"It was more of a naive type of thing," said the guitarist for the rock band, now on tour. "My whole life, I thought that once you got a record deal, you automatically became this big rock star. I didn't realize that you still had a one out of a thousand chance of being successful."
Tremonti recalled getting pulled over by the police soon after he got his driver's license and the now-obscure group Tora Tora was playing on the car radio.
"I remember thinking, 'If Tora Tora got caught speeding in their Porsches and Ferraris, they wouldn't get a ticket!' It was all just being naive."
Tremonti and singer Scott Stapp attended the same high school in Orlando, Fla., but didn't start playing music together until they met again in Tallahassee in 1995. They wrote three songs the first day they sat down together. Drummer Scott Phillips joined them a month later, and bassist Brian Marshall completed Creed's lineup.
The quartet, while working minimum-wage jobs, scraped together $6,000 to record a CD, and before it was even finished, its song "My Own Prison" was getting airplay on a major local station.
By 1997, Creed had signed a contract with Wind-Up Records, and its debut disc, which came out in August of that year, sold more than 4 million copies. It earned the band the honor of being named Billboard magazine's Rock Artist of the Year for 1998, and the group went from playing at local restaurants to a show in front of 250,000 people at Woodstock '99.
Creed's second disc, "Human Clay," came out last fall and topped the prestigious Billboard 200 album chart, selling 4 million copies to date. The group had a much bigger budget and more time to record its sophomore disc, but Tremonti remains fond of that first low-budget CD.
"I think 'My Own Prison' had more of a character to it. It seemed more alive, I guess. It had that garage-band type of feel to it. 'Human Clay' was more of a scientific test-tube album, perfect in every form."
Tremonti, who was voted Best Rock Guitarist in the latest Guitar World magazine's readers' poll, said his biggest musical influence was Metallica.
"Metallica is my favorite band of all time, not for the lyrics or what the songs mean but because of the musicality of it."
Fans frequently ask Creed if it is a Christian band, and Stapp has posted a response on the band's Web site, "No, we are not a Christian band. A Christian band has an agenda to lead others to believe in their specific religious beliefs. We have no agenda!"
Tremonti said the spiritual lyrics of its songs are products of Stapp's upbringing by parents who were Pentecostal fundamentalists. Stapp has talked about how his father once found a Def Leppard album in his room and threw it out.
"Scott writes 90 to 95 percent of the lyrics, and he was brought up in a real religious family," Tremonti said. "His reference point in spiritual things has always been his studies with the Bible."
The group recently was forced to take a three-month break after Stapp developed throat problems during a European tour and had trouble hitting the high notes. Doctors found a callus on his vocal cords and advised him to rest. "We dropped everything and came home," Tremonti said. "Scott has been seeing a vocal instructor, and he sounds great."