Q&A: Creed's Quest For A Comeback
In April, Creed announced that all four of its original members -- Scott Stapp, Mark Tremonti, Scott Phillips and Brian Marshall -- are back together for a summer tour and a new album, entitled "Full Circle," to be released this fall.
On paper, the band looks ripe for a reunion: its 1997 debut, "My Own Prison," sold more than 6 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. 1999's"Human Clay" was certified diamond for sales in excess of 10 million copies, according to the RIAA, and Creed's last studio album, 2001's "Weathered," sold 6 million-plus.
But despite all this, ticket sales for Creed's new tour, which begins Aug. 6 in Pittsburgh, have ranged from "mixed" to "disaster," depending on whom one speaks to and, to be fair, depending on whether one is involved in the tour. Has the band been gone long enough to inspire real nostalgia?
Billboard sat down with frontman Scott Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti to talk about how it feels to be reunited, what the new album sounds like and why they're determined to give fans their money's worth on the road.
What was it like when the band started playing again for the first time?
Scott Stapp: We were all in my studio at home, and we didn't know what to do right off the bat. So I was like, "Let's just go back to the beginning." We played "My Own Prison" and it was like we hadn't missed a beat. In fact, we played it better than ever. After that a new song came out within 15-20 minutes called "Full Circle."
Creating music together is the easy part for this band. It's all the other things involved in the business of rock and roll that can pull us all away from what we love to do most, which is write music and play live.
How has Creed's songwriting process evolved?
Through reflection and maturity we've learned to listen more to each other, speak less. Back in the day it was defined as, "You play guitar and I do melodies and lyrics, and we talk about arrangements together." We had a "stay in your lane" mentality. It's good to be in a place where I can pick up a guitar and play something and Mark [Tremonti] genuinely is interested in hearing that. If he's got a melody idea, I'm all for it.
What is the band's dynamic like now?
When we started jamming together again, there were definite moments I was looking at Mark playing and his eyes were closed, and I was like, "Man!" I'm honored to be a part of this collaboration with someone whose playing is so real, you can hear it in his fingers. Flip [Scott Phillips] and Brian [Marshall], they bring something so unique and special to the songs that we write. Outside of playing drums, Flip plays guitar and saxophone, and he really is starting to get an ear and feel for arrangement -- which he may have always had, but never expressed. It's awesome to bounce stuff off of him now. And Brian's just a 100%, born-to-be bass player. I feel very, very fortunate and blessed to be able to be with these artists right now, making this record.
What does the new material sound like?
The music that's coming out is just straight from the heart and covers the whole gamut of human emotion and social relevance. At times it's very brooding and deep, but a glimmer of hope pokes its head out. And then there are the just straight-up, frustrated rock 'n' roll songs, the aggressive, heavier tunes. As a lot of artists mature and get older, I notice that they shy away from that. I don't know why. The more records we make, it seems, the more intense and heavy we get.
What are some of the highlights on the album?
"Full Circle" is the title track. It's got a big rock 'n' roll chorus: [sings] "It's funny how times can change, rearrange, distance makes the pain fade away." We have some more intense songs like "Bread Of Shame," with heavy guitar riffs. There's another song called "A Thousand Faces" where I sing, "Now I'm forced to look behind, forced to look at you, you wear a thousand faces, tell me, tell me which is you."
Take our album "Weathered" that's about polarity, so to speak -- going from bullets to lullabies. Look at that and imagine six years of life and experience and growth, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and artistically. Everything's a little bit more dramatic in every area, and we're pushing the boundaries. This band's not afraid to do anything.
What are your expectations for the new album and tour?
I really feel that everything's going to work out alright when we get this music out and let the fans know. We have a lot to prove to ourselves, to each other, and most importantly to them. After this tour and the record, I think it's just going to grow. I just gotta believe the best is yet to come. If we have the opportunity to go out and play our songs, there's a niche out there for us, and it's going to be a combination of the fans who liked us based on the last three records and also a whole new generation of fans. I don't want to let any of them down.
How long did it take to recapture Creed's synergy?
Mark Tremonti: It was fairly quick. Everybody is familiar with the roles they play in the band, so it was like putting on an old pair of shoes. Once we got past the personal side of things, not seeing each other for six years, it just kind of flowed like it always had.
Did you feel like there was some unfinished business?
When we parted ways it was a good time to let people step away from Creed for a bit, because we were just getting played so much -- it seems the world has a way of building artists up, and once you reach a certain level, they stop rooting for you. I'm glad that we went out without failures at the time. We left some meat on the bone so people would want more later on. It's nice to step back and start fresh again.
The recording of this album seems fast-tracked, especially considering that you were prepping a tour at the same time.
We wrote it in five or six weeks, but truth be told, some of these ideas have been worked on for years. So it's not like all of this stuff is coming out of thin air. I know the third record "Weathered" was written quickly, and it was about the same time frame as this record. The first record, you have your whole life to write. The second record was a big whirlwind -- I think we wrote that on tour whenever we could, sound checks, whatever. The bulk of the work is preparing beforehand.
Did you have any objectives in mind for the album as you started to put it together?
The only direction we've ever tried to steer ourselves in artistically is to try and create well-balanced records and have our fair share of hard rock songs mixed with longer, more drawn-out songs -- to try to give something for everybody. We're just going to do what we do best and focus on what we enjoy.
You could have gone out and done a big tour without a record. Why decide to record new material?
We got together planning on just doing a tour, then after a few meetings we just decided, "If we're going to do this, let's do it right. Let's go 100% and do what we've always done, support a tour with an album and single and give it all we've got.
So much has changed since Creed last put out an album. Are your expectations different now?
I wouldn't be upset if our record sales don't even come to half of what they were in the day, because the sales aren't there in the business, period. I'll just be happy if we're satisfied with how the record comes out and people come see the shows. That's the biggest change in the business. Nowadays, with the economy and everything else, we have to make sure we're giving everybody every penny's worth.
Do you feel a certain responsibility, given that a lot of Creed songs are the soundtrack to people's lives?
It was one of those things where we were just four college kids getting into a band and having a good time, and it was kind of added bonus that it meant a lot to people. A lot of folks would tell us they were on the verge of some bad things and that our songs turned their lives around. No matter how long you're in this business, when somebody tells you your music has impacted their lives on that level it just blows you away every time.
Is this a long-term reunion for the band?
Right now we've got plans to put this record out and do this tour. Hopefully if the first single goes well, it'll be followed up by another single and we can go support that one. At the same time we'll be putting out an Alter Bridge record the first half of next year and touring on that next summer. We're going to be busy.
We want Creed to have a co-existence with our other projects. It won't be five tours a year like it was in the early days, but we can absolutely put a record out whenever we want to get in the studio. As you can see on this record, it only takes a couple of months for us to piece it together.
What would you want Creed fans to know?
A lot of people have asked if we're throwing this together to just get in and get out. We take what we do seriously. We're not going to put out a record that's not up to par with what we've done in the past, and the same goes for the tour. We're going to give the fans the best we've got.