A phone call was all it took to bring Creed back together after a bitter four-and-a-half year schism.
Late last year, singer Scott Stapp rang up guitarist Mark Tremonti after hearing rumors about a Creed reunion that was news to both musicians.
“I think Mark and I just got to the point where we were tired of people talking for us,” explains Stapp, 35. “Not communicating was part of the reason we were in this (break-up) situation.”
So, while he was in Orlando, Fla., to sing the national anthem at the Champs Sports Bowl college football game at the end of December, Stapp got together with Tremonti to chat. “It was really positive,” Stapp recalls. “We just caught up with our families and talked and just hung out like we used to.
“We had sent Christmas cards and had a small level of communication, but we were both actively working on things and building families as well as growing as artists and other things — spiritually, mentally, as men. The time was right.”
Creed is making up for lost time these days. The group — which also includes drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall — is in the midst of its first tour in six years. The hard rocking quartet also will release “Full Circle,” its first album of new material since 2001, on Oct. 27. The first single, “Overcome,” is due for digital release on Tuesday.
“We’re really excited to present where we are today and just be able to stand up and feel that we’re relevant now as a band,” Stapp says. “We’re getting a second chance to make a first impression, and we’re excited about it.”
Creed’s first impression wasn’t bad, mind you. Formed by Stapp and high school friend Tremonti in 1994, the band sold 35 million records worldwide and was the first group to score seven consecutive No. 1 rock radio singles.
One of those, “With Arms Wide Open,” won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 2001.
Success, however, “did things to us,” according to Stapp, who was born Anthony Scott Flippen in Florida and raised in a strict Pentecostal household where his father, a minister and dentist, banned rock ‘n’ roll. Though Stapp left home when he was 17, spirituality remained at his core, and the searching nature of his lyrics led many to label Creed a Christian band — much to the dismay of Stapp’s bandmates.
“I think I was screwing up their plans for sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” Stapp recalls. “They did not understand why this was happening in their rock ‘n’ roll career. It was a constant thread of resentment that ran through the band until we broke up.”
There were other issues as well. Marshall was booted in late 2000. Stapp struggled with substance addictions, and by the 2001 release of Creed’s last album, “Weathered,” a combination of throat nodules, pneumonia and anxiety attacks rendered him increasingly erratic. During the tour’s final show in 2002, in Chicago, Stapp was so intoxicated by a mix of alcohol and the painkiller OxyContin that he slurred some lyrics, forgot others, sang while laying on his back and left the stage prematurely.
Creed wound up disbanding acrimoniously at the beginning of 2004 after the group started making a fourth album. “Personal differences outweighed our progress in the band,” says the Detroit-born Tremonti, 35, who plans to continue Alter Bridge, the group he formed with Phillips and Marshall following Creed’s split. “I don’t want to point any fingers. People just had different views.”
Stapp adds that, “when you are successful, the (number of) people around you starts growing, and sometimes there’s a communication breakdown.” In hindsight, however, he thinks it was a mistake for Creed to formally announce a split rather than simply spending some time apart.
“We needed a break,” he explains. “We had some tough times and things were breaking down physically and in other areas. It wasn’t so much ‘I don’t want to hang out with you anymore’ or ‘I don’t like you anymore.’ But sometimes you’re so close to what’s going on you can’t really see it. That’s what happened to us.”
While his bandmates focused on Alter Bridge, Stapp launched a solo career that included a song on “The Passion of the Christ” soundtrack and an album, “The Great Divide,” in 2005. But the period was also marked by marital discord and a number of other controversies, including a 2005 bar brawl with members of the band 311, a drunken appearance on Spike TV, a public drunkenness arrest in Los Angeles the day after his 2006 wedding to his second wife, former Miss New York Jaclyn Nesheiwat, and the release of a 1999 video tape showing Stapp and Kid Rock engaging in sexual acts with four women on a tour bus.
He now calls those “bonehead mistakes ... I wish I could have back” and adds that “I never claimed to be anything but a normal guy who makes mistakes like everybody else.” Stapp was, however, in a crisis that he had to resolve before his life, creative and otherwise, could move forward.
“I think what drove me crazy was I had not found any resolution in my life, spiritually,” notes the singer, who says that family, including a child from each of his two marriages, helped him finally achieve a level of peace that was eluding him. “It’s a different day for me now because that inner struggle ... is over. There’s no more of that. I’m not so conflicted spiritually and as a human being.”
He did, however, shave off his trademark long hair as a gesture of apology and reconciliation both to his family and to anyone he might have alienated with is behavior during the decade.
“I just felt like a burden was off me,” Stapp explains. “When I’m with someone from the past or the present now, even though they might have some preconceived ideas, they’re no longer seeing the person they pictured in their mind prior to seeing me again. It’s given me a chance to say ‘sorry’ and right any wrongs that I did during that time and have a fresh start.”
Though Creed could have simply set out on what was likely to be a lucrative tour, the group immediately decided to work on fresh music. “Full Circle’s” title track, in fact, came up during Creed’s first session playing together at Stapp’s home in Boca Raton, Fla., while other songs such as “A Thousand Faces,” “Slow Suicide” and “Don’t Give Up” were written during subsequent sessions.
Stapp says “there’s a lot of reflection” in the new songs, much of which focuses on the “resolution” between the band members. But he also says it’s not necessarily as serious as that may sound.
“It’s not a hopeless, complaining record,” Stapp says. “It’s telling stories, but it’s also rocking out, man. We’re rocking harder now with some of the songs than we ever have. It’s from a different place and a different type of reflection and a different level of maturity, but we’re a rock band, so there’s still that brashness.
“We’re all better performers and entertainers now, and real confident in the songs. There’s a confidence and a swagger that I think we only feel collectively. Our music is fresh and still very connected to who we are and the sound we have, but it’s also taken a natural evolution.
“And we’re all humbled by ... just the fact that people are still interested in us again and feel really honored and blessed to have that in our lives.”
Creed, Like a Storm and The Effort perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 25) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $29.50 and $49.50 pavilion, $20 lawn with a $64 lawn four-pack. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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