"Creed got big faster than I would have ever imagined they would have," said Steve Bailey, manager of a club where Creed used to play.
It didn't take much -- a few thousand dollars, some bunkbeds and multi-track recording equipment -- but it's pretty much all singer Scott Stapp and his band Creed needed to record "My Own Prison" (RealAudio excerpt), currently one of the most played songs on U. S. rock radio.
"It cost us $5,000 to record the album," said 24-year-old songwriter Stapp, speaking from the band's Chicago-bound tour bus. "We rented equipment in this guy's house for 30 bucks an hour. We recorded between two bunkbeds in a bedroom, the drums were done in the hallway, and the guitars in the bathroom."
The Tallahassee, Fla., band's radio hit is pulling its debut album, also titled My Own Prison, steadily up the charts; the album was #94 with a bullet (indicating that continued upward movement is expected) as 1997 came to a close.
With titles such as "What's This Life For?," "Torn" and "Unforgiven," My Own Prison is packed with brooding lyrics expounding on the search for self- identity as well as heavy guitars reminiscent of the early-1990s Seattle-grunge sound.
The hit -- "My Own Prison," a melodic yet wrenching tune -- came to Stapp in his sleep. "One night I woke up about 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. from a dream and I just wrote it all down," Stapp said. "I didn't know it was a song at the time. A few days later I called [guitarist] Mark [Tremonti], he had been putting together some music, and we sat down and got the song together in about 30 minutes."
With over 175,000 albums sold in the last four months, Creed has drawn comparisons from rock critics to big-name bands such as Tool, Soundgarden and, most frequently, mega-stars Pearl Jam. Not bad for a group of 24-year-olds from Tallahassee.
"It could be worse," laughed Stapp of the Pearl Jam comparisons. "They could be comparing us to some shitty band that no one has ever heard of, rather than the biggest band of the decade."
Born in Orlando, Stapp left home at 17, lived in a car for a week, turned down a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University, and eventually found his way to Tallahassee. "I was living in Orlando, and I was reading this book about the Doors," Stapp said. "I figured if Jim Morrison moved to Tallahassee and made it, so could I."
Creed came together soon after Stapp's 1995 arrival in Tallahassee; Orlando high school acquaintance and guitarist Mark Tremonti joined Stapp soon after. The two were outside at a friend's house when they overheard someone playing drums: "Someone amazing," Stapp said. Enter drummer Scott Phillips. Bassist Brian Marshall then signed on, and the band began playing in the college bars and clubs of Tallahassee.
"Creed got big faster than I would have ever imagined they would have," said Steve Bailey, club manager at Bullwinkle's, a popular Tallahassee venue where Creed frequently played. "They were high energy, really enthusiastic and always drew a large crowd."
And while he is not a fan of the band's sound, Bailey said the band made the right impact at the right time. "I didn't think they were any more special than any other local band," grumbled the 42-year-old Bailey. "I think they just got into the right crowd, with the right marketing."
Stapp might agree with Bailey, at least on the last point.
"It does seem like there's been a bit of fate," Stapp added of the band's relatively quick success. "Some bands have to do this for 10 years ... I've been through some tough times and so has Mark. But it feels like we finally have found what we're supposed to do."
Scruffy, lanky and long-haired, with dark, piercing eyes, he's the dynamic, compelling lead singer of Creed, a punk-edged Tallahassee, Fla., band that's tearing up rock radio.
A serious vocalist who contrasts his growls and screams with melodic, carefully sung passages, in the Jim Morrison tradition, Stapp's powerful, anthemic songs are about battling fears and demons while searching for love, meaning and peace of mind. It's angry, fist-pumping, cathartic music for confused, pent-up adolescents, the kind of aggressive rock that keeps reasserting itself every few years.
Just a few years ago rock was declared dead, as rock album sales dwindled and rock radio stations switched formats. But hard rock has come roaring back this summer, and Creed is on the crest of the wave.
Two songs from the band's "My Own Prison" album are being played heavily on rock radio at the same time -- the title cut, "Torn" and "What's This Life For." The album is selling 40,000 - plus copies a week, has racked more than 1.5 million in sales and is headed for double platinum.
