As he wrote songs about overcoming mental illness, depression and anxiety for his upcoming album, The Space Between Shadows, it was inevitable that Scott Stapp's attention would turn toward the travails of some of his peers. And "Gone Too Soon," premiering exclusively below, was inspired partly by the deaths of fellow rockers Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington within the space of two months in 2017.
"First of all, just as a human being my heart broke for their wives and for their children. I had that very human response of just sorrow," Stapp, who's been open about his past struggles, tells Billboard. "And then it went a step further into self-reflection — Man, that easily could've been my path, and on some occasions it almost was my path. It reminded me of where my life would go if I went back and returned to the life I led before." But as he was writing Stapp also took "Gone Too Soon" a step beyond rock star deaths.
"Somewhere around the time Chester passed, and we had already been reeling from Cornell's passing, I was flipping through the news and saw the suicide rate for (U.S. military) vets was skyrocketing," he recalls. "And all these people are OD-ing from heroin, drug addictions, opioids. The school shootings. It was just a collection of things that all hit me at once. So it was inspired by a series of events that just came together to impact me as a human being, all at once, and then that song came to life."
"Gone Too Soon" is the final advance track from The Space Between Shadows, due out July 19, which is the Creed frontman's first solo album in six years. Stapp says he didn't start the album with a theme or concept in mind, but rather hit on its thread "subconsciously through inspiration, kind of stream of consciousness. I had a lot inside of me, giving everything that has gone on in my life over the last six years. So there definitely is a thread that ties all the songs together based on those life experiences and reflecting on that." And Stapp hopes the message conveyed comes across as positive.
"It's about me learning how to overcome and get to the other side of the most difficult situations and challenges in my life and find a purpose within it," Stapp explains, "really seeking to not just wake up every day with the idea of 'OK, I’ve got to fight this, and it's all about me.' It's really about getting outside of my own head and saying, 'OK, when I get to the other side of this situation I will have learned something, and that's something I can use to help somebody going through a similar situation.'
"So that became a purpose for me, gave me hope and helped motivate me so it wasn't all just about me. I think a lot of people are out there suffering in silence; That's something I did for many, many, many years. Hopefully I can help encourage them to talk about it and seek help."
Stapp, who published his memoir Sinner's Creed in 2012, is currently on tour, with dates booked into October. The Space Between Shadows is available for pre-order via his website. Meanwhile Creed, whose last album, Full Circle, came out a decade ago, remains dormant despite reports of an upcoming reunion.
"There's always rumors flying around," Stapp says. "But everything's positive between the guys. We're all in a good space and in a good space with each other. I'm just right now focused on my new record and touring the world with my new record. If there's ever any new announcements about anything involving Creed we'll make sure to let the fans and the public know."