass and he has done stuff with Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots ,and most recently Daughtry. Then I have got an amazing guitar player, an absolute beast shredder, named Andy Wood. He is just one of the most talented guys that I have seen in my life. Then I have got a guy on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, named Travis Colmer, and he is kind of the guy that was a fan that we allowed to be part of the band.”
I have read some press that says the writing of your “Sinners Creed” book gave you the strength and enthusiasm to do this album. ?
Scott”What it really did was, that it allowed me to process my entire life and as an artist really go back and just make peace with things in my life. To share my story and really figure out where I am today and who I am today as a human being and as an artist. That definitely affected my music, and inspired through the process of writing the book ideas were born, concepts and themes. Had I not written that book then I don’t think that this record would have been born as it is right now. It would probably be something totally different.”
On the subject of the album. I would like you to take me through it, track by track. Outlining the sources that inspired and stories that helped you to create it. What the tracks mean individually and as a body of work to you personally.
Scott”I will try my best. The album is a musical journey-its almost like a musical play. I come out with “Slow Suicide” to basically set up the entire story on the record, and start the play if you will. I am announcing with that song that I have come to a realisation in my life. I have come to a cross roads, and I have realized that I was doing things in my life that were killing me. Emotionally, personally, and literally physically. That sets up the remainder of the album. Then I go into the second song which is”Who I am”. That is one of the first songs that I have ever written , basically “Who I am”is a character. That song is the personification of ego. Basically ego or super ego is now singing that song. “Who I am” is what super ego would say, and so it is a character. It is very allegorical, and so that kind of sets the tone that here is my realization of what I was doing to myself. This is the motivation behind it, what was driving it, and so ego introduces itself. Then the next song “Proof of Life”is really when the opposite of ego speaks. That’s when that still small voice inside you kind of counters ego and says “Well what purpose do you have in life?””What purpose do you have in life, why are you here”? It begins to ask those questions to kind of counter. Now you begin to see the one side of the psyche, and “Proof of Life”is the voice of reason, and the voice of introspection. The other side of the psyche.
The next song is what?”New Day”? That is when I introduce myself, in terms of Ok, this is when change began to happen. This is where I was at and I knew that I had to make a change, a “New Day”had to come. A new season in my life,had to come. Then I believe”Only One”?
That is correct..
Scott”Only one”is another character, in the play of this record. It is the voice of God. As I am going through”New Day”and I am hoping for a New Day, I am still battling with the characters that I introduced in”Who I am”, and “Proof of Life”. Going back and forth oscillating between ego and rationalization, realization and greater purpose. The ying and the yang within us. “Only One”is when my spiritual man steps in. It is like”you are not going to figure this out”, until you make your spiritual man the priority in your life, your spiritual growth and who you are as a spiritual human being. Until you rescue your spiritual condition and your spiritual malady because that is what this entire thing is. The entire record is a process of a spiritual malady, that is going on. Until you realize that I was there before, I was there during and I will be there after. I am never going away, you have to confront me. There will be no progress. That is when transformation begins. That is almost like seeing the Burning Bush moment, where to make a biblical reference. When Moses was walking and he saw a bush on fire, and it spoke to him.”
That sort of “visionary”moment?
Scott”Right, and then after”Only one”is “Breakout”, correct?
Scott”What “Break out”subtlety addresses is when you start removing the problems, and for me lets just use drugs and alcohol and toxic things that you add into your life. It could be relationships, it could be anything that is causing unnecessary problems in your life. When you get those out of the way, then you have to deal with life on its own terms. You have to deal with reality, with clarity, and just the common day to day things. After this” Burning Bush” moment where you realize that you have got to change your spiritual man. You get a lot of these self-inflicted burdens out of the way now you realize that you are back to ground zero of what got you started using those things to numb yourself. That basically says well here I am back into the present, and I want to break out of this. I don’t want to be overwhelmed by life. I don’t want the routine, and the stresses and struggles of day to day life just being a human being. I am not going to let it knock me down anymore. I want to break out of this place. After”Breakout”is “Hit me more”. That is really when you are coming from that I want to break out place, it is when you are beginning to get your legs back. You are beginning to get confidence, to say that I can deal with and handle this. As long as I take care of my spiritual self, my spiritual being and I follow that voice that higher power that wants to do positive things in my life, transforming me as a better human being. I can take life’s struggles, I can take life’s problems and anything that the world throws at me. That is kind of a healthy ego, saying”Come on, hit me more”. Is that all you have got?,I can do this, I can take this. It’s beginning to develop confidence through this transformation that is going on within you..After that, whats next?
“Jesus was a Rockstar.”
Scott”Basically that is the epiphany moment where in this journey part of the main character through this play, his struggles were with his spiritual man and real life and how those two interact. How those two could be one and not interfere with the other. That song does multiple things. It represents the marriage of the spiritual man and the regular human being by acknowledging Christ as a rock star. The irony is that the person singing the song is the rock star, in the worlds eyes. Do you see what I mean? So there is irony within that. It is basically a humility, and saying “You know what, I am not so great”, this is who’s message that I want to follow. This is the person that I am striving to be more like. I want to follow the ways of love, I’m learning how to deal with life. My spiritual man is growing and its all because of this man and his message, Jesus Christ. It’s tipping the hat and giving the nod to what is transforming your heart. What is changing you from the inside, it’s acknowledging that love is changing you. That then leads into “What would love do”Correct?
