Everyone loves a good redemption story arc — and the union of Stone Temple Pilots and their new singer, Jeff Gutt, is certainly a feel-good rock ‘n’ roll comeback story for the ages. The announcement of Gutt’s STP hiring Tuesday, during a SiriusXM-sponsored fan concert at Los Angeles’s 500-capacity Troubadour, marks a fresh start for the legendary but beleaguered ‘90s band, following the 2015 drug-related death of their on/off original frontman, Scott Weiland, and the 2017 suicide of Weiland’s temporary replacement, Chester Bennington. It’s also a new chance for Gutt, a 41-year-old Detroit rock veteran and two-time X Factor USA contestant.
Back in 2012, single-dad-with-a-dream Gutt, formerly the lead singer of nu-metal band Dry Cell, seemed to have everything going for him, as far as shows like The X Factor are concerned: handsome rocker-dude looks, a relatable backstory, an adorable toddler son, a fantastic set of pipes, and a spectacularly Muse-i-fied audition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that went viral. It came as a shock when he was cut during the second-season Boot Camp round, and Gutt seemed as outraged as viewers. “It’s their loss; I could have won the show,” he grumbled at the time. Gutt had a point, as even Simon Cowell agreed, later telling Access Hollywood that the one regret he had about Season 2 was eliminating Gutt prematurely.
A year later, Gutt triumphantly returned for The X Factor USA’s final season and quickly became a fan favorite. Though he didn’t win the show, as he’d predicted, he did make it all the way to second place, thanks to his rock-operatic performances of Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Creep” (the Radiohead classic, not the STP song by the same title). Backstage at the Season 3 finale, Gutt told Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks that he’d decided to reaudition for The X Factor because “I figured if nothing else, it would be a chance to show my son that at least I’m a fighter; at least I’m not going to give up.”
Back in Detroit, Gutt formed the rock band Rival City Heights, but failed to break out on a national level; meanwhile, Stone Temple Pilots began searching for a new frontman after Bennington amicably left STP in 2015 to refocus on Linkin Park. As far back as November 2016, Gutt was rumored to be Bennington’s replacement, but the Pilots kept an open-call audition form up on their website and insisted that they were trying out different singers, not just Gutt.
When STP’s surviving members visited Yahoo Music this past summer for an interview about the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Core, they declined to comment on the Gutt gossip, other than admitting that he was still in the mix. However, bassist Robert DeLeo said with a chuckle, “We put out a singer submission and got about 15,000 to 20,000 people and tried a lot of people out — and we filmed it all, so there’s some good entertainment there! Ideally, it would be great to find someone who can put some honor on the legacy and move forward as a person. That’s a lot to ask of someone to do that — to have two different tasks.”
So, is Gutt up to these tasks? Very much so, judging from his spectacular Troubadour debut. Taking the stage looking like a Velvet Revolver-era Weiland, with a whippet-thin physique, wraparound aviators, and platinum bleach job (plus a “Hello, My Name Is … Jeff” name tag to introduce him to the non-X Factor viewers in the venue), he vowed to “make the most of the moment.” And that he did, handling classics like “Down,” “Piece of Pie,” “Vasoline,” “Wicked Garden,” “Sex Type Thing,” and a stripped version of “Plush” that evoked the greatness of STP’s famous MTV Unplugged special. And all the while, his son Talon watched proudly from the balcony. The diehard fans and contest winners in attendance went absolutely crazy for Gutt, readily accepting him, which was a good sign — as were the broad smiles on Kretz’s and the DeLeos’ faces. Gutt’s new bandmates seemed thrilled to be onstage again, and they sounded tighter and more galvanized than they had in years.
Before the show, in an interview with SiriusXM’s Eddie Trunk, Gutt said landing the job with Stone Temple Pilots felt like “joining Led Zeppelin, because, to me, they’re my Led Zeppelin.” He also said, “I’ve studied my craft. I’ve studied Scott [Weiland] and the people Scott studied, and other singers of the era. I’ve really put in a lot of time into that.” That sentiment was echoed by fellow Detroiter Wayne Kramer, of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees the MC5, who joined Gutt and STP onstage at the Troubadour for a surprise performance of the MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams” and told the crowd: “In Detroit, we value hard work. Jeff has put in the work! Welcome him!”
Stone Temple Pilots’ rifftastic, hard-charging new single, “Meadow,” is out now and can be heard below. Their full Troubadour concert with Gutt will premiere Friday at 5 p.m. ET on SiriusXM; the setlist was as follows:
Interstate Love Song
Kick Out the Jams
Sex Type Thing
Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart
Piece of Pie