Actor and musician Creed Bratton has led an eclectic life, and has the varied career — spanning music, movies, and television — to prove it. Best known as a founding member of 60's rock band The Grass Roots, and later as the lovably psychotic paper salesman Creed on "The Office," Bratton has maintained a successful solo music career with six albums and a seventh currently in the works.
Bratton is scheduled to bring his rock and comedy to The California Brew Haus this Thursday, November 19, at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $20, $50 for VIP tickets with Meet and Greet, and can be purchased online through ticketfly.com, or through The Entertainment Collective at tecshows.com.
City recently spoke with Bratton by phone about his upcoming tour. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
City: Tell me a little bit about your current tour.
Creed Bratton: The show is a hybrid: I play my original songs, I'll probably play a couple Grass Roots songs, and in between I tell anecdotes about this amazing ride that I've been on. From being in Europe right out of college, traveling around with the folk trio [The Young Californians], then being in The Grass Roots, and then having like 30 years without a pot to piss in. And then bam, having a career reborn with "The Office." So now I've got this amazing backlog of stories and songs.
Have you been through Rochester before?
Well, I probably did with The Grass Roots, we played all over the place for four years, but I was stoned all the time so I don't remember much about that [laughs] — I'll be very honest. The old rock 'n' roll days, you know?
How much has the touring experience changed from those days?
Well, back then it was starting out in a van with a beer-soaked mattress in the back. And every couple days we'd be lucky if we could go to a Holiday Inn and take a shower and then move on to the gig. That's how we started out. Then we got a tour bus after "Midnight Confessions," and ended up flying by the end of my career in '69. But we went through the whole process of every rock band.
And for myself, personally, we were The Grass Roots, but still we could walk down the street anywhere in the world and no one really knew who we were. That's changed for me because of "The Office." We have a young, young crowd now. And then Netflix has now been responsible for a whole new audience for "The Office" and for the Creed character.
The music scene of the 60's is a period that tends to get romanticized — I can't imagine actually getting to live through it.
Oh my god, it was the best bite of the apple as far as music was concerned. And I feel sad for the people who are out there trying to do it now, because at that time there was all this originality, and there's not that now. There's not that originality now. It's like there's a formula they gotta follow to get on the radio. Back then you could get almost anything on the radio. It was an exciting time.
What are your memories of that time like?
It was an amazing experience. And no matter what happened with the record companies and how we were treated, it's still playing out there in the 60's in the Summer of Love. Of course, we didn't have the hard drugs that the kids are participating in now. We had lightweight marijuana, so it was all very sweet. It started to get ugly during the 70's and 80's when coke and heroin started coming along, which is too bad from my point of view.
Obviously, appearing on "The Office" brought you a lot of notoriety. Have you found that people expect you to be just like your character on the show?
[Laughs] They do, and they sometimes get a little disappointed — sometimes relieved, especially people with children. People with children are relieved that I'm not that guy. People say it seems odd, but [living like that] would just wear me out. He was a cracked tuning fork, the Creed character.
I read that you based Creed on yourself, had you gone down the darker path of drugs and rock 'n' roll.
As I said, it was a very innocent time. I didn't see very bad stuff going on at the time. You carry it as a badge of honor that you would get high or take acid and go to these places and get these pearls of wisdom and these songs and bring them back. Obviously, many, many people did not return. I was one of the strong ones that was able to come back pretty much intact. And sadly, some people didn't. But I wrote the character considering that.
The original thing had me passed out and having a blackout on a Greyhound bus and waking up in a dumpster in Scranton and Ed Truck gives me a job as a salesman, which I can't do. Then they put me in acquisitions, where people come to me. But I'm psychic; I had one bit in there where Jim needs a stapler, and he'll walk over to my desk and I'll just throw a stapler over my shoulder 'cause I already know what he's looking for. It scares a lot of the employees and I'm fine with that. That was basically how I wrote it, and then of course the writers took it far beyond that, where I was killing people and stealing and [chuckles] — oh my God, it was horrible. But he's somehow still likeable despite all the horrible things he did.
Oh yeah, people love Creed.
Oh my God, it was so much fun.
Was it your idea to use your actual name for the character?
I presented it as that, and I talked about being part of The Grass Roots, but Greg Daniels decided they were going to use me as "Creed Bratton from The Grass Roots." And we never really established it — the only time other people knew about it was in deleted scenes: the booze cruise where I play guitar, and then later on when I fake my own death. But they did finally bring it all out at the season finale, and people got it then.
If you'd known how big the show was going to be, would you have still wanted to use your real name? Considering people now expect that to be you?
In the position I'm in right now and where I was before, I have no regrets whatsoever. I'm a lucky, lucky guy.