Still Going Strong – Goo Goo Dolls

Goo Goo Dolls continue to evolve

Johnny Rzeznik, singer/guitarist in the Goo Goo Dolls, is no songwriting neophyte. He’s been the band’s chief songwriter throughout its two-decade history and he’s written or co-written an enviable number of hit songs, with tunes like “Iris,” “Slide” and “Name” among his dozen top 10 adult top 40 hits.

But over the course of writing and recording the ninth Goo Goo Dolls studio CD, Rzeznik said he found he still can learn about the art of songwriting, particularly in terms of learning how to deal with the times when ideas aren’t flowing.

“I think that’s the biggest lesson that I learned in writing this record,” Rzeznik said in a late March phone interview. “It’s really frustrating. It’s kind of scary looking at the blank page. You look at the blank page and say ‘Oh God, what am I going to say? How am I going to say it in a coherent way?’ Sometimes that causes me a bit of anxiety.”

Perhaps the songwriter who most directly helped Rzeznik grow during the writing of the new CD, which is called Something for The Rest of Us, was Andy Stochansky.

“(He’s) an amazing songwriter and I actually produced an album for him about seven years ago,” Rzeznik said. “It’s always a learning process with Andy, because he’s kind of prolific. It’s like I’ll write 20 songs in a year and he’ll write 100. I’m always astounded by people who can do that. He’s just so comfortable with going to the well and diving in.”

Rzeznik, obviously, got more comfortable with working through tough points in the creative process. But it’s also clear that he had some specific inspiration for some of the songs on Something for The Rest of Us.

While he’s usually written about love and relationships, on the new CD, Rzeznik said he found himself exploring some topical themes.

“It’s not like a concept album, because I hate that term, but a lot of the subject matter on the album is kind of addressing what people seem to be going through in a very angst-ridden time in America. There’s a lot of separation anxiety with a lot of people who have loved ones who are off fighting two different wars right now and people losing their jobs and feeling very insecure about that and losing their homes. I just wanted to, I don’t know, man, just kind of try to give them some kind of hope or something.”

The writing and recording of Something for The Rest of Us was not particularly quick or seamless. Work on the album stretched out over about two years. The group (Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac, drummer Mike Malinin) produced much of the CD itself, with Tim Palmer, Rob Cavallo and Butch Vig, also doing some production.

In fact, Something for The Rest of Us was originally going to be released this past fall, until the group realized there was room for improvement on the CD.

“We had the album in our hands and we listened to it and we were like ‘Wow, this is really good,’” he said. “Then we had Paul (Hager, who for several years has mixed the Goo Goo Dolls sound at concerts) come in and mix a couple of songs and it was just, it just exploded out of the speakers. It was like ‘Wow, this is so much better.’ Then we started playing the songs in rehearsals as a band, as a five-piece and they started evolving even more. We were like ‘We need to go back and re-do this.’ It is so much better now.”

Not only does Rzeznik feel good about Something for The Rest of Us, he feels better about where the Goo Goo Dolls stand as a band now than he did a few years ago.

Leading up to the 2006 CD, Let Love In, Rzeznik voiced some uncertainty about whether the group would stay together after touring behind the album.

But in doing that previous CD, he, Takac and Malinin smoothed out some issues and now things are in a good place as the band begins its touring cycle behind Something For The Rest Of Us.

“It’s nice because everything feels really comfortable,” Rzeznik said. “The band is at a point, we’re one of the few bands lucky enough to be able to go out and earn a living playing live. And that’s a really comforting feeling because you don’t have to worry so much about chasing hits. Let’s face it, selling records is really hard now. It’s nice that we can go out and get our music out to people and they come out to see us.”

“And the space between (the 2002 CD) Gutterflower and Let Love In, we sort of lost focus on that because we were trying to pound so hard to be successful and do all of that,” he said. “We kind of lost our focus at certain points. It’s nice to have that back … Now we just sort of feel a bit more comfortable in our own skin and sharing our space together.”

Goo Goo Dolls will perform Friday, May 14 at 8 p.m. at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering. The Rocket Summer will also perform. Terrace tickets remain and are priced at $25. For tickets or more information, call 1-800-745-3000 or visit www.fraze.com

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