Yes, this song is probably my favorite on the album.
Scott”Oh that’s great man, that is probably that subtle moment where you have acknowledged the transformation that has happened with your spiritual man and what Christ is doing in your life, in this characters life. You begin to stop and reflect, you begin to have moments of pause before you act. You begin to ask yourself that question,”What would love do”People have heard what would Jesus do or whatnot. I think for me in writing this Jesus represents the love and the lifestyle that is based in love, acceptance and grace. In learning how to walk through this life after you have resolved a lot of these issues, and made this transformation the way that you continue to grow as a human being in every aspect of your life you should simply pause. In every situation and ask “What would love do”?in this situation. I had to do that personally myself and it was an action step. I literally had to take action, and say that I am going to personally change this part of my personality. The only way that I know how to do it, is to do the counter-intuitive thing,and to the negative behaviors in my life that was love. That was where that question was born. Then it gets to”Crash”, that is a song where the character has reached a level of maturity. The main character has reached a level of “All right I’m an ok now, I have lived some life, here is what I have done and let me keep it simple-stupid You know that saying,”Keep it simple-stupid”?It kind of comes from that place of keeping it simple-stupid. It is one of the secrets to our characters success in life, and this rebirth. Simplifying and getting things back to the beginning. Really when you get too high in any aspect of thinking, lifestyle personality or anything you inevitably crash. It’s that simple. It is just our character reflecting back saying”Here is one of the things that I have learned”. Its much deeper than the simplicity of the line, and I think that all depends on the listener. The character really goes back and shares his story, on where he was, and where he is now. Which is a good place to be because in our lead character sharing his story that’s how he continues to stay on the path.
Then it gets to”Dying to Live”, and that is the moment where our lead character realizes on various levels things had to die in his life, in order that he can continue living life. Ego had to die, behaviors had to die. Certain relationships had to be buried and die and move on in order for this person to grow and move on as a human being. That is the cycle of life and the cycle of growth for our character. It is also a throwback to,to what this persons idol-Christ did and represents. There are many different facets of thinking, that go into that. It ends on a positive note that “hey I have gone through this transformation and beginning to have wings”. I am not flying like I thought I would fly but I am learning to fly again. I have a new excitement and purpose in life. I have found a new meaning in life, that gives purpose to everything I do in life. Now I am just excited with living without creating my own prisons.(to go back to my Creed time) That is the journey that the record takes you on.”
You mentioned earlier that you are currently involved in tour rehearsals. Regarding the set list for the forthcoming shows, will that be solely based on your solo albums to date? Or will it also incorporate your musical past with Creed?
Scott”Yes it does revisit the past. I have pulled from my entire catalogue. Right now I am playing ten songs off “Proof of Life”, two songs off”The Great Divide”and seven Creed songs.
I had just wondered as you have discussed moving from a dark past to a brighter future, if that dark period would have been visited?
Scott”I think that it is just part of my musical story man. I think that it is part of my musical journey. What I seek to do within my live show is to take my audience through this journey with me. I couldn’t do it without the songs that I wrote in the past.”
You will be visiting the UK in April, but only for 1 date …? Though you did indicate that you will be doing some advance promo ahead of that.
Scott”Yes I will be doing that, I am actually going to be doing five dates on the first trip in April. I will be in Germany and the Netherlands , London and Paris. Then I will be coming back to do an extensive 4-6 weeks tour, end of September/October. That will be primarily in the UK.”
OK Scott, just a couple of general questions to finish on. Firstly what is the secret to having longevity in the music business?
Scott”I think perseverance, and understanding that it is a ride. It’s going to have its highs and its going to have its lows, just continue to persevere. It’s all about the songs man, you gotta keep writing. Keep connecting with people. As long as you can connect with people through your music you can have a long career.”
What would be the biggest/best lesson that you have learned over the course of your career?
Scott”Hmmm, I have learned a lot of lessons man. It would be to take care of myself. To love myself. If you take care of your body, mind and spirit everything else takes care of itself.”
Finally is music all encompassing in your life, or do you have time for any other hobbies or interests?
Scott”The only thing aside from music is my wife, my three kids and my nephew. Outside of music that is all I do is family. We are a very musical family too, music is a bond that we all share. My son Jagger plays drums, my nephew plays lead guitar. My daughter plays piano and sings. My little guy who is three years old wants to play everything, we are like the Von Trapp family from The Sound Of Music. We are the Von Stapps!.”
Thanks very much for chatting to me this afternoon, hopefully I will get over in April for your London Show.
Scott”Awesome, make sure when you come that you speak to someone at the label, they will give you my tour managers number. You just have to call him and we will take care of you.”
Thanks again Scott, it’s been a pleasure. Take care
Scott”OK, man and you brother. Bye”