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SUMMERMUSIC GUIDE
'Magnetic' attraction: The Goo Goo Dolls lighten up
John Rzeznik discusses the life changes and musical goals behind their new music

By Melinda Newman
Special to MSN Music

Sometimes, you have to go through the darkness to get to the light. On 2010's "Something for the Rest of Us," the Goo Goo Dolls wrestled with some demons, but on "Magnetic," out June 11, John Rzeznik, Robby Takac and Mike Malinin have come out the other side and into the sun.

Since forming in 1986 in Buffalo, the Goo Goo Dolls have provided a steady stream of melodic, textured hits, including "Iris," "Black Balloon," "Slide" and "Better Days," to lodge more top 10 songs in the history of Billboard's Adult Contemporary charts than any other artist. The first single off "Magnetic," the uplifting, anthemic "Rebel Beat," is headed in the same direction.

Rzeznik talked to MSN about giving up drinking, the song he unintentionally wrote for his fiancée and why some fans may complain about the new album.

MSN Music: You're getting married this summer and Robby's wife recently had a baby, which helps explain so many songs about being in love and being happy --

John Rzeznik: It's wanting to have these things.

Right. The difference between wanting and actually having allowed you to keep that bittersweet wistfulness and slight doubt that anchors so many of your songs.

I think that's just a big part of my personality. I can see the cloud in every silver lining [laughs]. By the time you get to be my age, that means you've gone through your first round of adulthood and now you're starting the second round. The thing that struck me the most was I definitely didn't want to write a bunch of ballads. I wanted more uptempo, more fun. The theme unwound itself in front of me: "OK, this is your life, you got to get up, you got to get out, you got to live it because it's going quick."

The lushly romantic "Come to Me" could be a perfect wedding song. Did you write that for your fiancée?

I didn't intend to, but I guess I did. I was just sort of writing. She's great. She's really strong, a good person, I know she's got my back. I'm really happy that we're [getting married], so that song definitely, that's for her.

Are you going to sing it at the wedding?

No, no ... that would be so, just kind of cheesy [laughs] ... Maybe I'll hire someone else to sing it.

Bing: More on the Goo Goo Dolls

What made you decide to co-write with Gregg Wattenberg and John Shanks instead of writing the bulk of the material alone, as you have in the past?

The process has become really sort of stagnant. I felt like I needed to go back to school and learn some more from some other people on what I was doing and get some different perspective. Anybody starts to repeat themselves over and over and over again. I figured, we've done 10 records, that's a lot of material.

This album sounds different sonically from past albums, with a stronger emphasis on rhythms and harmonies. How intentional was that?

I'm sure some people will criticize it negatively [because of] some of the things that we did musically. I mean, this is not a heavily guitar-driven record; there's a lot more keyboards. I wanted to experiment more with rhythms and things like that, also use a lot more vocals as instruments, building these big walls of vocals and harmonies. It just freshened up the whole sound of the band.

You stopped drinking recently. How did that affect your songwriting?

I don't think I've ever written anything worth using when I've been drinking, and generally when I work, I never drank. ... It's not when I'm drinking that's the problem, it's the day after. ... I went through periods in my life where I was just drinking way too much, and then there's times when I didn't drink at all, and then I was sort of hitting a period when we were doing "Something for the Rest of Us" where my drinking was occupying way too much of my time and it was making me really, really miserable and it was making me ineffective and it was really making the people around me unhappy.

Did you reach the tipping point?

I'm generally a pretty shy person. I know it doesn't seem like it. I get really anxious in social situations, so alcohol really worked for a long time. It was a social lubricant. But it got really a little bit out of control there and it wasn't working. That's the bottom line: It just stopped working.

As a writer, do you still worry about where the next song is coming from?

Yeah. I still worry about it sometimes: "Is this the end?" I've done this my entire adult life and it's the only real job I've ever had that's lasted this long. Sometimes you worry about how am I going to make a living. Sometimes these kind of fears creep into my head: "How am I going to make a living?" "What if nobody wants to hear this," you know? I'd be lying if I said I didn't care what people thought of what I did.

Last fall, Billboard named "Iris" the top song in the 20-year history of its Pop Songs chart. What was your first thought upon hearing that?

That was an incredible, incredible experience. When I first saw that, I was shocked and then I saw we had another one in the top 10 and had three on the list. I was like "Whoa, man, whoa, this is, wow ..." I never would have thought. And then my second thought, "I thought I'd have more money ... [laughs] I thought I'd have more dough."

How do you keep that song fresh performing it night after night?

Honestly, I always try to remember to be grateful that I have one song that I actually was able to connect with people to that level. That's a really cool feeling, like, "Wow, I actually built this thing, I actually built this song and people all over the world, like, 15 years later still connect with it." Then I also remember that people come to see us and that song is really important to a lot of people, so, you know, I would be an arrogant jerk not to play it.

You're touring this summer with Matchbox Twenty. Why is that a good fit?

I think we share a lot of the same kind of audiences. The response has been really amazing. It's not like a '90s sort of revival tour because both bands are still putting records out, both bands are still on the radio with current songs. "Rebel Beat" is on the radio now and they have had two singles off of "North" on the radio now, and so both bands have these huge long string of hits and we both have new material out, so it's great for both of us.

Have you thought about writing with Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas?

I would love for me and Rob to write together. He is really talented, he's a great singer and he knows how to craft a song really, really well. I've always enjoyed what they represent as a band: just really solid songwriting. That's the most important thing to me ultimately.

Melinda Newman is the former West Coast bureau chief for Billboard magazine. She has covered music and entertainment for the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, MSN, AOL Music, Hitfix.com, Variety, People Country and other outlets. Recent interviews include Taylor Swift, Susan Sarandon, Pink, Jeff Bridges, Brad Paisley, Foo Fighters, Katy Perry and Carly Simon.

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