Scott Stapp 2020

How to Survive the Shadows

"Unknowingly, the song is taking on a kind of other meaning and it’s relating to people in another way." Scott Stapp's single, "Survivor," has found new life as a quarantine anthem. Now he just needs to figure out if he can pass sixth grade.

Photo by Sebastian Smith

When I hear the word “creed” – and maybe it’s just me – but my mind instantly thinks of a band, not a statement of faith and devotion. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up as a teenager in the late ’90s to the early 2000s. For me, that band’s third full-length release, Weathered from 2001, was one that helped define an era of my life when I was sorting out some serious questions as an 18-year-old kid.

Something about Scott Stapp’s lyrics was incredibly honest, vulnerable, and genuine. I resonated with those words more than most artists of that era. Music has that way of sticking with us, nostalgic in time and space, transcending it all at the same time. That’s why I love so many different genres, voices, and melodic expressions. It’s why I personally identify with artists whose work speaks to larger purpose, not just to my headphones. Music is often the accompanying soundtrack that reminds us of our own story.

In 2020, the post-grunge influence from Scott Stapp hasn’t missed a beat. Creed has been inactive for over a decade, but, if I’m honest, the timber and resonance of Scott Stapp’s vocals and songwriting are often synonymous with what I know as Creed, the essence of the band lives on in Stapp’s music. As a solo artist, Stapp has released three albums, and the latest, The Space Between the Shadows released last year, carries the weight, conviction, and post-grunge magic that you would expect from a Scott Stapp record. As someone who has gone a number of battles in their personal life, Stapp has so much to say and, given the ennui associated with the idea of the band Creed, he is very candid in his approach. I sat down with Scott to talk about the relevance of his recent single, “Survivor,” and to discuss the driving force and influence for writing the song in today’s lockdown day and age.

Andrew: I want to talk with you today about your single, “Survivor.” It’s a driving, grunge-like anthem filled with an air of confidence, determination, and even healing. For many of us who know your story, you’ve gone through hell, but you’ve also found healing, sobriety, and a new start. In one place you say, “You tried to knock me out / But you couldn’t drop…No you couldn’t drop me”. Were those lyrics specifically targeted at anything particular?
Scott: You know, they were. I was speaking to the challenges that I had faced during my dark period of my life – the struggles, the various things that I had to overcome. I was kind of giving them a persona; almost making them human. So, I was speaking to those issues specifically. Addiction and depression would be probably two key ones that I probably had on my mind when I was writing those lyrics.

You released your album The Space Between the Shadows last July which features “Survivor.” What about the song do you think makes it even more relevant in today’s climate than it did a year ago?
Scott: Well, you know, who would have thought last July that we would be in the situation that we are in right now with COVID-19 and this pandemic and the world shutting down and everything we’ve done as a society to stop the spread of this and to save lives? Unknowingly, the song is taking on a kind of other meaning and it’s relating to people in another way.

I had written a song inspired by my experiences. A lot of the lyrics early on were aspirational lyrics. I was writing things to convince myself that this is what I needed to believe in order to make it to the other side of the adversity and the challenges and the dark period that I was going through. I’ve gotten direct messages and emails to the fan email account and other things where fans who heard the song said, “Man, this song has really meant a lot to me since I’ve been turned on to it during this period and time. It’s inspiring, it’s motivating, and it’s reminding me to keep pushing through this situation that we’re currently in.”

What I’ve realized is vulnerability is a strength. It strengthens your bonds with people.

It has become acutely relevant to what’s going on in the world. But overall, for the life of the song, I hope it continues to relate to people who are battling cancer and need inspiration and motivation to keep fighting. And those who’ve overcome it: It’s their victory song. People who are in the midst of abusive relationships. Domestic violence or any kind of controlling, toxic situation that they need to get out of. I hope that the mentality this song talks about can inspire them to get out and become survivors of those situations because that was the whole intent of it.

Like I said, for me, when I initially began writing down the lyrics… I wrote down these lyrics prior to getting to the other side. It was positive affirmations and writing things down with the hopes that they would continue to inspire me to keep moving forward to get to the other side.

One of your other songs, “Gone Too Soon,” was discussed in detail last year during an interview with Billboard. In one place, the writer says that the song “was inspired partly by the deaths of fellow rockers Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington within the space of two months in 2017.” When we talk about your song “Survivor,” do you see it as a song of hope for people who suffer from mental illness and thoughts of suicide?
I definitely think it applies to those folks, as well. Absolutely. Like I said, it was written for all survivors and that encompasses a wide variety of individuals; definitely, people who are fighting those battles and struggling with those (issues). For those that have overcome and for those that are in the midst of it, definitely, I wanted to apply and encourage them and give them hope and motivation to keep fighting the fight that they’re in.