Creed is poised to become this year's Live, a dramatic, serious hard rock band that's capturing young people's imagination with intense songs about finding meaning and purpose.
You could feel the fervor for Creed, as a good sized crowd jammed the front of the stage, moshing and crowd surfing to the hard, crunching rhythms and frenzied vocals.
Without prompting, the audience sang many of the songs along with Stapp. Sometimes he thrust the mike into the audience and let the fans lustily take the leads. Obviously, many in the audience had already memorized the whole "My Own Prison" album.
The religious imagery that crops up in many of Creed's songs - and even in the band's name - comes from Stapp's fundamentalist-Christian background. He's said to be a recent convert to secular hard rock, having been heavily influenced by grunge and Led Zeppelin. He certainly brings a true believer's fanatical energy to his work, contorting his body and shaking his mane of dark hair as he stomps around the stage.
"It's all happened so quick," notes Creed drummer Scott Phillips. He sips coffee, and he's surprisingly laid back for being a future rock star. "We haven't had time to settle in to the fact that we're doing pretty good. It's just one gig after the next, and then sometimes you get a chance to find out exactly how well you're doing. So far everything's been good. We're all just normal guys hanging out on a bus riding around the country."
Phillips sheepishly understates the case. Tonight's show at Embassy is a sell-out, featuring Creed headlining, with fellow Floridians Subrosa and Orlando rockers GumWrapper Curb, a band whose buzz suggests they might be Florida's next big signing. People are queuing up outside the door, and the club is filling up fast. Backstage it's the usual chaos, with managers, roadies and local glitterati milling about. Amidst it all, Creed is coolly calm, cooperating for photos, making small talk with lots of the folks backstage and maintaining a demeanor that just smacks of hometown hospitality.
"We're not atypical," says lead singer Scott Stapp. "We're pretty down to earth homebody types. [Our] idea of a good time is sitting on the couch with your girlfriend watching a movie, and then going and jamming at your buddy's house and having a couple beers, and playing with your dogs. We're not crazy-tear-apart-your-hotel-room-snort-20-lines-of-coke-and-live- the-lifestyle [type of people]. We've never been that way."
Nevertheless, Creed must own up to the fact that they are continuing Florida's legacy in fine form. With continued radio play (and major label promotion) of their breakthrough single "My Own Prison", sales of their indie debut album, My Own Prison (Wind-Up) began to literally skyrocket, and by Christmas 1997 they were at about 200,000.
Suddenly, the group found itself in the whirlwind of fame and fortune, even if they didn't have time to enjoy it in between gigs. By now, the record has sold over platinum (at 1.4 mil. copies at presstime). Other successful Florida groups have set the grueling pace, and Creed's pattern is similar. Matchbox 20, Sister Hazel and Mighty Joe Plum have each taken the better part of a year to release their respective second singles. The difference is that after only four months, Creed is on single #2 ("Torn") and the climb shows no sign of abating. Wind-Up has also released an acoustic version of "My Own Prison," which is every bit as powerful as the single on the full-length release.
It all began in Tallahassee, the college town of Florida State University and Florida's capital to boot. In fact, the former institution was where former high school classmates guitarist Mark Tremonti and Stapp began jamming together on original tunes in Mark's dorm room. Songs like "In America", a bristling, confusion-fueled epic, helped get the band attention. The song recalled grunge - elements of Pearl Jam, Live, and Soundgarden - and lyrically typifies adolescent disillusion. "What is right or wrong/I don't know who to believe in / My soul sings a different song in America." sang Stapp on the track. Local radio picked it up, and press coverage in hometown papers like the Tallahassee Democrat and nationals like Billboard didn't hurt sales of Creed's independently produced release.
By then it was official: Creed was a statewide phenomenon at least, with "My Own Prison" getting airplay in all Florida's major markets. Their deal with BMG-distributed Wind-Up Records was prompted before all this, The indie release had already sold about 5,000 copies on its own, and Creed frequently found itself in the Top 5 request spots on Florida radio stations.
