In Creed's almost ten years together—including a few where they were one of the hottest rock bands on the planet—nobody ever asked lead singer Scott Stapp if he was a Christian. Many asked if Creed was a Christian band, and their reply was always no—even though some of their lyrics included a message of faith. But no one ever directly asked Stapp about his beliefs. Well, we asked him the other day, and Stapp says he's glad no one asked him about it until now. Read on to find out why.
In this exclusive interview with Christian Music Today, Stapp discusses his faith journey, Creed's recent breakup, and his solo career, which officially kicks off with the August 31 release of The Passion of the Christ: Songs, a new album featuring multiple artists—including Stapp, P.O.D., Third Day, Lauryn Hill, Kirk Franklin, MxPx and others—who were inspired by Mel Gibson's landmark film. Stapp's contribution to the project, a song called "Relearn Love," is the first single off the album, hitting radio airwaves this week.
First things first: Why did Creed break up?
Scott Stapp Mark [Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti] and I had been working together for the last ten years. There comes a point with any collaboration like that where you start having other interests creatively. I was moving in one direction musically, and as a guitar player, Mark wanted to move in another direction. That was essentially the reason we broke up. Those feelings actually started happening right after Human Clay (1999), and we went ahead and made Weathered (2001) together. [Tremonti and Creed drummer Scott Phillips went on to form a new band, Alter Bridge, whose debut album releases on Wind-Up Records on August 10.]
Sounds like it was a friendly break-up.
Stapp When something like that happens, people want to try to find some dirt and make it more of a soap opera. But I think we both walked away with the door still open, if we want to do something together again. So yeah, I would call it a friendly break-up.
How did you get involved in the Passion songs project?
Stapp They flew me out to a private screening of the film last summer, and to meet Mel Gibson, to kind of get a vibe on what was going on.
So, the film moved you to the point where you felt like you had to write a song?
Stapp Actually, there was already a song percolating inside of me, so to speak, concerning a renewal in my heart. Interestingly, my personal life and my spiritual walk were kind of coming full circle around the same time I was asked to be involved in the project. I had been shedding all the callousness and the weathered state that I had been in, personally and spiritually, even prior to seeing the film. Seeing the film just kind of closed the door and allowed that song to be born.
What had triggered those spiritual changes in your life?
Stapp A lot of personal things. I was hurt and beaten down. Five years ago, I had a divorce that I didn't really want. I was so busy with Creed that I don't think I ever really dealt with that emotionally. She [his ex-wife] elected not to be involved in my son's life, leaving me as a single father, and I was really worried about my little boy [Jagger, who turns 6 in October]. And there were other things that came along in the trappings of fame, things that hurt some of my relationships. So when I finally had time to reflect on everything, I was broken down to the point where I had no other way but to look up. I couldn't handle it all. I was asking a lot of questions—of myself, of God—looking for answers.
My dad always said I was hard-headed, that it would take something like that to wake me up spiritually, and I guess it did. My heart had gotten so beat up that I didn't have anything left to give. I was emotionally and spiritually dried up, so I was just searching for God. I reached out to my pastor and my father for some guidance. I was really soul searching and, I guess, on my path to coming home spiritually. And once that process began—and I'm still going through that process, and probably will for the rest of my life—that's when things started changing in my life. I started making some proper decisions, getting things in order. It's kind of like cleaning up your house. I was looking for direction for what God wanted me to do—and that's when I got a call about The Passion.
Prior to this recent renewal, how would you have described your faith?
Stapp I'd have called myself a struggling Christian who was trying to find holes in everything he had been raised to believe. I was a doubting Thomas. I was raised in a climate where I believed in God because I was afraid of going to hell—and I didn't think that was the right way to fall in love with somebody. I always believed in God and Christ, but I was in rebellion—trying to make my relationship with God fit into my life instead of making my life fit in with him. I was stubborn.
It just took all of that to come to a screeching halt, to get to the point of having nothing, for me to finally realize, Hey, what are you fighting with this for? Until then, I hadn't claimed my faith as my own; I had just grown up with it. But I finally got to that point after years and years of running from God. Christ stepped in when I asked him.
When you first saw The Passion of the Christ, how did it affect you?
Stapp At first, I was saddened and disheartened. I couldn't believe this is what Christ had to go through. I knew the story, but I was seeing it through different eyes. It was not just a Bible story that I had heard since I was four years old. It made sense to my life as a man, and as a father and as a friend and as a son. I was shocked that someone loved me so much that they would do this for me. I also got angry at various times during the film.
