Fuse Q&A

Scott Stapp Talks Near-Death Experiences, Michael Jackson & New Creed Album

"I’ve definitely felt some parallels with [Michael Jackson's] story and mine, except thank God I found a way out," says the 'Proof of Life' singer
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Jeremy Cowart

In the video for his latest song “Slow Suicide,” Creed frontman Scott Stapp details a Behind the Music-worthy life that includes physical abuse as a child and, in adulthood, battles with alcohol, drugs and severe depression. In his 2012 autobiography Sinner’s Creed, the singer revealed that he tried to commit suicide by jumping over a Miami hotel balcony and falling 40 feet. Stapp fractured his skull, among other life-threatening injuries, and laid on the ground for two-and-a-half hours before T.I. stumbled upon the near-lifeless singer and saved his life.

The 40-year-old admits that he's "dealt with the demons I needed to deal with" and is now sober and ready to help others.  Stapp recently released Proof of Life, his first solo album since his 2005 debut The Great Divide, recounting the Miami incident ("Hit Me More") and detailing his bouts with self-destruction ("Who I Am") and redemption ("New Day Coming"). He spoke to Fuse about Michael Jackson, relapsing and when (or if) we'll ever see another Creed album.

In your new song “Crash,” you detail a second near-death experience besides the more publicized incident in Miami. What happened?

That song comes from a lesson learned from a moment in my journey where it almost ended again. I had gotten off a Creed tour in 2002 because I didn’t want to let everybody down. I decided, “Sure, whatever [drugs] the rock docs want to give me to keep the machine going, shoot me up, coach.” I didn’t want to be the guy who let 100 people down, but I didn’t understand the consequences of the medications I was letting them put inside my body and what those steroidal anti-inflammatories can do to your psyche. I got to a place, after going through hardcore withdrawal for 45 straight days, where the thought of ending my life became a harsh reality. My heart was like, “Man, I don’t want to let the band down. I want to be the hero.”

But my body failed me onstage in Chicago. No one knew the reality of what was going on behind the scenes. To the public, I just looked like another arrogant, drunk rock star who’s acting like an idiot. They don’t know that I said, “Do whatever you have to do to me to keep me performing.” And I crashed. I’m not typically a suicidal person, but I was in the throes of chemical withdrawal and the psychosis brought on by steroidal anti-inflammatories and benzodiazepines they were giving me to sleep and wake up. It was like an Elvis situation.

“I’ve definitely felt some parallels with [Michael Jackson's] story and mine, except thank God I found a way out”

It sounds similar to what happened to Michael Jackson.

That’s a fair analogy. I’ve definitely felt some parallels with his story and mine, except thank God I found a way out.

Did you follow Conrad Murray’s trial?

I didn’t follow it every day, but it’s ironic. The day that Michael died was the day that we were set to do press conferences to announce that Creed was getting back together and they all got canceled. When Creed got back together in 2009 and released Full Circle, the album that kept us from debuting at No. 1 was This Is It. Me being a person of faith, I really felt that God was communicating to me like, “If you don’t change the way you’re going, this is what’s going to happen to you.”

Murray was just released from prison after two years. Are there any doctors you’ve dealt with that should be in jail?

Most definitely. There are two that should be, but that’s been the rock and roll business for a long time. And unfortunately, it’s doctors like that who have perpetuated addictions and we’ve lost a lot of stars because of that. I can’t blame them for everything after the fact, but I definitely can blame them for some things that would’ve never gotten me to that point.

Do you consider Proof of Life to be the musical accompaniment to Sinner’s Creed?

I think it definitely should be. It’s my journey to recovery and I needed to write Sinner’s Creed in order for this album to be born. Sinner’s Creed helped me lay everything out there so I can process and reflect on my life. I could then get inspiration and articulate what I was feeling and come to that place of clarity. The book was like carrying around a bag of rocks your whole life and then finally putting it all out there. Proof of Life is the final chapter. 

I didn’t know how to deal with my depression because I didn’t even know that’s what I was facing. Trying to self-medicate just produced a litany of other problems and sharing this record and [“Slow Suicide”] video is all part of my journey and recovery. I think it’s important for me to say, “Hey, here’s where I’ve been and this is where I am now. You can get there too.” This is the first 40 years of my life summed up in this one record.

Reading about your injuries in Miami, it sounds like you were as close to death as you could get.

Well, I should be dead by now. There’s no explanation unless you want to get into the one-in-a-billionth-trillionth chance that I should be alive right now or you can say that it’s a miracle and I was spared by God, which I believe.

Why do you think you were spared?

I feel an obligation to share this story and to help others who are suffering. I can’t think of any other reason except to give back and walk others out of the darkness, man, so they don’t have to get to those lows that I got. When you find the light, all you want to do is stand up and scream, “Guys! Guys! I found the way. Let me help you!” And that’s what I feel my calling is for the rest of my life.  If I don’t do that, my chances of going backward increase, like, 90%. So part of it is to keep myself alive, but the other part is because I feel an obligation.

“I should be dead now. I can’t think of any other reason why my life was spared except to give back and walk others out of the darkness, man”

Do you worry that you may wake up one day and relapse?

I can comment on that two ways, bro. I’m at a place in my life where you look back at how you were in high school and think about what you know now about life. There are certain things that you would never, ever do again that you did in high school. You know that as an adult, it’s like, “My God, what was I thinking?” Part of me looks back at things that I have done like that. There are places I’ll never go again.

The other thing, though, is that I’m one drink away from going back. I try to just live my life 24 hours at a time. For today, I’m sober and I know I’ll be sober until tomorrow. Tomorrow, I got another 24 hours. If I try to get too far ahead, man, that puts me with one foot in the future and one foot in the past and that’s where my problems are. All I have to do to stay alive is stay in the now.

Given your history of substance abuse, is there any part of you that regrets going into the music business or joining Creed?

No, no. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. Everything has a purpose and all of that led up to me talking to you about Proof of Life. I’m proof that you can survive and I’m here to tell a story about it. It’s time to take that mess and make it a message.

I’ve read conflicting reports of a new Creed album. What’s the status of that now?

I was ready to make a record in 2012 and thank God that things didn’t work out the way they were planned because I never would’ve made this record and I needed to for myself as an artist and human being. But it’s always out there. There are some things that are standing in the way that… [pauses] You’d really have to ask [Creed guitarist Mark] Tremonti about that. I really don’t see anything new from Creed coming in the near future. There’s a lot of things that need to be resolved, but I can stand here with a clear conscious and say that my side of the street is clean. Mark has a lot of things that he has to deal with within himself and with his ego and life before there could ever be anything with Creed in the future. 

But you’d want to record again if the circumstances were right?

[Pauses] If the circumstances were right and some things changed on his end and it could be an organic, positive situation like it was when we started and it’s just about the love for music and creativity, it would be all good. I can’t function as a healthy human being around people who aren’t that way. When they get that way, I’m all for it.

Do you still keep in touch with T.I.?

[Laughs] I ran into him about six months ago and we had a great conversation just touching base with each other. Whenever we see each other, we just have a good time together.

Will we ever see you singing a hook on a T.I. song?

[Laughs] It doesn’t look like it anytime soon, but you never know.

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