After the deal, "My Own Prison" was remixed by Ron St-Germain (Tool, Soundgarden, U2). The album was recorded in The Kitchen in Tallahassee and down at Criteria Studios in Miami. After all this, the ten tracks on the album can hardly match the experience of seeing Creed on stage. Much like the band they are often compared to (Pearl Jam), Creed is a force to be contended with, as the energy of the sold-out Embassy crowd meshes with the band's own for a sonic thunder not normally associated with a medium sized club. Moshing is in magnificent abundance, crowd surfing seems out of control and, on occasion, total abandon overwhelms the audience in a mass of human activity. Stapp swings his head in grand exploding-hair fashion, losing himself in the maelstrom, counteracting that with swinging and twirling his guitar behind his head à la Jimi Hendrix. Meanwhile the rest of the band - Phillips, Tremonti and bassist Brian Marshall - flails in unabashed self-indulgence, as the crowd goes wild to the churning, grungy blast. If you close your eyes, you can imagine an arena somewhere in Seattle.
The band is quick to admit that yes, this kind of success is what they wanted. But they realize now they may have been a bit unprepared for it. They're different now. "It's changed the way I look at people a bit," observes Stapp. "Even people that are close to me. Because six months ago I was a loser, and now all of a sudden I'm everybody's best friend and everybody's hero. It's funny how success can do that."
"It changes other people's appearance of you," Tremonti concurs. "And when everyone changes around you, then you live in this distorted world. You want someone to say 'you're an asshole, shut up.' You want your friends to keep doing that. You want people around you to keep reality. It's kind of hard to deal with that sometimes. It's hard to always feel like you're having to put up a facade."
Concludes Stapp: "Sometimes I'm just like everyone else, I'm having a bad day. But I can't go have a bad day in front of 3,000 people, or have a bad day at a radio station when I'm going there to tell them thanks. Sometimes you can't be real. When that's important to you - which is important to all of us - it can drive you insane. 'Cause if someone's a jerk, in the past, you're like 'leave me alone, you're a prick' But you know, that could be someone who's responsible for 30 radio stations, and you're having to sit there and grin and bear it. Because we're the type of band that's not like 'we didn't want to get discovered, we didn't want to get on the radio, we didn't want...' That's what we wanted. That was our goal. So when you're having to play the game, so to speak, it can wear on you. It can wear on you mentally, physically. But the positives keep you going. We can't complain. This is better than anything we've ever done and we hope it never ends."
Thanks to a solid, ever-growing work ethic, the band has no intentions of it ending anytime soon. They are constantly in creative mode, thinking about the next record. And the fans benefit because of it. "We have been working on stuff," says Phillips. "We have done three or four songs before we had gone out [on tour], and we're kind of trying to perfect them on the road. There's a song called 'Young Grow Old' and 'Beautiful' that we've been doing for quite a while. Almost right after we finished the first album, we started working on those. Some of the other ones are coming along. Some are untitled. Some are just jams that we're trying to put together."
In an ironic twist on the whole rock 'n' roll lifestyle, Creed sees their current ride as the polar opposite of what joining a rock band has always meant: stability. "It feels good to finally have stability in my life, a little bit of security, at least for the next two or three years," says Tremonti. "That's a comfortable feeling to have."
With the money that pours in from the sales or My Own Prison the group should be very comfortable for some time. Perhaps regular MTV airplay and the shooting of videos will fill even more space in the band's itinerary, perhaps someday the term "household name" will be applied to them or perhaps they may even achieve that level of fame that transcends mere rock 'n' roll and finds it's way into the general mainstream. Whatever happens, the Tallahassee quartet is up to the task. Lucky for them, they're getting no pressure from the label, and their main goal, aside from all that's mentioned above, is to simply keep their feet on the ground. "[We want to] just keep doing what we've been doing and not change anything," says Stapp. "Keep writing what's coming out of us, keep being honest and sincere, keep playing music because we love it, and not because we have to. Keep the love, try to keep the innocence. That's why we're surrounding ourselves with people that we're close to. Trying to make this as much of a family type atmosphere as we possibly can, just so that innocence can stay with us. 'Cause we don't want to lose it."
