Creed has been called one of the most influential rock bands of the past decade. But that decade is over: The band, formed in 1995, announced their breakup in June 2004. In his first solo effort, soulful frontman Scott Stapp penned "Relearn Love," the lead single on the CD The Passion of the Christ: Original Songs Inspired by the Film.
"Relearn Love," about a Christian prodigal, is in many ways a song of closure for Mr. Stapp. Raised in a devout Pentecostal home where rock music was banned, Mr. Stapp chafed under both his father's rules and a rigid religious upbringing. He left home as a teenager, crashing wherever anyone would let him, and worked out his spiritual struggles in song lyrics that would eventually form the basis for My Own Prison, Creed's first CD.
Originally recorded for less than $6,000, the CD, released in 1997, became the first debut album in history to yield four No. 1 rock hits. Then in 1999 came Human Clay, featuring the No. 1 hit "Arms Wide Open," a song on which Mr. Stapp sings to his unborn son, Jagger. The song turbo-charged the band's rapid rise, also raking in American Music and Billboard awards, and catapulting Creed to global fame.
But while the band built a passionate fan base, the music press-and other rock bands-ridiculed Creed from day one, knocking the band as a "Pearl Jam rip-off." The worst cut, from the band's perspective, was that Creed was really a "stealth" Christian band, and Mr. Stapp a closet evangelist slipping Jesus into his lyrics like some kind of spiritual mickey.
For example, in the title cut from My Own Prison, Mr. Stapp writes about "a vision of a cross," "A light to free me from my burden/And grant me life eternally."
Human Clay features the song "Faceless Man," with the lyrics: "His yoke is easy and His burden is light. . . . Next time I see this face I'll say I choose to live for always. So won't you come inside/And never go away."
In a telephone interview, Mr. Stapp talked about his spiritual struggle and where he's headed next.
On taking heat as a "stealth" Christian band:
Stapp: The criticism over the lyrics was really a blessing in disguise, especially for the other guys, who had no idea why those questions were being posed. I had run from my faith when I left home and ran right into rock 'n' roll, which was the worst thing my dad could have ever expected me to do.
But when you're called to write, you just write what you feel. At the time I was writing those songs, I didn't think about or question why the lyrics had religious or spiritual connotations. I just wrote about what I was feeling, what I was struggling with. It did mess with the dynamics of the band. They were mad at me. They'd say, "We didn't want to be in a Christian band!" They wanted to be in a rock 'n' roll band. They thought [being Christians] was, I guess, a dorky thing to have said about you. And I thought, "Man! I can't get away from this [Christianity] stuff."
But I had a [spiritual] calling on my life, from when I was younger, and the way I was raised, and I couldn't run away from it.
At the time, we could honestly say we weren't a Christian band. I was rebellious, kind of running from God, struggling in my faith. It was challenging, but it was a blessing in disguise, because it really allowed our music to go places where normal secular music wasn't allowed to go.
I also found out I wasn't alone in the world. There were a lot of people out there that had the same struggles with their faith. But it also showed how judgmental the Christian community can be to people in the public eye. That was one of the big reasons why I was so disenfranchised from the church. That was why, as a band, we distanced ourselves from accusations that we were a Christian band.
During the 10 years I was with Creed, not one person ever asked me if I was personally a Christian. They only asked me if we were a Christian band. I was so afraid of that question. I knew my life wasn't where it needed to be. I was so afraid of being a hypocrite. I was coming to grips with my faith, and if you really listened to the words you could hear that struggle.
On writing for The Passion of the Christ:
Stapp: The Passion of the Christ opportunity came along at a time when I was dealing with a lot of things in my personal life. I had no other way to look but up.
I have been broken down as a human being. So many various painful things. An unfortunate divorce. I've had friendships and relationships that went astray. I was just hurt as a human being. I don't think I'd ever dealt with my divorce, or with my other struggles, because I was so busy with Creed, always going forward, going forward, going forward.
When all that shut down, it forced me to deal with the struggles, and my spiritual life was always over in the corner calling out to me. When Creed broke up, I finally didn't have anything else to distract me. I had nothing else to do but cry out to God for help. For me, it had to get to the point where there was nowhere else to turn but to God. Once I did, I started to get some freedom in my life. I started to grow as a Christian and a person.
When I was called to write for the film, it was a final confirmation I was on the right path. With going solo, it's just ironic that Creed had to handle all the Christian connotations and questions, then that I would launch my solo career on the heels of The Passion of the Christ movie. It's really weird to me that as I'm going solo and as I'm getting my life right with God, when I step back into the public eye, that I'm doing it stamped right on the cover of the Passion CD. It's like my spiritual life and professional life are now finally going hand in hand.
On where he's headed next:
Stapp: I don't have anything to hide behind anymore. I don't have a band to hide behind anymore, and say, "We're not a Christian band." I was always afraid to speak about my faith publicly. I would always talk to God about it: "I'm not perfect. I don't want to be a stumbling block." What's helped me is that people are starting to realize that Christians don't have this holier-than-thou attitude, that we're not perfect.
Being a Christian is part of the three-dimensional person that I am. I'm not going to be having altar calls at my concerts. I'm just an artist who talks about his faith sometimes.