For a few years at the turn of the century, it looked like Scott Stapp, frontman for rock band Creed, was having a wonderful life. The Grammy Award-winning band sold many millions of records, powered by such singles as “With Arms Wide Open,” “Higher” and “My Sacrifice,” and it packed concert halls.
Stapp, however, was in a downward spiral that alienated him from his band and his family. His life became more tabloid than hit parade. A combination of psychological illness and substance abuse led to weird, even scary moments, many of which have been immortalized on the internet.
Five years sober and with medications to help control depression and anxiety, Stapp has finished what he said is his best-ever solo effort, an album called “The Space Between the Shadows.” It’s due Friday, two days after Stapp and his band headline at Rocky Mount’s Harvester Performance Center. In a phone call last month, Stapp discussed the ups and downs of the recent years, and the new album that served as a catharsis of sorts for him — a record that he believes will connect with Creed fans.
“Depression and other mental health issues don’t discriminate,” Stapp said.
“And no matter how successful you are and no matter how great things are going in your life, like any illness, you can’t pick and choose what you’re gonna get. It definitely hit me at a time when, from the outside, you would think, man, what does this guy have to be depressed about? All my dreams were coming true. Everything I could have ever wanted to happen in my career as a musician and artist was happening. I was on top of the world, so to speak, in my genre. And, you know, depression hit.
“I was very ignorant and naive as to what was going on with me. I just knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t know why I felt the way that I felt.”
He took to self-medication, which created what he called a “toxic and combustible” situation.
The organization MusiCares, an arm of Grammy Award organizers and presenters The Recording Academy, reached out to Stapp’s wife, Jaclyn. They teamed with her to get Stapp the help he needed.
“I was in the middle of a bad relapse and had triggered my underlying health issues and was just off the rails,” he said.
“Between MusiCares and my wife, thank God, who’s has been my rock through all of this, they connected with me and I agreed to finally get the help that I needed, and I was finally at the point of total surrender, where I was just, hey, whatever you guys tell me to do, I’ll do it.
“Your bottom is when you decide to stop digging. And I finally stopped digging.”
He was originally diagnosed as bipolar, but a couple of years after that diagnosis, doctors determined that he was triggering bipolar behavior due to the amount of drugs and alcohol he consumed.
“Fortunately, my regimen is not like someone who is full-on dealing with an untriggered bipolar situation,” he said.
“So, yes, I take something for depression, and it’s worked well with me. But also, the biggest healer for me is sobriety.”
Stapp, 45, experienced his misadventures as a rock star in the public eye, but he said that aside from the media attention, he is no different from the millions of people going through similar tribulations.
“I’m just grateful today that I made it to the other side and got the help that I needed and am well and healthy and living my best life and five years sober and my depression is in remission,” he said.
“For today, I’m doing great, and excited about the next phase and chapter in my life, and getting it back to the music, and what people first knew me for.”
One of the new songs, “Gone Too Soon,” was inspired by the deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, both lead singers who hanged themselves. As Stapp was ruminating on those performers — another couple of stars whose lives might have appeared ideal to the public — a rash of other issues wedged into his mind. School shootings, the opioid epidemic and the rising suicide rate for war veterans hit him all on the same day, he said.
“For some reason, I was laser-focused,” Stapp remembered. “Then I went into the studio, and that song was born.”
It’s part of a project that covers a wide range of human emotion, Stapp said. He said he’ll play five songs from the new record, and plenty from the Creed catalog.
“This album is full of songs that are very cathartic, as well as very introspective, as well as very open of just sharing the depths of my core, exploring and becoming more self-aware. Then there are songs that are very much open to social commentary. Then there are songs that dive into the spiritual, and seeking that connection.”
Sonically, “The Space Between the Shadows” is a return to his musical roots, in particular the music he did when Creed was ruling the rock chart.
“I feel like I’ve really connected with my roots, but presented in a 2019 fashion,” he said. “It really has that symmetry to the vibes and the sounds that Creed fans know from me and expect from me.”
He was trying to avoid that sound on his two previous solo efforts, 2005’s “The Great Divide” and “Proof of Life,” from 2013.
“I ventured from what the core of me is, as an artist,” he said. “And most of it was intentional, but there were other factors at play there, as well, during those times.
“So this record is really a coming home, sonically, vocally and lyrically.”
On the track “Wakeup Call,” the children’s voices singing with Stapp are two of his own, 12-year-old daughter Milan and 9-year-old son Daniel.
“It was kind of a full-circle moment in terms of writing with ‘With Arms Wide Open,’ when I was inspired by finding out I was gonna be a father for the first time, and then all these years later have two of my children sing on a song on my record,” he said.
“So that song’s very special to me, as well.”