"Wherever we fit in and wherever we are six months from now or two years from now, if it all ended tomorrow nationally, we'd still get together in Scott's basement and we'd still write songs and we'd still jam," figures Tremonti. "'Cause it's what we are as a group. It's what we were as friends. We were all buddies, and this is what we did for fun. We just got lucky. Someone discovered us and we got put out national." As if to put it all in perspective, Stapp concludes, "We just wanna rock, man."
How Florida's neo-grunge men Creed beat the odds with their indie release, My Own Prison.
Creed is an overnight success. Other bands might resist the tag, but Creed frontman Scott Stapp isn't arguing. How could he? His little ol' hard rock band from Florida has sold in excess of a million records over the past year and is busy playing major venues in major markets. Stapp is noticeably thrilled. And yet, he's also willing to admit that as Creed's popularity grows, he's learning firsthand that overnight success is often accompanied by a backlash: Creed, many critics say, sound a bit too much like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and other Seattle bands.
"Sure, I hear what people say. But the only opinion I care about are from the fans," Stapp says. "People can throw stones all day, but I'm in front of 3,000 people who know the words to every single song on our record. How many other bands have that? Creed's got an army out there. These people are diehard."
Creed's fans are indeed growing in number. The band's debut album, My Own Prison, has been certified Platinum on the strength of its title track's massive radio airplay and the band's relentless touring. A second single, "Torn", is also doing well at traditional rock radio, although radio programmers seem to be most excited about "What's This Life For?", a song some believe has enormous crossover potential.
But exactly why an unknown band that sounds like it could have been born in Seattle five years ago seems breaking so big, so fast, is still something of a mystery. And what's most surprising is how Creed managed to do it on a tiny New York indie label, Wind-up Records.
Surely, Creed benefited from being the label's only act and therefore its sole point of promotional focus. It also didn't hurt that Wind-up had deep pockets and distribution through BMG, facts which guaranteed that the discs would reach stores. But little of that would matter without radio play - the most important factor in breaking bands in the Nineties.
To that end, the understaffed label reportedly hired an expensive team of radio promoters and began testing Creed's chances on Florida radio. Rick Schmidt, the program director of WXSR, the alternative rock station in the band's hometown of Tallahassee, says it didn't take long for his listeners to respond - or for other radio stations across the country to see a Florida success story building and jump on the bandwagon themselves. "'My Own Prison' was a great song that listeners reacted to strongly and quickly," says Schmidt. "It snowballed from there. And it didn't hurt that Wind-up and BMG had the record in stores, on display and at the end of the aisles. It was easy for listeners to find and buy, and easy for us at radio to see those sales building."
But Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti says the impetus behind the band's success is actually something far simpler. "We fill a void," he says. "People have apparently missed the singer-guitar-bass-drum approach to American rock and roll. We're sincere and we play like we're in our basement, only our basement keeps getting bigger."
When they started in 1995, Stapp, Tremonti, drummer Scot Philips and bassist Brian Marshall literally were playing Tallahassee basement. A year later, they began slowly pooling the $6,000 it took to record My Own Prison. After selling over 3,000 copies on their own Blue Collar Records, Stapp and Co. decided to shop around for help. "A lot of labels were telling us rock and roll was dead, and labels like Atlantic and Universal told us they wanted to release it a year later," Tremonti says. "We had momentum growing and we needed to get the record out."
If it was speed Creed was looking for, Wind-up had it. The label first heard the record on a Wednesday, flew to Florida that Friday, and brought the band to New York to close the deal the following week. For Creed, Wind-up seemed like an opportunity for attention, input and long-term commitment. And for Wind-up, Creed was offering a finished album, a small grass roots following, and the chance to impact rock radio.
"They were a new band, and we were a new label," says Wind-up president Steve Lerner. "We're pretty practical people, but in our bones we knew we had something special. Our expectations were that we had a multi-Platinum band and everything we'd do would have to be in line with that goal."
For Wind-up, that game plan meant having Ron Saint-Germain (Tool, 311) remix the album, rushing "My Own Prison" to radio and planning a tour of various radio markets - a tour that was wisely preceded by a Wind-up promotion man who visited each radio station, retailer and venue along the way bearing giveaway records, posters and concert tickets.
