There’s enough pressure following in the footsteps of one iconic frontman who’s passed away.
When you’re following two, there’s no telling the kind of nerves and stress that can come with such a gig. Jeff Gutt has now been the lead vocalist of grunge veterans Stone Temple Pilots for almost three years and two studio albums now. That feeling of stepping out on-stage with the DeLeo brothers and Eric Kretz for the first time, however, is one that will never leave Gutt’s mind.
“It was at the Troubadour in LA,” he recalls. “It was being broadcast live on XFM. I don’t think I’ve ever quite had such a trial-by-fire moment in my entire career. It was a pressure-filled moment, but having come from the world of The X Factor I knew a thing or two about high-pressure moments.
“If anyone was going to be able to get it done, I figured I was going to be the one for the job. I just went out there and fed off the energy of the crowd. I tried not to overthink it at all – if you do, you’ll always end up messing things up.”
Having long since settled into the role, Gutt is happy with his place at the front of the multi-platinum band. He’s not attempting to directly emulate predecessors Scott Weiland or Chester Bennington – rather, he’s attempting to forge his own place within the fold, a separate entity from the giants he stands on the shoulders of.
“I’ve tried to make it as comfortable as I possibly could,” Gutt explains. “If I weighed myself down with the legacy and how big a band they are, I was never going to get my head right. My focus was on the music, as well as getting to know the guys.
“Once that was established, it was a lot easier to move forward as a part of the band. The approach has worked really well for me – I mean, to be honest, if I’d have kicked the door down and come in all guns blazing, I don’t think I’d have gotten the gig to begin with.”
Gutt’s most recent expedition with Stone Temple Pilots was Perdida, the eighth STP album overall and second to feature Gutt fronting the band. An acoustically-oriented LP, it’s a considerable departure from albums like Core and Purple by the band’s own admission – and it served as a challenge that Gutt himself was more than up for.
“This record’s very different,” he says. “We were planning to just do a couple of songs, turn it into an EP and get it out there. Once we got in the studio, though, we just kept cranking out songs. It became a full record very organically. I think it’s a very honest album, it’s one that I think people can relate to easily. Making this album was a very therapeutic process for us.”
Gutt and co. will be bringing Perdida and all of their classic hits to Australia next month, where they will be performing with fellow ‘90s rock giants Bush and Live as a part of the Under the Southern Stars touring festival. The tour will mark the band’s first visit to Australia with Gutt at the helm, and the excitement of being on the road with old friends in such a unique performing environment is palpable.
“We’ve toured with Bush before, and those guys are just awesome,” says Gutt. “When you’re out on tour with a band, the whole thing just becomes like a big family – a family that just happens to be part of a travelling circus. I’ve never met the guys in Live before, but there’s no better way to get to know a band than to get to see them play every night. I’m a newbie to Australia, man – I can’t wait to see what it has to offer.”
Stone Temple Pilots perform at Under the Southern Stars when it goes down at Hastings Foreshore Reserve on the Mornington Peninsula on Saturday April 11. Grab your tickets via the UTSS website.