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Scott Stapp closes the book on Creed

Rocker feels much more free now that he’s a solo artist
/ Source: The Associated Press

Maybe Scott Stapp should have been solo from the start.

With his former band, Creed, Stapp felt like he was doing most of the work. He was the brooding frontman. He wrote practically all the songs and did all the talking. He shouldered the burden of juggling egos, making everyone in the band feel included.

So after Creed’s tumultuous breakup — and some serious self-reflection — Stapp is more than comfortable calling the undisputed shots on his new solo record, “The Great Divide.”

“Creed’s sound is my sound,” Stapp says, lounging on a sofa backstage before an appearance on “The Tonight Show.” “I think my record is going to speak for itself to the Creed fans. I think it’s going to be like when Sting left The Police.”

Only this time around, Stapp won’t let media pressures get to him. He won’t allow speculation about whether he’s a Christian artist (he’s not). And he won’t repeat the mistakes he made with Creed.

Creative differences, ego destroyed CreedStapp spent the better part of the past decade collaborating with his college pal, guitarist Mark Tremonti. Together they wrote a string of hits that helped Creed sell more than 30 million copies of their three albums.

Their union was “explosive,” says Alan Meltzer of Wind-Up Records, which signed the band in 1996. “It’s the yin and yang of rock and roll.”

But in 2002, arguments began to erupt over musical contributions and publishing credits. Creative differences followed.

“Jealousy started setting in,” Stapp says, “and egos.”

Band members wanted more say in the songs, but Stapp didn’t want to budge.

He started exhibiting strange behavior, holing himself up in the tour bus, emerging just in time to take the stage. At one Chicago show, Stapp was apparently so out of sorts, fans sued the band for their sub-par performance.

“I just felt hated so I wanted to go away,” he says.

After a year-long hiatus and failed attempts to write a fourth record, Creed called it quits for good in 2004.

Tremonti formed a new band — Alter Bridge — with Creed drummer Scott Phillips and former bassist Brian Marshall. They released their debut album, “One Day Remains,” on Wind-Up in August 2004. It sold about 500,000 copies.

‘A painful success’Meanwhile, Stapp laid low and spent time with his son. He tried to figure out where he was headed and where Creed went wrong.

“As much as we were successful, it was a painful success, at least for me,” Stapp says.

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Part of the problem, he realized, was his giving nature. Stapp would do whatever it took to keep his bandmates happy.

“When I would be really sick and we had shows to do, I would do anything, let them inject me with whatever, just to take one for the team,” he says.

He’s learned to set boundaries.

Stapp says he felt undeserving of his success. He was so deeply affected by criticism and rumors, he’d isolate himself.

He’s learned not to take things so seriously.

He had come to a great divide in his life, he says, and it was time to make some major changes. “I guess it’s maturity,” says the 32-year-old.

Stapp’s first priority was rededicating himself to his son, Jagger, now 7. His second was getting back to making music.

Closing the book on CreedThe new album “basically sums up the last four years of my life,” Stapp says. “It was cathartic for me to write this.”

While he won’t address the exact meanings of his songs, Stapp seems to take responsibility for his shortcomings with Creed on the album’s opening track, “Reach Out.”

“No victims, the choices were all mine,” he sings. “There’s no excuse for weakness, selfishness or compromise.”

He means it too. Stapp didn’t have to compromise at all with his new band. He made that clear from the start.

“They knew it was my project and they knew we were going to use the songs that I wrote,” he says. “They understood their boundaries and knew what not to touch, which is basically lyrics, vocal melodies and arrangements.”

A Creed reunion is all but out of the question. (“Never say never,” Meltzer says.)

Stapp says he wants to close the book on the Creed years, but insists he harbors no resentments or regrets about his time with the band.

“It was 99 percent amazing and I’m getting a second chance to do it all over again,” Stapp says. “I just hope it grows into where it was before because I want my son to see it. I want him to have a positive memory of it going forward, so he can be proud of his daddy.”