"He was just a true, talented musician," says childhood friend and neighbor Andrea Young
Credit: Courtesy Andrea Young

Before becoming a Grammy-winning rock god, Scott Weiland was just a popular kid with a bright future ahead of him.

The rocker, who was 48 years old when he died in his sleep Thursday, moved to the Huntington Beach, California, area as a high schooler.

“He was a really popular guy with a lot going for him,” Andrea Young – who lived across the street from Weiland during their teenage years – tells PEOPLE exclusively of her longtime friend, whom she’s kept in touch with over the years.

Weiland was once the quarterback of the football team, but music was always a passion for the rocker, who was also in the high school choir.

“I would watch him write songs all day long. He was just a true, talented musician,” adds Young. “He always had an amazing talent and a true passion for music.”

And Weiland had an electric energy about him even in his days as a rookie performer.

He once pleaded with Young’s parents to let his first band, Soi Disant, play at at their Independence Day party in 1986.

“We didn’t know that he had gone to the beach and printed fliers and invited hundreds of people!” Young recalls. “We had people crawling over our fences to come see him play in our backyard. It was just crazy.”

But it wasn’t just his musical chops that made him memorable, says Young: “He was just a great guy!”

The pals lost touch for a couple years after high school, but when Weiland was on tour with the Stone Temple Pilots at the height of their career, Young went to see a show and they reconnected.

“His tour bus was parked outside, and he sees me, and I yell “Scott!” and he comes and drags me and my friend in to watch him. He was always such a nice person,” adds Young. “Every time I’d go to a concert, he would make sure I’d go sit with him on his tour bus and reminisce about the olden days.”

Weiland is survived by his son Noah, 15, and daughter Lucy, 13. He was married to his third wife, Jamie Wachtel, whom he married in 2013, at the time of his death.

While his cause of death has yet to be determined, authorities in Bloomington, Minnesota, where Weiland’s body was found, discovered cocaine in his tour bus bedroom. The rocker had a history of substance abuse and documented his struggles in his memoir Not Dead & Not For Sale.