Magnetic: A Q&A with Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik
Goo Goo Dolls have had a long and productive career, releasing ten albums (not including two greatest hits records), fourteen top ten singles and “Iris”, the song that Billboard ranked number one on their Top 100 Pop Songs of 1992-2012 chart. Lead singer John Rzeznik took some time before going on The Tonight Show for the seventeenth time to talk about the band’s new album (Magnetic, out June 11), his venture into co-writing and the song he is most proud of.
What’s the story behind the album’s title?
I was on the phone with my manager and he was yelling into the phone about coming up with a title for the album. That word just came out of my mouth. I just spat the word out: Magnetic. That’s good. And then he was like, “Ooh, I like that.” And I liked it too, so we just called it that. It was that simple. I’m very bad at naming things, putting titles on my songs, I usually wait till the last minute to do that.
Many songs, like “Bulletproofangel” and “Last Hot Night” seem to have the lyrical style you’re you guys are known for, but others seem to be starting a new era in your sound. What caused the change?
A lot of things. Certain things in your life change, and you just feel better. When we made the album Something for the Rest of Us, I was in a really bad place. Everyone goes through hard times, and I just happened to be making a record during mine. It was a pretty honest reflection of where I was during that time, just like this is an honest reflection of what I was thinking, feeling and doing when I was writing those songs. And I did a lot of collaborating on this album and I really enjoyed that. I was just so happy to do it. It was a joy to get up and work every day and I wasn’t sitting in a room by myself. I was learning from other writers and good friends I have a lot of respect for and they have respect for me.
Were there any songs that gave you any difficulty during the writing process?
Not really because we took each song and wrote them one at a time. We would write the music and the words and do a little producing on the song and we’d finish it. We’d put it away and move on to the next piece of work. Yeah, there were frustrating moments but I learned a lot about a songwriter’s work ethic. You go to work at noon and you can stay there until midnight and if you need to take a walk or take a break, you go take a walk or a break and then get back to work.
Is there a particular song or lyric you are especially proud of on this album?
I really like “Rebel Beat.” I feel like it’s a nice, tightly wound song. There’s no fat on that song. It’s all business. I really enjoy that. It works really well. The song just came to me; I’m just really sentimentally attached to it.
Which are you most looking forward to performing?
All of them. We try to do seven or eight songs off the album [every night]. I’m really looking forward to going out in public and doing all those songs for people.
While we’re on the subject of performing, does it ever get tiring to play the old favorites?
I think when somebody goes to work every day and then spends a chunk of money to see your show, you kind of owe it to them to give them what they want. I’m really grateful for the luck that I’ve had with the songs. Some of those songs stuck around for a long time and still get played.
Yeah, it’s amazing how often I’ll hear a song like “Slide” on the radio still today.
It is impressive. I’m really blown away by it.
Do you find yourself co-writing more or writing on your own?
Well in the past, I pretty much wrote alone most of the time. But, I’ve been doing this for twenty years so I wanted to hang out and try something new. I felt like I was in need of some schooling.
Do you write with the guys in the band or people who are a bit more disconnected from the project?
I wrote with Gregg Wattenberg, who produced a bunch of tracks on the album, and Andy Stochansky and John Shanks, who produced three songs on there. We all wrote together and that’s the way I wanted to do it. It was really fun. I highly recommend that for anybody who feels like they’ve hit a wall with their creativity working on their own. It completely opens up whole new areas. People think about and feel music very differently from each other. It’s interesting to put the two together and see what happens with it.
You’ve mentioned being inspired by the stories of fans like with “Notbroken” from your previous album. Which tends to inspire songs more: your own life or events from those around you?
Well, things that happen in my life a lot. It’s a combination of all those things. Once in a while you’ll hear a story that moves you and inspires you, in the case of “Notbroken”. Or you’re happy about something that’s going on in your life or you just had something on your mind and you wanted to get it out there.
Do you write the lyrics and the music to a song, or more one than the other?
I definitely was more involved in the lyrics, definitely more with the lyrics and the melody than the music.
What is your favorite or most memorable song that you have written?
I’m proud of a song that I wrote called “We Are the Normal.” It was never really a hit or anything, I was just really proud of it.
Are there any songs that you find resonate most with fans? Are there any of the upcoming album you think may have that effect?
You always hope that the songs resonate with the audience as much as possible but I think “Come to Me”, “Slow it Down” and “Rebel Beat.” I think we can all relate to all those lyrics.