Interview: Scott Stapp
Mon, 16 Jun 2014 09:04:54
"I write everything on acoustic guitar," says Scott Stapp. "If something sounds good on acoustic guitar, I've found it's always going to translate well live."
That's part of the reason his songwriting remains so timeless on Proof of Life. Stapp's instantly recognizable voice soars over elegant guitars and bombastic rhythms. The songs themselves boast hits worthy of his early Creed output, while evincing a marked evolution lyrically and thematically. Simply put, this stands out as some of his best and boldest work to date.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Scott Stapp talks Proof of Life and so much more.
Did you approach Proof of Life with one vision or vibe in mind? There's cohesion to it.
Well, it was written in that manner. I had a vision for the record to tell a story and take the listener through this journey of self-discovery, reflection, maturity, and lessons learned from a tough period in my life. I wanted to take them with me and let them feel the emotion of that process. It makes me feel good that you asked that. It was my intention, and it doesn't always come out that way. I definitely appreciate that.
You're telling a story that's universal and personal.
Right, that was also something. I wanted to connect with people wherever they were at. We all have different journeys, and we all go through different things. There are some of us who go through similar things. No matter what level or where you are in life through certain things, it could be two different experiences, but inevitably the emotions and feelings within those two are the same. I definitely wanted to connect on that level.
Was the writing different given that vision?
Well, it actually started when I wrote my book Sinner's Creed a couple of years before. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the beginning of clarity and perspective for me to finally reflect on a period of my life and process it. That aided me and helped me in how the songs came about and how they were written. It was almost like a road map. I couldn't have written Proof of Life had I not written my book first. I approached this record from a lyrical standpoint of wanting to be clear and understood and not alluding to things or leaving too much open to interpretation. In actuality, within the stories, I was dealing with myself and going through a period of time where honest reflection about myself was absolutely necessary in order to grow. I think clarity, directness, and honesty where the only way to do that.
Storytelling has always been a part of your songwriting even back to My Own Prison.
In the past, that most definitely has been the case. I had an uncertainty in my life about things. I painted more visual imagery and pictures in lieu of getting straight to the point. I still got to the point—just in a different way. On this record, Howard Benson challenged me to take it a step further. He even said something that was a little abrasive to me at the time. He was like, "Stop hiding behind your imagery". I said, "What are you talking about? I've always been direct, candid, and honest". He goes, "I know you have, but I want you to do it differently this time". Initially, it was a challenge for me to step outside the normal framework of how I use words and how I share emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
What's the story behind "Dying to Live"?
The reason it's the last song on the record is it represents the conclusion of my journey, where I am today, and the level of understanding I had reached at the end of it. It just expressed that I had gone through a process of my life where I realized parts of me had to die in order for me to be able to live life and be healthy. That's the realization in my life. The same applies to me spiritually and emotionally. This whole thing of dying is actually a part of human existence on every level that we experience why we're alive. That's just part of being human. It's the cycle of being human. It was really taking the struggles, the suffering, and the pain as well some of the self-inflicted pain we cause ourselves and repurposing those things. You're gaining an understanding that through those experiences, if you maintain hope and keep perspective, this is all for a purpose. That brings you to life out of that negativity and what seemed like death.
How did "Slow Suicide" come about?
I was with a friend of mine named Scott Stevens, formerly of The Exies, a rock band out of L.A. We were jamming and sitting around with acoustic guitars. Nothing had been written for my record. I was thinking of how I wanted this album to start. I wanted to come right out at the top and address, for my perspective, honestly, what I had been doing to myself for a period of years. I wanted to open the door in the chorus to the realization that had brought me out of it. It was a way for me to confront the detractors with truth and honesty about myself and also tell my fans, "Hey, if you've ever had any questions, this is what's been going on!"
When did you come up with the title "Proof of Life"?
Well, I wrote that particular song with Tyler Connolly from Theory of a Deadman. We got together. We were sitting around. I came in, and I had an idea. I had the music already in my mind for that song. I was playing it on guitar. I looked up at the guys and said, "Do you have any ideas?" Tyler said, "I've got three words, Proof of Life". I instantly was like, "Oh yeah!" I ran to the microphone after we laid down a sketch of the music and began to freestyle with that thought process in mind. The song was born then. At the end of the album, when all of the songs were done, it was the perfect fit to summarize what this body of work meant. It was exactly what I was trying to do subconsciously but hadn't really quantified it yet. It's great how that came about.
What was inspiring you while making Proof of Life?
To be honest with you, the only thing I was reading was The Bible. I read it every day. Aside from that, I was in my own creative space. When I'm in that place, I don't listen to music except for what I'm creating and continuing to work on it to make it better. I can't really focus on, relax, and get involved in any other form of art or entertainment because I'm so immersed in the creative process. When I was younger, I used to intentionally do that because I didn't want to be subconsciously or subliminally influenced by anything. Then, I found it's more conducive to my process, and it keeps me in the stream I'm writing from. Aside from that, there's nothing else.
Are you writing more music?
Yeah, I have been. I've been writing lyrics as I'm inspired. I have some musical concepts and ideas. That's just a lifestyle thing for me. It's what I do. When inspiration hits, I write it down. I wouldn't say I'm in a writing phase for a record. It's just moods and thoughts. We'll see what they transpire to and end up being when I go to the place of writing another album.
Do the meanings of the Creed songs change or do they stay fixed in time?
You know, some of them, the meanings are the same. They still apply to my life today. I'm just at a deeper level with them. Then others have taken on a different meaning to where I am in my life now as opposed to when I wrote them. Again, it's a deeper impact. I still feel them. I still relate to them. They absolutely make complete sense in the musical and narrative flow of my show with my solo material. It's really a good balance.
What's your favorite Creed or Scott Stapp song?
Photo: Jeremy Cowart