There's no better way to get a window into the complicated world of a musician like Scott Stapp than by listening to their music.
Scott Stapp's latest album, The Space Between the Shadows, which dropped last week, is driven by the song "Purpose for Pain." The standout single mines the tumultuous period the singer endured since his last record in 2013 for inspiration. "Purpose for Pain" clearly carries a potent message, with a chorus that hits with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer:
There's gotta be more
'Cause this life is insane
Gotta turn this around
And find the purpose for pain
There's so much to lose
Yeah, there's so much at stake
Gotta turn this around
And find the purpose for pain
Given everything that Stapp has overcome, however, the song's unsubtle messaging is a powerful statement of resolve and resilience.
Finding What He Couldn't Lose
Stapp, 45, rose to prominence as the frontman of post-grunge outfit Creed, one of the biggest rock acts at the turn of the millennium (the band hasn't released new material since 2009 and is currently on hiatus). That success led to a solo career and two records in 2005 and 2013—but Stapp was using drugs to self-medicate to cope with an undiagnosed mental illness. After a series of highly-public incidents that culminated in a substance-fueled "pyschotic break" in 2014, the musician began a path that led to a physical and mental transformation. Stapp spoke to Men's Health on the phone during the week of the new album's release, five years later, to share his story.
"The biggest thing that began my transformation was finding sobriety," Stapp said, speaking in a low, measured tone. "In finding sobriety, I was also able to get to a place where I was able to treat my underlying depression."
One of Stapp's biggest challenges was even getting to the point that he would admit he needed help, even though his relapses were highly public. After the last incident, however, he knew that he had been given his last chance.
"What really got me to the turning point was the line in the sand that my wife gave me in saying 'it's me and the kids or we have to go, it's your choice,'" he said. "Thankfully I had a brief moment of clarity and it really sunk in. That is something that I could not lose."
Stapp says that his wife Jaclyn and MusiCares, an organization that provides healthcare support for music professionals, "joined forces" to get him into a facility. There, he was treated for addiction and alcoholism, along with other underlying issues. Stapp believes that those other issues—which had links to untreated depression—were the real root cause of his trials.
Running Toward New Goals
Now that he's sober, Stapp uses his health and fitness routine to serve as an anchor point. The self-described avid runner puts in at least a few miles every day. "There's a meditative quality to it for me." he said of the practice. "That's made such an impact on every part of my life. Mentally, and even emotionally, because I think if you're not mentally well you're not emotionally well."
The process of getting into running even reflected the steps he needed to take to gain his sobriety. "When I started, I couldn't just jump on the treadmill and run five miles," Stapp said. I had to work up to it." Stapp said he would run as long as he could, then walk to keep moving. Eventually, the running periods got longer and he was walking much less. That was when he knew that he was ready to take his exercise to the next level, challenging himself with different speeds and inclines to push harder.
He likes to run on a fasted stomach, so the exercise is his first order of business after dropping his kids off at school. To avoid the extreme temperatures of his home in Nashville, he has a treadmill in his home gym, although he does hit the road outdoors on tour.
Eventually, Stapp says that he wants to take on a road race, but the concept of competing against anything other than the challenges he set for himself is still new. "My thought over the last five years was reclaiming my life physically and mentally, and changing my entire approach and daily routine to break old cycles and bad habits," he said. The only way that I found to break old cycles and bad habits is to commit to new ones and do them every day."
For now, there aren't many rest days. Even when his body isn't up for a run, Stapp says that he makes sure to do something, even if it's just a speed walk. He also uses exercise as an opportunity to spend time with the people around him, dropping into bootcamp style classes with his wife or weight room sessions with the guys in his band.
"I hate to use the word, but I guess it has become my new addiction," he admits.
But this addiction has beneficial side effects, while the old demons had only pitfalls. Stapp has dropped over 40 pounds since he began taking better care of himself, mostly through the running and a diet made up of only healthy, unprocessed foods and drinking only water. But the most obvious perk for a rock star is that he's performing better than ever before. "It's now reflecting in my performances. My stamina onstage is better than it's ever been, my singing has improved. It's affected every part of my life in a positive way."
Getting Back Into the Beat
Building up this new lifestyle took a major commitment and effort, and that explains the major gap between this new album and Stapp's previous releases. Until he was able to feel comfortable in his new routine, he had no urges to create music—early on, he didn't even run to a soundtrack, preferring to focus on his breathing and his stride.
Eventually, the treadmill became a place where he was able to find inspiration. Sometimes, Stapp recorded his ideas without stopping his run, grabbing his phone for a quick moment so he wouldn't lose the thread.
"It took two or three years of building this routine before I reconnected with myself in a new way and found the clarity and regained the connection to my body and mind," Stapp said. "When I felt those artistic and creative juices starting to swell up within me, I knew it was time and I felt ready like never before."
He kept up with his routine through the entire writing and recording process, which he feels was the key to producing the work.
Appropriately, the album's single has been given dual meaning by Stapp's listeners. With heavy guitars and booming drums, "Purpose for Pain" is tailor-made to be a particular type of aggressive, hard-hitting weight room anthem. Stapp said he saw a "mass wave" of new followers on social media, most of whom were bodybuilders and trainers who were connecting with the song on gym playlists. "What's ironic is as someone in a gym, after I wrote the song from the perspective that I did, I heard it a whole new way,” he said. "I felt it as an athlete in the gym, there was purpose for this pain, I had a goal, I was trying to get under 40 minutes for five miles.”
Stapp's biggest hope is that everyone that uses the song for workout inspiration can find the other meaning, too. "It may connect with them on another level when they hear it in a different setting, in a different frame of mind," he said. Once the listeners latch onto deeper meaning, he hopes they can confront their problems to "take that mess and make it a message."
Stapp's new album and tour are a highpoint for the last five years and he's excited to keep pushing forward with his fitness regimen, but he's not going to let these successes throw him off his path. His sights are still set on what helped him to face his demons five years ago.
"My ultimate goal is to maintain and love this family I have," he said.
"Routine is so important," he continued. "It’s had a dramatic impact on every aspect of my life. I hope that those who had last heard of me in a dark period will see that change can happen."
Stapp knows that he didn't reach this point on his own, and he has a message for anyone else working through similar trials. "You need to find what works for you and not give up. Keep trying. I truly believe you’ll eventually find something that works for you that can really change your life."
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