Scott Stapp talks Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, depression: ‘It could have and should have been me, but I was spared’

In the ‘90s, Scott Stapp was seemingly on top of the world. His grunge band Creed’s debut album went six times platinum, and its follow-up, 1999’s Human Clay — buoyed by the joyous, Grammy-winning anthem “With Arms Wide Open,” about his experience of becoming a father — sold an incredible 20 million copies worldwide.

But as Stapp tells Yahoo Entertainment two decades later: “Depression, anxiety, mental health issues, addiction… they don't discriminate.”

Stapp’s struggles have been well-documented, and he has been forthcoming in discussing them. His past has included a suicide attempt; arrests for intoxication, reckless driving, and felony assault; and addictions to Percocet, Xanax, and prednisone. He even recalls a “very dark time” in his life when “I literally didn't leave my room for months.” Stapp wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until 2015, and with the help of MusiCares, he has been sober since 2014.

Scott Stapp in 2002. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Scott Stapp in 2002. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

“When my first depression hit me, I had everything in the world. All my dreams coming true, all at once,” Stapp says. “There was absolutely no reason — looking on the outside, not understanding that it's not a choice — that I should have felt that way. But it's not in our control. It's physiological, it's biological. It's your brain and your nerves.

“I think it's a good time for me to share my story, because there's more understanding, there's more compassion,” continues Stapp, whose erratic behavior was once often unflatteringly portrayed in the media. “I think when people look back and reflect for those who have followed me, now they're like, ‘Oh, that's what was going on, and now they get it. Whereas in the past, without the knowledge about it, there was just a lot of confusion and misunderstanding.”

Stapp, age 45, realizes now that he is “blessed to be here,” and he’s paying it forward with his With Arms Wide Open Foundation, which helps military vets struggling with addiction and PTSD. However, some of Stapp’s peers, who also once seemed to lead charmed lives, weren’t so lucky. That’s why, on his first solo album in six years, The Space Between the Shadows – a “manifesto” that is “all about coming out of those dark places and living life and seeing life and experiencing life in technicolor” — Stapp has included the track “Gone Too Soon,” inspired by the suicides of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.

“I think when it gets to the point where a life is lost like that, it's a disease and I don't think it's, in my opinion, their choice anymore,” says Stapp of Cornell and Bennington’s tragic deaths. “I think the disease has taken over, and so there's no blame, just sorrow. It made me reflect on times where I was close [to taking my own life], and other times where it could have and should have been me, but I was spared. So for a minute my heart was really more focused on their families and their wives and their kids and what they were going through, and my heart just broke for them.

“I'll remember the day I was watching TV, the news broke that Chester had passed,” Stapp continues. “It was heavy, hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was shocked. And then it was on the anniversary of Chris's passing, which caused the reliving of those emotions. Then, in that state, I'm flipping through the channels and it's like school shooting, opioid overdoses, heroin deaths, fentanyl deaths, suicide rates with vets, suicide rates with elementary school children, and just all this stuff is swirling in my brain. And it hit me deeply and I was headed to the studio after that, with all of that on me, and the song was born. And so it's really a tribute to all that we've loved in our lives and lost. For me, it was initially inspired by those two, and then that day of events.”

Reflecting on his own recovery and survival, Stapp says, “To get to where I am today, I had to get help, and I could no longer try to fight it alone. I could no longer keep it in the shadows. I could no longer not talk about it. I had just to basically surrender and say, ‘I will do whatever you tell me to do because I want to get better. I want to live, and I don't want to be dependent on these substances in an effort to make me feel better. Help me.’ And that's what I did.

“I surrendered to the process, and for me, that was the only way that worked. And I think that's the only way that will ever work with anyone.”

Scott Stapp today. (Photo: Napalm Records)
Scott Stapp today. (Photo: Napalm Records)

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