At a time when far too much current rock music is steeped in anger and darkness, Creed frontman Scott Stapp thinks that it's time for a little light. "I don't see the merit in wallowing in misery," St

At a time when far too much current rock music is steeped in anger and darkness, Creed frontman Scott Stapp thinks that it's time for a little light. "I don't see the merit in wallowing in misery," Stapp says. "When I'm dealing with a heavy issue or something that stirs my anger, I don't want to stay there. I want to get out. I need to believe that there's eventual relief from the pain."

That philosophy has been the fuel driving the act since its 1997 Wind-Up debut, "My Own Prison," through its 1999 mega-smash "Human Clay" and the forthcoming "Weathered" (due worldwide Nov. 20). Although Stapp asserts that he and guitarist/songwriting partner Mark Tremonti do not create music with the intention of directly affecting the thoughts and emotions of their fans, it's becoming an increasingly welcome by-product.

"The words I write, I write for myself," Stapp says. "The idea of those words connecting with people who are also searching for light at the end of the tunnel is gratifying. This band has seen a whole lot of the country over the past few years, and it's been sad to feel the tension and anger among kids. If one of our songs can help break or relieve some of that tension, that's a staggering, truly humbling gift."

As the overall demeanor of the U.S. evolves in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Stapp says he sees one potentially positive result being a palpable shift in attitude among young adults.

"It's a little sad," he muses, "to think that something so huge and horrifying would have to happen in order to jolt people into reconsidering the way they view the world. But it's happening, and that's what counts. People -- kids, in particular -- want to have a good, positive future, and they're going to reach beyond the anger or whatever has been dogging them to get there."

Whether or not Stapp, Tremonti, and drummer Scott Phillips are comfortable with the concept, Creed contributes to that emotional shift by offering music that seems to be extending a proverbial hand of hope to its audience. "My Sacrifice," the single that previews "Weathered," firmly proves that point with a pervading tone that is, by turns, intimate and warmly empathetic to the innate, almost primal need for human connection. It effectively ups the ante of plaintive hits of "Human Clay" -- "With Arms Wide Open" and "Higher" -- as Stapp's simple-yet-well-drawn prose is complemented by a grinding, funk-spiked groove and appropriately heavy guitars that will likely draw fond comparisons with Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir."

"That song is driving people crazy," says James Lonten, manager of a Borders Books & Music in New York. "The second it hit radio, we started getting requests for it in our store. 'Weathered' is going to be the rock record to beat this quarter, without a doubt. The single has a recognizable sound, which is good, but it's also easily one of the band's strongest songs."

The beauty of this project is that it's not limited to mainstream audiences: Indie-rock fans are also showing interest. "Creed will never be mistaken for an underground favorite, but they have a heavy sound in a lot of their material that draws the interest of kids who like their rock music to be extra-aggressive," says Marlon Creaton, manager of Record Kitchen, an indie retail outlet in San Francisco. "This new album has a nice bit of word-of-mouth building because of the single. It has a pop feel, but it's not too light. The guitars are hot."

Radio is having an equally positive reaction to "My Sacrifice." Since its shipment to rock radio in early October, the track has become a runaway smash. It's Creed's ninth top-10 entry on the Billboard Airplay Monitor Active and Mainstream Rock Charts. It is the band's eighth top-10 hit on the Heritage Chart.

Such positive initial response to the single is encouraging to Stapp, who believes that Creed has hit its creative stride with "Weathered."

"Everything about this record is turned up a few extra notches," he says. "The uptempo songs rock harder than anything we've imagined doing, and the softer, chilled songs have more depth, more complexity. We went for broke on this album-no boundaries, no limits."

Part of what makes the record work is the fact that the band waited until after their nearly two-year tour supporting "Human Clay" before writing or recording new material -- a move that Stapp believes allowed the band to "breathe and think and evaluate the lives [we've] been leading. I'm proud of the fact that we've previously been able to write good music while traveling from one city to the next. There's a very specific, special energy going into the songs when you do that. But I honestly prefer to be able to concentrate on nothing more than the ideas at hand without outside distraction."