"Touring sells records, and radio has definitely been the key to our success," says Stapp, who claim Creed still spend nearly 15 hours a day promoting themselves through radio performances, in-store appearances and press interviews. "A lot of bands say 'fuck radio'. but that's because they haven't had that success and they've taken the opposite side. Radio's part of the childhood dream of being a rock star. You want radio, you want MTV, and you want to play for 30,000 people. Nobody wants to play for five people and struggle. We didn't want to be underground. So we went for it, and went for it hard."
A year after the release of My Own Prison, Creed and Wind-up's promotional efforts only seem to be gaining momentum. And judging from all the sold-out shows and radio requests, Creed fans are indeed a die-hard bunch. But while Stapp maintains that his band is in it for the long haul, he seems painfully aware that some industry insiders have declared Creed nothing more than the latest faceless, radio-driven, one-album wonder. "We're waiting for our time. It won't be long before people know who Scott Stapp and Mark Tremonti are," he says. "At this point, everybody's written us off, and it may take our second album going multi-Platinum before anyone gives us any respect. But when our time comes, people will understand us. We're already blown away by our success and realize we've struck some kind of nerve, but we're just going to have to continue proving people wrong."
It's very cool to hear Stapp at such a young age. He sounded so genuine back then (no clichés, no God/faith talk). I understand people not liking him after 2000, but back then ? Man, he rocked and almost seemed humble ! It's a shame he sounds like a totally different man these days, whereas Tremonti sounds and looks exactly the same !
Post by guitarofthrones on Aug 4, 2013 15:02:25 GMT -5
That's so true. He sounds so mellow and real, no masks. Today when he talks I just see masks. Maybe it will take more time to learn to be real. I get this vibe of turmoil from Stapp like he holds onto alot of shit he should let go of. 2009 Stapp was humble but he also had times he acted like someone trying hard to hold off the part of him that is still hung up on revenge. I don't know who the real Stapp is.
Even the best singers in the world are not what they once were. It's called aging. You can't use your voice for 100's of shows year after year of touring and have it remain flawless for decades. We all fall apart as we age ha!
Stapp hasn't hit even 40 yet. This is his prime. His voice should start sucking if he reaches late 50s or 60s. Not when he is 40. Ever heard of Glenn Hughes? The guys is old, but he can sing and do a fantastic job at it.
Creed enjoys the show the audience puts on for the band
Friday, May 29, 1998
Each performance is an intense experience for us," says singer Scott Stapp of the Tallahassee, Fla., quartet Creed.
"We play from the heart. I think it's important that the first time you see a band that you're in love with, you can see the sweat dripping off my face and the spit coming out of my mouth. You can reach and almost touch our feet. "And I want to be able to see them, too. I want to be able to make eye contact with everyone in the room. It's a show for the band, too. We're looking at all these faces in the crowd and they're putting on a show for us." Integrity, commitment and energy are indicative of Creed -- of Stapp and fellow songwriter/guitarist Mark Tremonti, the driving rhythm section of bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips. Dedicated fans go the extra mile as well: relentlessly bombarding radio stations with requests and driving hundreds of miles to see the band perform. On "My Own Prison," certified platinum in March, themes of survival in "Torn" ("Yes I'm the only one who/would carry on this far") are combined with compassion in "Sister" ("Broken father, broken brother/emptiness feeds the hunger"). Social critique from "In America" ("Church bells ringing/pass the plate around") alternates with poetic detail in "Pity for a Dime" ("An artificial season/covered by summer rain"). As the music builds in guitar-driven attack, the unifying note is sounded by the lyrics. "There's always a spiritual thrust to what I'm writing," Stapp says. "Spiritual, not religious. For me, religion was about 'what not to do,' spirituality opens you up, sets you free." Creed has been in charge of its own destiny since its 1995 advent. The band recorded "My Own Prison" for less than $6,000 in the home studio of producer John Kurzweg. Two months after it's 1997 release, the disc had sold over 3,000 copies. Remixed by Ron SaintGermain (Tool, Soundgarden, 311) and re-released on BMG-distributed Wind-up Records, "My Own Prison" quickly became the No. 1 track on rock radio stations.