“Our first record already did really well, and we didn’t think it could get any bigger than that, but Human Clay just took it to the stratosphere, man,” Stapp says of the band’s second album, which is receiving a 20th anniversary vinyl reissue on Craft Recordings next month. “If not for those first three Creed records, no one would probably know my name today.”
Stapp grew up in Orlando, worshiping Elvis Presley and watching his mom sing in the church choir; his father left when Stapp was around five years old, and his stepfather inspired him to become an athlete. After giving up on a baseball career at the private Christian school Lee University in Tennessee and heading back to Florida State University, Stapp became close with Tremonti, a fellow FSU student who he had known in high school. Stapp had been listening to Led Zeppelin and the Doors at the time, and with his athletic dreams dashed, he decided to give rock music a shot.
Because Creed’s success proved sudden, Stapp says now that he and his band mates went from sleeping on beat-up mattresses in dingy apartments to appearing in Rolling Stone and dominating MTV what felt like overnight. The frontman had just turned 24 by when My Own Prison was released, and as Creed’s upward trajectory progressed -- Human Clay was followed by 2001’s Weathered, which sold another 6.5 million copies, according to Nielsen Music, and launched two more top 10 hits on the Hot 100 -- Stapp remembers not having anyone to look to for guidance, or offering advice.
“The whole experience was flying by the seat of our pants,” he says. “It was just, take this young kid and put him out there… Being in that kind of situation, I thought we handled it extremely well looking back, you know what I mean? We knew what we wanted, we knew what our dreams were, we knew what our goal was, we knew what our passion was, we were a unit. We were brothers.”
But as the band continued releasing hit singles and playing arenas around the globe (Creed has grossed over $81 million over the course of its career, according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore), Stapp started recognizing a growing feeling of depression. Unfortunately, conversations around mental health in music -- especially with regards to a band that made hulking, high-testosterone rock music -- were embryonic at the time.
“I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and also, I didn’t want to let anybody down,” Stapp recalls. “So I just tried to keep it a secret, which is the biggest mistake anyone suffering from any type of mental health issue [could make]. It started with the depression for me, and then as a way to cope and try to feel better -- try to literally do my job -- I was self-medicating. Which then led to, you know, the addiction and the other issues.”
Stapp’s history of substance abuse has been well-documented, from the end of the Weathered tour, to the initial dissolution of Creed in 2004, the launch of his solo career, the short-lived Creed reunion and comeback album Full Circle at the end of the ‘00s, and Stapp’s dark, ill-fated 2013 solo effort, Proof of Life. The stories of erratic behavior, public meltdowns, rehab stints and relapses grew plentiful; they culminated in 2014, in a self-described “psychotic break” during which Stapp, in a haze of drugs and alcohol, became convinced that his family was involved in a terrorist plot.
Following a period of intensive therapy, Stapp and his wife Jackie, who married in 2006, began rebuilding their life together, and Stapp supplemented his sobriety with a diet and exercise regimen that he keeps to this day. Routine has become crucial; daily running, drinking plenty of water and eating unprocessed foods has helped Stapp maintain his focus and shed close to 40 pounds.