"Being back in Creed is the last thing I would have expected," guitarist Mark Tremonti told MusicRadar in an exclusive interview. "But all things for a reason, and there must be a reason why we've all come back together right now."
Tremonti had been planning on cutting a new record with Alter Bridge, the band he formed with fellow ex-Creed mates, drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall (along with singer Myles Kennedy), but a change in the group's management resulted in a sit-down with estranged ex-Creed singer Scott Stapp (all are repped by Irving Azoff's Front Line Management).
"Before you knew it, we were all there in a room with Scott, and things progressed very naturally from there," says Tremonti.
"Maturing and reflecting"
"He realizes how truly important Creed was to him. Not just as a monetary enterprise, but as a band " Mark Tremonti on singer Scott Stapp
The guitarist, who says he hadn't spoken to Stapp in the six years since Creed broke up, describes himself as "surprised as hell at Scott's new attitude towards music and life in general.
"It seems as though, over the last six years, he'd done a lot of maturing and reflecting; he has his head on straight. And he realizes how truly important Creed was to him. Not just as a monetary enterprise, but as a band, a group of people. Creed was an important thing for him to be a part of. Right there, in our first meeting, he made us realize that we felt the same way."
Although Tremonti is reticent to label Creed's break up as 'bitter,' he admits that they "definitely weren't happy during our last few years together. Scott was going through a lot of personal problems, drinking and whatnot. And I think we were all taking things for granted. We were selling a lot of records and packing arenas, and I think we just assumed that this is how things went.
"Falling apart was probably the best thing that could have happened to us - in the years that have passed, it made us see that what we had was special, and if we were to attempt this again, if we were to put Creed back together, we had to remember how truly blessed we were to have something so extraordinary."
A "bigger and bolder" Creed
"We started jamming and six songs just kind of wrote themselves. They won't be as obvious as what we did in the past"
Musically, Tremonti describes the new Creed as "bigger, bolder and fresher than what people will probably expect from us. We started jamming and six songs just kind of wrote themselves. And maybe they won't be as obvious as what we did in the past. You're not going to hear anything like Higher, at least from what we have so far.
During Creed's first go-round, Tremonti says that Stapp could be a tough customer to collaborate with. "It felt like he was never happy with anything we were doing. He could be quite negative, and that made everything a downer."
Happily, the guitarist reports that things are different now. "Scott is very 'up,' very positive. From the second we started playing again, he was very complimentary towards what we were all doing musically. He had a lot of nice things to say about my guitar playing, and to hear him say to Brian that he thought he was a great bass player was very cool." (Stapp and Marshall had butted heads in the past, resulting in the bassist's departure from the Human Clay tour; Brett Hestla took over in his place.)
Tremonti calls the new batch of songs "a great new chapter in the Creed songbook," but he did say that a few pieces that Stapp had been working on for a long-delayed second solo album "finally found their home. Scott brought in some verses from things he was tinkering around with, and we made them Creed."
According to the guitarist, the band is planning to record an album in May or June before hitting the road this August. "We're just starting to talk to producers now. Howard Benson and Michael Baskette are on our short list. We have to move fast, because we definitely want the record done before we begin the tour."
The future of Creed and Alter Bridge
And what does Tremonti see for the future of Creed, to say nothing of Alter Bridge? "It's baby steps for Creed," he says. "We're going to see how we make it through this album and tour, although we're not looking at this as a one-off; we would like to make Creed an ongoing band once again.
"As for Alter Bridge, there's no question we're going to continue. Myles has given us his full support - as we did when it looked like he might sing with Led Zeppelin - and he knows that Alter Bridge is going to go on. In fact, right after we're done with the Creed tour, we're going right back in to cut a new Alter Bridge album."
Next week: MusicRadar will report on Mark Tremonti's guitar instructional DVD The Sound And The Story, with details of a special giveaway.