As he prepares to hit the road again, Scott Stapp plans to turn his highly visible struggle with mental illness into music via a new single and awareness-raising campaign.
Stapp tells Billboard he’ll hit the studio during December to record “Up From the Ashes,” which will be released in January as part of an initiative with the National Alliance For Mental Illness “to really raise awareness and try to fight the stigma of mental health.” The song is part of Stapp’s recovery from a meltdown last fall, which saw him go AWOL from his family and post a series of alarming social media messages claiming to be broke, homeless and under government surveillance.
Entering treatment, Stapp was diagnosed as bipolar and manic depressive. Shortly after, he reconciled with his wife, Jaclyn, both of whom went on to appear in the current season of VH1’s Couples Therapy With Dr. Jenn.
“I’m excited about this campaign,” Stapp says, “and I’m excited that I’m afforded the opportunity to speak out about this epidemic we have in our country, to help fight stigma and hopefully connect with others who are suffering out there in silence, and families that are suffering in silence, not knowing what to do with a family member who’s in the throes of mental illness, and really point them in the right direction to where they can get help. Hopefully we can be a catalyst to help someone who’s suffering to feel like it’s OK to ask for help. I think it’s also part of my healing process to feel like this all has purpose and that I can pay it forward.”
Stapp says the “Up From the Ashes” song “comes out of this experience directly and sums up my experience of the last year in one song.” He calls it “a dramatic rock song. It’s got more of a slower tempo with a powerful rock chorus.” It’s also one of a number of songs he’s been writing for a follow-up to his second solo album, 2013’s Proof of Life.
“I’ve definitely written some pretty intense rock songs over the last year,” Stapp reports, “one in particular that embodies mania that I was able to draw from personal experience called ‘Dancing With the Devil.’ There’s a lot of rock left in this boy; It would take a lot to beat that out of me.”
Stapp plans to be rocking when he heads out on tour, starting with three dates in South Africa during December and then a 17-date North American tour that heads out Jan. 14 in St. Petersburg, Fla. This will be his first public run since his breakdown, and while Stapp is “horrified” by what happened, he’s also pleased to have finally been diagnosed.
“There’s most definitely a sense of relief, especially knowing that it can be treated and I don’t have to suffer anymore and that I actually have a plan of action in terms of how to maintain my health and not ever go back to those dark places that I’ve been battling with for 20 years,” says Stapp. The plan includes not only medication, but daily 12-step meetings, intensive physical workouts, meditation and prayer. “I’ve spent the last year really working on myself, reconnecting with my wife and my kids and just focusing our attention on healing and rejuvenation to get to a healthy place and move forward. It’s been a difficult year but also a very healing year. It’s like coming to the end of a really difficult 20 years, and it feels good. It feels like there’s light and a new chapter and a new beginning.”
Stapp is also hoping for a fresh start with his band Creed, which has been dormant since 2013. He participated in a golf tournament with drummer Scott Phillips, during which the idea of a reunion was discussed — and not ruled out.
“The consensus is we’ll address it once we’ve all finished with the projects we have scheduled over the next year and a half or two years,” Stapp says. Besides his solo plans, that includes commitments Phillips, guitarist Mark Tremonti and bassist Brian Marshall have — like a new Alter Bridge project in 2015 as well as Tremonti’s solo band.
“The Creed conversation will come up again in a couple of years and we’ll see how it goes. It’s kinda up in the air. Right now what me and Scott Phillips talked about and bounced around was possibly the end of 2017 as being the first little window of opportunity that might work for Creed, but nothing has been set in stone. Hopefully it’s something we can make happen, but we’ll have to see.”