With all due respect to all members of rock bands—regardless of their job in the group—a lead singer is often the most difficult to replace. By their very nature, they are the most visible person, and their voices are stamped on the music. And when said vocalist is also deceased, fan opinions can run the gamut from “They should call it quits!” to “Keep the music alive!”
Adam Lambert (Queen), William DuVall (Alice in Chains), J.D. Fortune (INXS) know that latter option. When original Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland died from a drug overdose in 2015, he had already been fired from the band. Their second vocalist, Chester Bennington, split his brief time with his main gig in Linkin Park, then parted amicably with STP (he himself would commit suicide in 2017).
So the remaining STP founding members Dean DeLeo (guitar), Robert DeLeo (bass), and Eric Kretz (drums), put out a call on the internet to search for a new vocalist. Many auditioned, but the man who actually got the call up – Jeff Gutt – may have been the least surprised.
“I thought that I would be it when I walked into the room [to audition]. Without being cocky, I thought ‘I’m getting this!’” he says. “And I was confident and comfortable in my own skin. But I knew for a whole year before it was officially announced. I had to keep it under wraps.”
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Gutt has already had plenty of rock and roll experience in bands like Dry Cell, Acrylic, Band with No Name, Punch, and Rival City Heights. But he came to more national attention in two seasons competing on “The X Factor” in 2013/14.
Last year, the new lineup released Stone Temple Pilots, its very title signaling a new start. They began gigging heavily, and will be in Houston on October 1 with co-headliners Rival Sons at the Revention Music Center.
“I was a fan of Scott’s too, so I understand why everyone loves him. I don’t take offense to that,” Gutt says from a stop on the tour. “I just try and go out and do my best. Keep the memory of the art he made alive, but also moving forward with the band members so they can continue their journey the way they want to. I perform the songs the way they affected me and the way I heard them. It’s a happy balance.”
All four bandmembers are listed as co-writers on each of the tracks on Stone Temple Pilots, and Gutt says his input was welcome from the get-go. “Half of the record and the music was recorded before I walked in. For others, we came up with melodies and I mumbled my way through it,” he laughs. “But we ended up using it!”
When the album first came out, the band’s set list included more of its material. Though now they do just a couple of tunes from it, relying more in the band’s ‘90s material in hits like “Vasoline,” “Plush,” “Big Empty,” “Interstate Love Song,” “Down,” and “Wicked Garden,” along with deeper cuts.
Gutt says that Stone Temple Pilots have already recorded a new record, which is being mastered now for a planned February 2020 release. And on October 18, the band will release a Super Deluxe 3-CD/1 LP of 1994’s Purple to celebrate its 25th anniversary and featuring remastered songs along unreleased studio and live recordings.
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As to what he would have told his younger self two years ago when he started in the job, Gutt stops and thinks for a bit. “That’s good question! I would say…don’t pack as many clothes! I would take three bags and I only needed one!” he says.
“But I’ve really enjoyed going to places I’ve never been before while on tour. And seeing the reaction from the crowds where the band hasn’t been in a long time. Places like South American and Europe. And on this tour, everyone gets along and is hanging out and eating together. It’s a big extended family.”
Stone Temple Pilots and Rival Sons play at 7 p.m. on October 1 at Revention Music Center, 520 Texas. For information, call 713-230-1600 or visit ReventionMusicCenter.com. $24.75 and up.
For more on Stone Temple Pilots, visit StoneTemplePilots.com