"Dave Grohl said Arms Wide Open was one of the best songs ever written." Mark Tremonti on Creed, Alter Bridge, singing Sinatra and everything in between

Mark Tremonti holding a guitar
(Image credit: Press)

Since rising to prominence as the guitarist in multi-platinum post-grunge band Creed, Mark Tremonti has seemingly made it his life goal to be one of the most impressive men in music. After Creed’s dissolution, he formed the wildly successful Alter Bridge – where his reputation as a 21st-century guitar hero skyrocketed – and started his own solo project, Tremonti. He later proved himself a capable crooner by recording an excellent album of Frank Sinatra covers.

If that wasn’t enough, his work for the National Down Syndrome Society, inspired by his daughter Stella, is proof he is one of rock’s true good guys. Hammer sat down with him prior to the release of his forthcoming Christmas album, Christmas Classics New & Old, to find out who his festive king is, how he tackled Woodstock 1999, his regret at taking his shirt off for photoshoots and much more.

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“When Creed first came out, all the bands of rock radio were kind of upbeat, more pop rock. Bands like Third Eye Blind were really big at the time, and Marcy Playground and Semisonic, stuff like that. So, when we came out with My Own Prison, to me at the time, it was the only sombre song that was doing well on the rock charts. I think the seriousness of it grabbed people’s attention. The grunge scene had a lot of that moody stuff going on, but when we had come about, it had been years since the grunge thing really popped.”


“That Woodstock was definitely not a, ‘let’s relive the original Woodstock days’ kind of show, it was just a big festival with a bunch of modern rock bands that had more of an aggressive feel to it. We drove in just a couple hours before we hit the stage. Great show, massive audience, very receptive crowd when we played. I remember walking to stage and I walked by [singer/songwriter] Jewel and I was like ‘this is cool.’ But then [Red Hot] Chili Peppers came on and our tour manager was like ‘Hey guys, let’s get out of here because after Chili Peppers is going to be a mass exodus’. We got in the van which had a TV and we were watching the show as we were driving away and we saw everything catching on fire. I don’t regret playing though, it was one of those moments you’ll never forget.”


“You have to have thick skin. Back when Creed were on the radio 24 hours a day, if a friend would call me and say, ‘Man, this this person online said that said this or that about your band’, I’d be like, ‘just let me enjoy myself.’ I’ve been able to live on both sides of that fence across my career; to have the very recognised commercial band that had a lot of success, but also had some backlash, and then had Alter Bridge, who everybody’s always been very complimentary about, but we never sold the millions and millions of records that Creed did.”


“Back in the early Creed days, we got the cover of Spin magazine, they set us up with some great photographer. We get in there and it’s like, ‘Okay guys, let’s take the shirts off.’ Come on man! I didn’t want to take our shirts off, but when you’re young and impressionable – I think we were like 23, 24 years old –  you see all these other people doing this kind of stuff so you go along with it. My friends, when we’re trying to be funny and making fun of one another, they just send me that picture to shut me up. It’s something that I’ve got to take for the rest of my life.”


“Creed were very polarising amongst our peers. There was one guy – I don’t want to name him – but I approached him, pretty much said I was a fan and he was kind of cold. Then I was playing guitar with a bandmate of his, and they told me, ‘Oh, yeah, he talks mad trash about your band.’ But then there’s been other comments; somebody had told me Dave Grohl came out and said Arms Wide Open was one of the best songs ever written, which is awesome.”


“Because three of us were from Creed, it was tough in the States, everybody just kind of compared us to Creed. That’s why we spent so much time in Europe, because we had a blank slate. The UK especially took off for us and we just kept on touring over there and building on that. The UK is really the reason why we’re still a band; if we didn’t have the UK and the rest of Europe to support this band and we had just the amount of success we had in the States in the beginning, we might’ve called it quits.”


“People that put their lives into being a musician, an artist, writer and performer, they don’t want to just stay in the same lane all the time. I definitely don’t. I don’t know if I’d have been happier if Creed stayed together for the last 30 years and we were as successful as the big classics, the Metallicas, the Floyds and the AC/DCs. I’m happier being able to experiment.”


“My daughter was born during COVID, so I spent most of the first two years of her life at home. But since then, I’ve had about three months away where I’ll have a four-or five-week tour where I can’t see her because we can’t be flying a two-year-old to Europe. But me and my kids are super close, they’re still number one to me. If they ever said ‘Dad, stop touring. I want you to sit at home.’ I’d say ‘Sorry everybody, I got to go home for a while.’ They always will be number one to me.”


“The most exciting thing going on in my world right now is we are about to launch a medical program which will be the most comprehensive Down Syndrome medical program in the [US], if not the world. It’s going to be called Smile With Stella, named after my daughter, and we’re partnering with Advent Health, one of the biggest health care providers in the country. We’re going to do a big benefit show in December, to fund the hospital program and it’s going to be in Orlando. We’re hopefully doing a show at the Walt Disney Theater [in Florida] and my goal is to partner with Disney to get kids free admission to [Disneyland Orlando]. If Disney gives free passes and housing for kids to come in, it would just be the best situation in the world. When I’m a little old man on my deathbed looking back at my life, that’ll be my most proud moment for sure.”


“I had Christmas Songs By Sinatra [Frank’s 1948 festive classic album] and felt like this stuff is in my range and it felt good to sing and I enjoyed singing it. When I did the Sinatra thing a lot of people were like, ‘You should do a Christmas record!’ And I was like, ‘You know what, I should do a Christmas record!’ So I just went through and did my research as much as I could on every version of every Christmas song I could ever think of and came up with the 10 best arrangements for the record, gathered the same host of characters that did the Sinatra record [Mark Tremonti Sings Frank Sinatra] with me, then added a string section, like 23-person string section. We do anything on the record from like a four-piece to a 52-piece and everything in between.”


“I was already grown up when Mariah [Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You] came out. Mariah’s song is more of a modern thing for me, it’s a great song, but it doesn’t remind me of my childhood experiences. Nat King Cole is the king of Christmas, he’s even got the king in his name! He screams Christmas. Frank Sinatra is near and dear to my heart. Andy Williams is another, just a classic you know? Even Donny Hathaway, I’m channelling Donny Hathaway on this record.”

Originally published in Metal Hammer #382

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.