Most singers would be a bit cowed by the prospect of taking the reins of a multiplatinum, Grammy Award-winning band that’s had not one but two iconic frontmen before.
Not Jeff Gutt.
“Not at all,” Gutt, the 42-year-old Marine City native who’s now part of Stone Temple Pilots, says by phone from Los Angeles. “I’ve waited long enough. I felt like if anyone was ready for this moment, and this particular spot it was me, because I have all those tools in my tool kits, so to speak. All I had to do was get in there and really go for it.
“That’s basically what I did, and here I am now. I’ve had a lot of failures, but it’s OK ’cause it’s all working out now. It’s a dream come true.”
Gutt comes to STP as the successor to original singer Scott Weiland, who died in 2015, and Chester Bennington, who committed suicide last July, after a long and notable career of being just on the bubble of breaking big.
The former Clinton Township resident was part of groups such as Dry Cell, Band With No Name and Rival City and established a solid solo career after finishing second on “X Factor USA” during 2014. That gave him an audience and Gutt was, in fact, touring internationally when STP launched an open audition for new singers, which netted 15,000 online submissions. The group auditioned 29 other aspirants before getting to Gutt — who was recommended by mutual friends — and though it was kept secret for months Gutt didn’t take long to win over his three new bandmates.
“The guy’s through and through a great singer, and he’s a good dude, which was definitely one of the boxes that had to be checked off,” guitarist Dean DeLeo says. “When we started getting shoulder to shoulder and started writing with him and preparing for a new record, he didn’t have the gig at the time but it was very evident he had a very good sensibility of what the song needed and what the song wanted, and that’s what really, really interested us.
“We kept throwing stuff at him; We were like, ‘Are you OK, man? Are you fried?’ ‘No!’ The guy wrote melodies too, like, seven songs in an afternoon, right on the spot riffin’ ’em out. It was impressive.”
For his part Gutt, the single father of a 10-year-old son, Talon, “walked in there like the gig was already mine — you can’t be cocky, but you have to be confident and you have to believe in yourself.” It helped that he was a longtime STP fan who knew Weiland’s work back and forth, and how he could make it his own.
“I was studying Scott when I was coming into singing myself, and I learned so much from (listening to) him,” says Gutt, who also dyed his hair blond when he joined STP. “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.”
Though some of the songs were already written for Stone Temple Pilots’ new self-titled album, which came out in March and launched four singles, Gutt made a significant contribution with both lyrics and melodies. The big test has been on the road, however, where he’s standing in the shoes of some formidable predecessors and trying to get fans to invest in a third incarnation of STP as he sings hits such as “Vaseline,” “Interstate Love Song,” “Plush” and more.
“It keeps getting better and better,” Gutt says. “Every night on the stage it gets more and more comfortable, and I think it really shows in the performances. I just try to stay true to the sentiment of the songs and keep them as authentic as I can. I grew up on most of these songs, so they’re ingrained in my soul. It’s not a stretch for me to go out there and do them.”
He also has the benefit of an audience that loves the material, despite the fits-and-starts pattern of STP’s career.
“I think people miss these songs and they miss this band,” Gutt says. “It’s been long enough that they’re just excited Stone Temple Pilots is onstage playing these songs again. That’s what I get from the crowd, the excitement of that simple act of these guys being up there playing the songs they wrote with Scott and with Chester.”
Gutt has written more songs with STP with an intention, if not firm plans, to record them in the future. Meanwhile he’s focused on establishing himself with the group on stage — and Gutt’s particularly looking forward to this week’s return to his hometown, which he predicts “will be the greatest moment of my life, besides becoming a dad.”
“That’s going to be very epic moment for me,” Gutt says. “Everyone that’s helped me, and some people who tried to keep me down, all those people are gonna be there. So it’s going to be a great moment, a celebration of a local boy done good.”
• If You Go: The Revolution 3 Tour with Stone Temple Pilots, The Cult, Bush and Julien-K kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 24, in Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill, 14900 Metropolitan Pkwy., Sterling Heights. Tickets start at $25. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.
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