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Being in Stone Temple Pilots is "surreal" for new frontman Jeff Gutt
Jeff Gutt says being the new frontman for Stone Temple Pilots is “pretty surreal.” And has been for quite some time.
The former Clinton Township resident and “X Factor USA” finalist was revealed as the Grammy Award-winning group’s new singer on Tuesday night, Nov. 14, during a special private show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where his 9-year-old son, Talon, was cheering from the balcony. It was the culmination of a 13-month period during which the Marine City native first auditioned in Los Angeles and then was offered the position in May.
Now he’s the voice of a new single, “Meadow,” and will be part of STP’s sixth album — and first in eight years — due in spring, with a tour to follow.
“I’ve had some time to get used to the idea,” Gutt, 41, said by phone from Los Angeles during his first interview since the announcement. “I was just sitting on the sidelines watching it all unfurl and knowing what was going to happen before anyone else did. I knew I had a secret I was about to reveal, which was cool.
“It’s a very strange feeling, but at the same time I’m blessed and very honored. It’s like joining the Led Zeppelin of my generation. I feel like I’m living in a movie.”
Gutt is aware he’s filling some big shoes — both of original STP singer Scott Weiland, who died in 2015, and of Chester Bennington, who was with the band from 2013-15 and died in July. As a fan Gutt said he “studied” Weiland in particular, and he feels ready to both honor his predecessors’ legacy and bring something new to the band.
“I don’t really feel that pressure,” Gutt says. “I was studying Scott when I was coming into singing myself, and I learned so much from (listening to) him. It was fun to incorporate all those things in my own way and still sing true to Scott’s stuff and really keep that as true as I could.”
Gutt fronted the bands Dry Cell, Acrylic, Punch and Band With No Name before gaining the world’s attention on “X Factor” in 2013, where he finished in second place. After that, he became a headline act on his own and also formed a band called Rival City Heights.
Gutt was touring internationally when STP began soliciting new singers. The group received 15,000 on-line submissions and auditioned 29 other hopefuls. Gutt came to the band’s attention through friends, one of whom promoted him to STP’s management, and another introduced his music to bassist Robert DeLeo during the all-star Hollywood Vampires tour stop at the DTE Energy Music Theatre last summer. STP brought Gutt to Los Angeles in time for the last day of the auditions.
“I walked in there like the gig was already mine,” Gutt recalls. “You can’t be cocky, but you have to be confident and you have to believe in yourself.” And STP was impressed.
“He can sing. He’s a singer,” Robert DeLeo said in an interview earlier this year. “There are many singers that come in that can sing, too. That’s not only what we’re looking for. There’s a lot of things to look at to really, really choose someone to move forward with.” His brother, guitarist Dean DeLeo, added in a statement that, “We wanted someone who would not only do our earlier songs justice, but would also write new songs and carve out a different path forward with us. It took some time, but we found our guy.”
Gutt is happy about being embraced as a writing partner in STP. He wrote to six instrumental tracks on his first day, including “Meadow,” and he said the partnership has grown more comfortable during the past 13 months.
“It’s like they wrote through me and I wrote through them,” Gutt noted. “It was a really great process.”
With the word out, the newly blond Gutt — “I’m a very young guy with very white hair. It’s easier for me to keep it blond,” he said with a laugh — is biding his time as the STP engine revs up under him. He’s moved to Los Angeles full-time and plans to work with a personal trainer to prepare for next year’s touring. And he’s ready to show the world he’s worthy of this opportunity.
“I’ve studied my craft for a long time,” Gutt said. “If anyone’s going to be ready to do it and if anyone’s been trained for this throughout their life, it’s me. I’ve had a lot of failures, but it’s OK ’cause it’s all working out now.”
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