Scott Stapp 2019

Scott Stapp in 2019 |  Photo by Jenn Curtis

Your vulnerability in your music is one of the compelling aspects of your work, whether that be in Creed or as a solo artist. Do you find yourself to be more vulnerable in life with family and friends due to your history of being honest in your music?
I think, initially in my life, I was way more vulnerable in my music than I was in my interpersonal relationships outside of that. I don’t know if that’s unusual or not; it may be. But I think that, as I’ve gotten older, more mature, and developed more lasting and long-term relationships – especially with my wife, and my family, and my children – that vulnerability that always lived inside of me that came out through my music is just part of who I am as a human being all the time.

I don’t find that unusual at all.
What I’ve realized is vulnerability is a strength. It strengthens your bonds with people. I think I learned that through how that vulnerability connected with people through my music. I think as I matured and really began to step back and see that and notice that, that’s when I realized that it was a strength that I needed to have in my day-to-day life, as well.

Are you hoping to tour again once the current climate of the pandemic changes?
Absolutely, man. I definitely look forward to life resuming and getting back out on the road and doing what I love: playing live shows and playing these songs. I just don’t know what that new normal looks like, and I don’t know how long it’s gonna be before the concert industry, the sporting industry – any industry that involves crowds – I don’t know how long it’s gonna take for that to get back to normal. I think there’s a certain level of COVID-19 pandemic PTSD that might live on for a little while.

I have faith that eventually, like every crisis we’ve endured as human beings, that time will heal, modern medicine will learn to treat and hopefully find a vaccine. I’m going to make all my decisions on my future touring based upon the safety of my fans, the venue staff, the communities I’m going into, and my band and crew. Once I can be 100% confident and reassured by the scientists and the CDC and the experts that it’s safe to get back to business, I’ll be raring to go.

Any thoughts on you and the guys from Creed putting together another album in the near future?
You know, man, our relationships are great. We stay in touch and everything is positive. If anything ever comes up, between me and the band, we’ll make an announcement. But, right now, I’m just focused on making solo records and this new record. We’ll let everyone know if anything changes, but I think it’s a good thing that the relationships are good.

Before we go, I have to ask you how you’re spending your time in quarantine. Anything interesting you and your family are up to stuck at home?
Oh man, I never thought I’d have to go back to third grade and sixth grade. I tell you what, my wife and I rotate between the two kids. One day I’ll have my son and do school for the day and the next day I’ll have my daughter. I’ll tell you, man, third-grade math blows my mind, and I was good at math in high school, bro. Like really, really good. They’re doing it a different way now, and it’s like, I try to tell my son, “This is how you’re supposed to…” and he’s like, “No, Dad, you have to do it in this block and you have to do this…” And I’m like, “Dude, I have no idea what you are doing. This is the answer, see how simple?” I look back on how I did it and I think, “It’s so simple this way. They’re complicating it!”

And then my daughter, the things that she’s learning, I’m like, my gosh, man. I don’t know if I could pass sixth grade if I went back to sixth grade at this point. It’s a lot of work, man. She starts at like 7 a.m. and she’s not done with her homework at 7 p.m. and she only takes a break for dinner and lunch. Yeah, that’s been an interesting part of quarantine: really gaining a respect for what our school teachers do.

I’ve also enjoyed getting this time with my two-year-old and being able to be here for this extended period of time and see every little developmental change that’s going on with him. The family has gotten more into board games than we ever have. We’re playing music together. Instead of the von Trapp family singers from The Sound of Music, I call us the von Stapp Family Singers.

We’ve had a lot of time to talk as a family about life and what’s going on in the world. Trying to find a silver lining is why I’m speaking so positively about all of it, because it is positive. It stinks that all this had to happen in order for a lot of people to get this time with their families. I know there’s a lot of uncertainty out there in the world and a lot of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. My foundation and my partnerships with other organizations are doing our best to help those people. But, as far as the silver lining, I’ve really enjoyed the family time. Being trapped in the house with nowhere to go creates a combustible situation that can create a lot of memories. So, it’s been awesome.

Scott Stapp was posted on May 1, 2020 for HM Magazine and authored by .