In crafting the tunes on "Weathered," Stapp and Tremonti often locked themselves in a room and "freestyled" ideas until something would gel. It is a style of writing that Stapp admits requires "immeasurable, unbreakable" collaborative trust. "And the thing is that Mark's like my brother. We have this unexplainable connection. I can be fearless and free in front of him in a way that I'm not able to be with almost anyone else in my life."

In fact, he notes with a smile, he and Tremonti have a code of priorities: "God, family, and Creed-nothing has or will ever come before that, and nothing will ever come between Mark and me. We're as tight as two people can be."

It is the result of their intense bond that Stapp believes he has the courage to dig as deep as he does in his lyrics. "If I was standing in the room with anyone else, there might be some inhibition. But I'm compelled to try to keep up with Mark when we come together to write songs, to give as much as he does from the heart."

One of the pair's more combustible collaborations on "Weathered" is "Who's Got My Back," a tune that saw Stapp tracing the Cherokee portion of his heritage. "Every time I heard the intro to the song, I envisioned a tribal Indian chant," Stapp says. "That sent me on a mission to get more information on my background and reconnect with that part of my history."

He eventually found a reservation-and Bo Taylor, a man fluent in ancient Cherokee chants. "It had to be ancient, not modern; there's a huge difference between the two," Stapp explains. "We brought Bo into the studio and played him the music. He caught the vibe immediately, stepped up to the mic, and belted out four or five different chants. The first chant he did is the one that we used on the song. It's so moving to me. It literally brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it."

The band's pride in the final outcome of "Weathered" has made the prospect of diving back into the industry's marketing machine seem less arduous than it might otherwise be. "We're actually anxious to get back out there and promote this record," the singer says. "This was originally going to be a March release, but none of us thought we could wait that long."

The linchpin to Wind-Up's marketing strategy is the Internet-rooted Creed Pager. Upon visiting the band's Web site (creed.com), one can download the pager, which offers a free, timed-out download of "My Sacrifice," as well as exclusive video footage of the band in the studio, up-to-date band news, and tour announcements. The pager will also have interactive elements that will allow fans to communicate with the band directly via online postings and E-mail.

"That's the best part of doing this: having a direct line to the fans," Stapp says. "Having the chance to hear their thoughts and address them in a personal way that's validating for everyone involved-especially the band."

In addition to the pager, the band will bolster interest in "Weathered" by making the standard round of TV, radio, and press appearances. Already locked in are spots at the Billboard Music Awards and VH1 Honors (both in early December). In addition, the band has been confirmed to appear Nov. 17 on "Saturday Night Live." Other high-profile performances are to be confirmed shortly.

The band is also expected to journey to Europe for a series of promotional appearances shortly after the release of the album. (Wind-Up is distributed in the U.S. by BMG, with Sony handling the label elsewhere in the world.)

The performances that come with such an extensive promotional tour will provide an opportunity for Creed to test-drive new material for a 2002 headlining concert tour that is expected to keep the band on the road for at least a year.

"Live performance is one of the many areas where Creed excels," Wind-Up president Steve Lerner says. "They take their songs to an incredible new level of intensity. This new album is going to sound amazing live."

Creed's reputation for passionate live shows has led to consistently sold-out events. During the past two years, the band has played to more than 2 million fans worldwide.

"We were out on tour for a long time, and wherever we went, there were people telling me how much certain songs meant to them and how they felt so close to them," Stapp says. "That means more to me than any other kind of attention. It's important to feel as if you're doing something worthwhile, and in this band, I feel like I am."

Stapp believes that being road animals has helped establish Creed as a band of substance. "You can't hide anything onstage. There are no filters, nothing to hide behind. It's just you, your songs, and the audience. Our mission is to take people on a full-range journey of emotions."

And right now, that journey is punctuated by a desire to lead their fans toward the bright conclusion, one that Stapp explains "is intended to leave you on the positive end of a catharsis. I'd never suggest denying the pain. Just understand that pain should not be an indefinite emotion. It should be momentary. You should come out on the other side, better or smarter for it in some way."

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