One of the most hated bands to ever go into a recording studio, Creed has sold nearly 35 million albums since forming in 1995. It’s staggering, really, when you consider the way the band’s sound is so derivative of better bands like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. Success finally undid the band in classic fashion in 2003, and some of the members went on to form the hard-rock group Alter Bridge, while singer Scott Stapp pursued a solo career and struggled to stay out of the tabloids, which chronicled his erratic behavior (he had addiction issues). The band reunited last year, released a new album (Full Circle), and toured relentlessly. They’re back this summer with the “20-10” tour (named so because the first 2,010 reserved seats cost only cost $20, with no service fees, and the remaining seats are $20 and $10, with service fees). They play Blossom Music Center tomorrow. Guitarist Mark Tremonti recently talked to us about the band’s new attitude. —Jeff Niesel
I think it’s great you’re starting the tour in Nashville with a benefit concert.
Our managers presented the idea to us. We thought it’d be a good way to kick it off. We wrote most of Full Circle in Nashville. We want to get out there and help out the best we can. It’s a great city. I have even tried to convince my wife to live there.
To be honest, I’m surprised Creed has kept it together since reforming last year. There was so much bad blood between you guys. What has changed?
We’re more grown up now and we all have kids. When we’re off tour, we’re with our families. We just see each other when we’re on tour. It’s easier when you’re enjoying the tour. Back in the day, we were constantly together and with the strains of success and backlash of critics, it was a tough time.
Critics really don’t like you guys. Why?
I think it was inevitable. Whenever something takes off like Creed did in the back in the day, that’s bound to happen. It was oversaturated. It’s inevitable people get tired of it. I completely understand. I would drive in my car and when I heard “With Arms Wide Open” and “Higher,” I had to change the channel, too.
Fans seem to have stuck by the band.
Yes and doing the 20-10 thing is a way of giving back to the fans to show the fans that we’re aware of the current economic realities. We want to put on a show that people can afford.
I think most people assume the band was an overnight success. That wasn’t the case as you essentially self-released your debut before. Talk about those early days and what the band learned from starting small.
We spent a couple of years writing the first record and touring the college circuit in Florida. Little by little, we got bigger. At our peak before the record came out, we played before 300 people but that was before our song got picked up by the local radio station. We all worked side jobs to pay for our demos to get the song on the radio. We got it on the locals only show so they put it in rotation and then was the top requested song.
And what was it like when the band did finally break?
The club in Tallahassee where a lot of national acts played held about 800 people and I remember sitting at the bar having a beer before one of our shows and having a guy ask me if I had seen Creed. When I told him I was in the band, he told me there was a line of people several blocks long to get in. That’s when I realized it was really happening. I was so nervous I think I threw up.
Would you say if Scott hadn’t gotten into that car accident in 2002, things would have turned out different?
I’m not sure. I think things snowballed at the time. It’s a tough fight out there in the rock ’n’ roll world, especially when you have the success we had. Things were tough on us. It kind of snowballed to where we didn’t want to live with it anymore.
Would you say Scott is a different person now?
Yeah. He’s less edgy than back in the day. Back then, he had a lot of piss and vinegar. He’s more passive now.
Is Alter Bridge still kicking?
Yeah, we just finished mastering the third Alter Bridge record. Hopefully, we’ll get it out by the end of September.
It’s good you can keep both bands going.
Yeah, they come from different spots artistically. We put our hearts and souls into Alter Bridge. We didn’t want to just end it. I’m working on recording stuff for my own thing, too.
What first inspired you to play guitar?
When I was young, I listened to speed metal and dark metal - anything dark and nasty that I could find. When I moved to Florida from Detroit, it was a huge culture shock. I had my four-track and spent a lot of time playing guitar. I was 14 or 15 at the time. Even though I was unhappy at that time, it helped me develop as a songwriter.
You’ve played Cleveland before. Any great memories?
I remember spending about a week on tour there and enjoying the city. We went on a river boat tour that was cool. It’s a fun city and has the best rock base in the country.
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