After years struggling with addiction and mental illness, Creed frontman Scott Stapp went through a widely publicized breakdown in 2014. The 42-year-old singer best known for the Grammy-winning anthem “With Arms Wide Open” posted a video to Facebook claiming he was homeless, said he was a CIA agent tasked with assassinating President Obama, and phoned his son’s school to claim his family was harboring ISIS agents.
“It was life-changing,” Stapp tells EW of the saga, which forced him to get clean and eventually led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. “I learned a lot about the struggles I’ve been facing. I didn’t realize how much undiagnosed and untreated bipolar was affecting my recovery and it gave me so many answers as to why I couldn’t maintain my recovery despite my efforts for so many years.”
After a year spent away from music — which included an appearance on VH1’s Couples Therapy with his wife Jaclyn — Stapp is now ready to take the stage once again. He kicks off his month-long Proof of Life Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida Friday, and will tour through the Midwest and East Coast as he acclimates once again to the life of a touring musician.
Stapp caught up with EW about his road to recovery, the possibility of a Creed reunion, and what he really thought of the Rocky reboot Creed.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you decide it was time to get back into music and touring?
SCOTT STAPP: It was the next step in my recovery. I took over a year off to really work on my relationship with my family and get my health in order. It required a lot of lifestyle changes: diet, exercise, proper sleep regimen, a commitment to working on my recovery daily, and gaining an acceptance of my diagnosis, which took me a little while. Once my family was solid and strong and we knew what we were facing and had it managed, we felt like it was the next step to get back out and start playing and doing what I love.
What have you got planned for your tour?
I’m playing songs from my entire catalog — off my first solo record and off the Proof of Life album [from 2013]. I’m doing a collection of my entire life’s work, with an emphasis on Proof of Life. I’m just excited about performing and playing these songs for the fans.
Are you currently recording new music?
It’s something that’s ongoing. When I get off tour in February we’re going to get back at it. I’m actually working on two projects right now. I’ve got a full length album that I’m working on and then I’m also beginning to write for my next solo record. There’s no definitive timeline for when that’s done. I have so much to draw from the last few years and everything that’s gone on in my life and everything that I’ve experienced. Just a whole new perspective, and it’s definitely coming through in what I’m writing now.
How is your recovery going after your public struggles in recent years?
I’m in a really good place right now, but I’m still taking it one day at a time. It’s something that is on the forefront of my mind from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep. Really, to have my bipolar managed has made it significantly easier. As long as I keep doing what I’m supposed to do every day in terms of managing my bipolar and managing my recovery then I can expect good things.
How has your personal experience made you view the way our society stigmatizes mental illness?
Because of the stigma I had such a hard time accepting that reality in my life. I didn’t want it to be true. I was afraid of what others would think and how people would perceive me. Fortunately, my family and my friends all responded with “Everything makes sense now. This is awesome.” Because it is something that I have learned is very treatable. You can absolutely regain balance and normalcy and live a productive life. It just has to be treated like any other disease. Our brain is an organ just like the other organs in our body: It can break down. Just like a diabetic needs insulin, it’s the same with the brain. It can have chemical imbalances that, thank goodness for modern medication, can be treated.
There is a stigma out there and I’m hoping that being forthcoming about my experience and continuing to share my story can make a small impact in starting a conversation and breaking down the stigma, because millions and millions of people in the United States alone suffer from a mental illness. It’s something that’s very common, but a lot of people are afraid to talk about it.
Why did you and your wife decide to participate in the new season of Couples Therapy? What was the reception like when it aired?
It was probably one of the most difficult and challenging experiences that my wife and I have ever gone through. One of the reasons we made that decision is because my breakdown was so public — it was national news for two weeks. I kind of put my family out there. It’s not often that you get a chance to have a national stage to set straight your side of the story, what you’re doing to work through it, and to introduce who you really are outside of crisis. So we looked at Couples Therapy as an opportunity to tell our story.
We couldn’t have asked for a more timely opportunity to come along. It was very authentic and real for us. There were real tears shed and there was real work being done and it definitely made a positive impact on my healing process and our relationship. We really learned a lot and as difficult as it was, we were glad that we did it.
The feedback was tremendously positive. We were inundated with email after email after email of couples out there that were going through a similar situation, whether that be having a spouse that was fighting a mental illness or dealing with alcoholism and addiction. They appreciated that we shared our story because it pointed them in the right direction on what they should do.
Are you still in touch with the other members of Creed? Would a reunion ever be a possibility?
We are periodically in touch, yes. My door is always open to those guys. I’m working on a couple projects right now, they’re working on projects right now. I think when the time is right and our schedules free up that hopefully we’ll have a conversation about what we want to do next. My door is open to that.
A ton of people saw that Creed review you did for Funny or Die. How’d that come together?
The Funny or Die people reached out to me with the concept. I thought it was hilarious. It was kind of my first shot at kind of poking fun at myself as well. Hopefully we made some people laugh.