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Creed

Scott Stapp wants a second chance to make a first impression.

You know the dude’s story.

It’s all been told before, that moldy, fossil-of-a-yarn about the star singer swallowed by his own excesses only to get mired in the digestive tract of a thousand rock ‘n’ roll cliches.

As frontman for post-grunge radio staples Creed, who sold more than 35 million records beginning with their 1996 debut, "My Own Prison," Stapp did his best to act his worst at times. There was the drunken driving incident, the obligatory sex tape, the not-so-obligatory lawsuit filed by angry fans wanting their money back after a dodgy performance in Chicago.

Not sure if the guy ever hurled a TV into the hotel pool, but Stapp and his bandmates certainly did their best to live up (or down) to all of fame’s wildest fantasies.

"It was something that was part of our rock ‘n’ roll dream, and so when it happened, we thought, ‘Hey, this is the way it is. This is what we wanted,’ " Stapp recalls of Creed’s hard partying past from a tour stop in Florida. "But as you continue on and you’re just being you, you’re not embracing some kind of character, you find that you continue living life a little recklessly — at least we did in our early to mid-20s. You’re still working out the kinks of who you are as a human being, doing some of the things that you did in college when there’s no cameras around you, but in the public eye. I think that was a learning experience for us. We didn’t expect that."

A lot of things took this bunch by surprise, their superstardom chief among them. And so they began to feel themselves sauté beneath the spotlight’s hot glare, with Stapp eventually bolting the group in 2004 to pursue a solo career while the other dudes started the gold-selling Alter Bridge.

They all had their share of success, to varying degrees, but nothing like what they had experienced in Creed.

That band came to great fame at the tail end of the grunge era with Stapp’s searching, pious lyrics, gutbucket yowl and knack for big, Bic-in-the-air hooks. They made millions by abrading alt-rock’s sharp edges into a populist roar.

Plenty accused them of watering down modern rock into a soupy confection; few alleged that they advanced the form past the nearest ATM.

But still, Creed won over plenty of converts in their day, amassing arenas full of true believers who have pined for the band’s return.

Eventually, Stapp began to feel a similar kind of longing himself.

"I started missing my friends probably in ’06, but I wasn’t ready (to return to the band)," he explains. "I would send cards and photo albums if I’d find some pictures of trips we had, just to stay in touch. In early ’08, our mutual friends had communicated some positive comments back and forth, and that kind of started it. Then in December, I reached out to Mark’s (Tremonti, guitarist) management just to get a feel to see if Mark wanted to talk. We got together, and it’s history."

These days, the band is out on the road for the first time in five years and have a new album, "Full Circle," due out at the end of next month.

To hear Stapp tell it, the record has shaped up to be the band’s most elaborate effort.

"I think we surprised ourselves," he says. "In the past, we didn’t want to put anything on the record that we couldn’t do live, like certain backup guitars and other instruments. But we removed all of those boundaries. We all knew what our identity was outside the band, and I think that was key, all of us discovering that. So we came back to Creed with a comfortableness in Creed’s identity and the sound that we wanted to do. I think we define Creed’s brand of rock on this record. I think it’s the album we were born to make."

Or perhaps "reborn” is the better term.

Stapp, once a press shy kind of guy who didn’t always play well with others, has since become a candid, easygoing presence. He speaks enthusiastically about the joys of dropping his young kids off at school and taking his son to football practice, embraces New Age platitudes — "love is a lifestyle, bro" — and occasionally quotes scripture, though he’s quick to point out that Creed is not a Christian band.

Stapp doesn’t want to preach, nor should he. He doesn’t have it all figured out.

Really, he’s just happy that the past is enabling him to have a future.

"Not many rock bands get a blueprint to look back on something that was as successful as Creed was. It’s kind of humbling and intimidating as the years go by," Stapp says. "The humbling part is just like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is something that I just can’t believe has happened.’ And the intimidation is, ‘Can I still do it? How am I going to be in front of these audiences? Do we still have it?’ In reflection, we have a different kind of appreciation for it all. Every mistake we made mentally and performancewise, we’ve sought to get better. It’s just a whole new mentality. It’s a fortunate situation to be in."

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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