Angry at what?
Stapp At how Christ was being treated. But then that would turn into a humility about understanding the sacrifice. I had a whole gamut of emotions—love, peace, anger, humility, sadness. I left the film exhausted; I was drained. But also, I was happy, because it helped me get a visual picture of what I finally understood.
Did you meet Mel Gibson?
Stapp Yes. He was excited that I was interested in the songs project. He said, "I don't know much about music, but my kids love your band." I had a little demo of "Relearn Love" and I played it for him, and he said, "Listen, man, I'll leave that stuff up to you." He was like, "This is your experience, and I want you to express it however you want."
So you were writing "Relearn Love" even before you saw The Passion.
Stapp Yes, and The Passion came along and gave me focus. It was kind of God's final confirmation that I was moving in the right direction.
Can you give me a specific example of how that "relearned love" is manifesting itself in your life?
Stapp It's simple for me: It's giving without expecting anything in return. Prior to this, the way that I loved people around me, I always expected something—even if that was just expecting them to treat me like I treated them. But now I understand that real love is just giving without expecting anything. That's what love is to me, and that's what I feel that Christ showed us.
On Creed's website, you had answered an FAQ in part by writing, "Who are we to say that being a Christian is the only way to heaven?"
Stapp Well, I can honestly tell you, I didn't write that.
But your name was on it.
Stapp [Turns to tell his manager sitting nearby to call his record label and "tell them there's something on the Creed website that I didn't write … again." Then he addresses Christian Music Today again.] I didn't write that. I would never answer a question that way. That sounds like something the owner of my record company [Wind-Up Records] would say.
[Stapp, clearly perturbed at this revelation, says something else to his manager, then addresses us again.] I would never say that, dude, because that's not what I believe. We'll be sure to make a note of that. That stuff happens all the time, because my label, you know, they're about making money. They don't want to disenfranchise people. Creed wasn't a Christian band, but I would never insinuate or say anything that would make that kind of a statement. I'm glad you told me about that.
So, where do you stand in regards to that statement?
Stapp Oh, I'm a Christian. I was a Christian in Creed, but nobody ever asked me.
You've been really open in this interview. Is that because I'm with the Christian media? Or would you answer these questions similarly for the mainstream media?
Stapp The nature of my answers are a lot different now that I'm no longer with Creed. I'm a solo artist now, and I don't have a band to hide behind. So when someone asks me if I'm a Christian, I have to say yes, because I am. But do you know I was never asked in 10 years if I was a Christian personally? We were only asked if Creed was a Christian band.
Well, you never got interviewed by us!
Stapp (laughs): But I'm glad nobody asked, because my life wasn't right with God. The Christian community latched onto a lot of my music, because there were a lot of things about my struggle they related to. But I didn't really want to come out and be identified as a Christian, because I didn't want to be a hypocrite, because my life wasn't right. I didn't want to make any kind of public profession until I felt like my heart was right.
I've since learned that my life's never gonna be right, and I'm always going to be scrutinized and looked at under a microscope. And it took me, since I was 17 and left home, running from God, to now, as a 30-year-old man, when I honestly feel like I've come full circle and my heart's finally in the right place. I'm still going to make mistakes, but I don't have any problems with publicly professing my faith now. It just took me a long time to get to the right place in my relationship with Christ.
It's just crazy how things have come full circle for me as a solo artist. I kind of look at everything that happened with Creed as a preparation—me going through things to get my life ready for God's plan. It's been a journey and a learning experience.
So, are you now a "Christian artist," or an artist who happens to be a Christian?
Stapp I'm an artist who's a Christian, because I don't write music to be evangelical. Now, if that happens, it happens. My dad's a dentist, and he's a Christian. Now, does he put in Christian fillings? No, that's just part of his three-dimensional life. Now, there are people that are Christian artists, because they have a purpose to be evangelical for Christ. I don't feel I've been called to that yet. Now, that could change. There's no telling what kind of call God will put on my life.
Click here to learn more about Scott Stapp and his new song, "Relearn Love"—including audio clips, lyrics, and a behind-the-scene video on his thoughts about the song. Click here to learn more about The Passion of the Christ: Songs (Lost Keyword Records), including a listing of artists and song titles