Wes Scantlin is sitting on a curb in front of a Mexican restaurant, quietly chatting on his cell phone. If you didn't know him, you wouldn't expect that he'd be commanding the spotlight in front of thousands that night when Puddle of Mudd opened for Kid Rock.
But two girls who do recognize him spot the singer and nervously shuffle over. "Aren't you Wes from Puddle of Mudd?" asks one.
"Yes, I am," he replies, flattered by the attention and agreeing to pose for a photo.
The name of Puddle of Mudd's most recent album, Life on Display, may suggest that Scantlin resents being under a microscope, but he's sure happy to be a rock star. "This is the best job in the world," he gloats. "I'm having a great time."
Less than a month after being asked to play dates with the Kid, Puddle of Mudd are in high demand. Their new single, "Heel Over Head," is charting well, and the band has shows lined up through June. Even so, Scantlin wants to make sure he continues to be recognized on street corners. A B-side called "Bleed" will be featured on the soundtrack of "The Punisher," due March 23, and the singer has a variety of other projects up his sleeve, including an acoustic album (see "Puddle Of Mudd To Spin Out Acoustic, Live Albums").
Scantlin is also starting to write material for the next electric Puddle of Mudd album. He recently penned a rocking song called "Galvanic," which he recorded during a soundcheck. "The emotion of the song is amazing," he said. "I cried when I heard it on the playback because I've been going through a little struggling time in my life right now. When I get off the road I'm just sitting in a house trying to figure out how to be normal again, and then when I get back on the road I'm trying to figure out how it is to live on the road again."
When in similarly turbulent situations in the past, Scantlin wrote songs to help him cope. Now he's doing the same, which is a relief because after Life on Display the creative well seemed to dry up. "I really went to the edge on that album, and I might have gone insane for a second," he said. "It's kind of weird being a songwriter. The little inspirational songbird that lands on your shoulder kind of flies away for a while, and you miss it, and you don't know when it's gonna come back, and it actually just did come back. So I'm writing again, and it's great."
As much as Puddle of Mudd are looking forward to their new rock songs and acoustic record, there are more timely things to attend to right now — like finishing up the video for "Heel Over Head."
The clip was shot in Chicago early this month and directed by rock photographer Chris Cuffaro. "There's not really a story line," Scantlin said, "it's more like performance art that captures the essence of emotion. We were all filmed on the surface of a rotating table, and the images make it look really rock and roll. I really put a lot of emotion into it, and we had a girl who put every pained out thing she could put into it."
"Heel Over Head" is scheduled to go to video outlets at the end of the month. And while Puddle of Mudd's label wants to focus on the song at radio for a while, Scantlin is already planning ahead. He wants to release at least two more singles from Life on Display. The first will likely be "Spin You Around," one of the band's more positive tunes.
"I wrote it on a mountain in L.A. three years ago," Scantlin said. "My girl had just left to get some food, and I was sitting there playing the song. She came back in and started dancing around. So I just kind of wrote the song about this girl that was dancing around in front of me. It's a different kind of thing for us."
The other potential single, "Freak of the World," is more typical Puddle: "When I was growing up, I was the little freak of the school," Scantlin said. "I knew a lot of other kids that were jocks and stuff and they played sports, and I discovered that they were freakier than I was. So I think there's a little freak in everybody, you know?"