Stapp, of course, went through a well-chronicled breakdown during 2014 that led to him being diagnosed as bipolar. He wrote about his struggles with Creed and on his two solo albums, and his recovery fuels the lyrics he wrote for AOA's The Madness, which comes out March 24.
"The guys really just gave me the freedom to do what I feel I do best and what they felt I do best and really let me write the lyrics and say what I wanted to say," Stapp explains. "I really didn't have any preconceived ideas of what was going to come out of me, but obviously given what happened three years ago there was a lot to process in my life, and I'm in such a different place now than I was then and I really explored that lyrically on this record and really walked through multiple different phases of being in the midst of that experience, and then being on the other side of it." That other side is reflected in positive-spirited songs such as "Changed Man" and "The Light In Me."
Stapp could be considered a brave choice for the other AOA members -- former Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, Disturbed bassist John Moyer and brothers Jon (guitar) and Vince (drums) Votta. Weiland, after all, did not make it to that other side, succumbing to his addictions on Dec. 3, 2015 on a tour bus outside of Minneapolis. But the rest of AOA never hesitated as it was recruiting Stapp into the band.
"It was obvious he's on a good path, on the right path," Bumblefoot says. "He has a great support system. His dedication and focus and determination to stay healthy is fantastic. He's been clean and sober and good for over two years and is doing great. We have faith in him. We believe in his character and his strength, and in the people he surrounds himself with."
And though AOA is "letting Scott's songs rest" from the band's repertoire, Stapp is mindful of his predecessor and Weiland's fate. "Y'know, there were quite a few situations over the last two or three years that were just kind of 'A-ha!' moments where my path crossed with his and with a couple other human beings that are no longer with us," Stapp explains. "I really felt like that was God, man, just speaking with me and just putting right in front of my face. 'This is where you not only should be but where you could be if you don't change.' So it was very impactful for me, and I did experience a deeper-level connection and it made it indelible in my mind just how fortunate at I am to be on the other side."
Mostly, however, Stapp is happy to be in a band again and looking forward to hitting the road this spring in support of The Madness.
"It kind of came out of nowhere, to be honest with you. I wasn't actively looking for a band," says Stapp, who first met the rest of AOA in Florida, where he was living at the time, and then in the group's home base of New York. "It really felt like getting back to the beginnings of what a band is all about. Most of it was created in the basement of Jon Votta's house with us just jamming together, really organic. It's nice to be part of something like that again."
Stapp is also planning to make a third solo album, when time allows. Creed, meanwhile, remains on an open-ended hiatus, with the rest of the group focusing on their other band, Alter Bridge. But Stapp is confident the quartet will work together again at some point. "It's kind of common for artists and bands to have multiple things going on, so it definitely doesn't put anything on the back burner," he notes. "(AOA) is just another part of who I am and who I am with these guys, and there's room for all of them."