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From the late '90s through the early '00s, modern-rock radio was ruled by Creed, with singles like "Torn," "One" and "With Arms Wide Open." Three straight albums, My Own Prison, Human Clay, and Weathered, sold millions upon millions of copies each.
They were labeled a Christian band even as they denied the tag, partying harder than ever on the road. The Jesus label stuck, and Creed grew exhausted trying to refute it.
As the band's star and album sales began to rise, so did a spiteful and vocal minority. By the mid-'00s, the elite music media had dubbed them "suck" incarnate, and Creed split up in 2004.
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His personal demons running rampant, lead singer Scott Stapp began a solo career, and the rest of Creed formed Alter Bridge with singer Myles Kennedy. By 2009, relations had warmed and Creed reunited for a new album and accompanying tour, which was extremely successful.
Almost 15 years after their initial breakthrough, what still propels the Florida band? New Times reached out to Stapp on the eve of the first leg of Creed's tour, on which they'll be performing Human Clay in its entirety, as well as selections from other albums.
New Times: Few bands from that period have lasted, or even have albums that have stood the test of time, necessitating playing them live like this.
Scott Stapp: From 1997 to 2003, our lives were Creed, and then it ended. It's been flattering and cool to hear up-and-coming artists that came after us share how they were inspired by us, the way I was inspired by the Doors, U2, or Metallica.
NT: Of course, the band has also been a lightning rod for flak . . .
SS: Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and you hear that and think it's the general consensus. It's par for the course for any artist that comes on the scene and takes over. With Creed, we have kept in the front of our minds this whole time that the negativity has always been less than 1 percent of the 99 percent of the whole.
One thing I always wanted was to connect with people and get a reaction out of people. We saw that with the fans, and even in that negativity. It spurred a reaction, good and bad.
NT: Do you think your earnestness scared people?
SS: I was addressing things lyrically at the time and was coming from a point of view that can be polarizing. As much as that allowed us to connect with a fan base, it also shook our foundation.
If you go back and read the early press, we never even said we were a Christian band. We just talked about every issue in this life, and the spirituality that you wrestle with.
The rumors and the lack of understanding by the elite media, who dubbed us a Christian band without ever reading the lyrics or understanding what we are talking about, was polarizing, too. If you all are over the radio and TV, got three songs in the top five at once, all of that becomes a point of conversation.
Not everyone has those same feelings or beliefs. Some people have animosity toward people who they think are involved in religion or go to church, because they have been burned or turned off.
But the whole time, we were just a bunch of rock 'n' rollers living a rock 'n' roll lifestyle, which created even more of that "Look at these guys, they're fake!" flak from the haters.
NT: It seems now the tide could be changing, though.
SS: The beauty in all of it, despite everything, is that our fans ended up passing that music down to their next generation. Despite any of the negativity, the music continued to speak and resonate, aside from all of that.
That's the real story. We have a whole new generation to play for. The small 1 percent hated us, but a lot of people didn't care about that and they connected instead with the music.