Johnny Rzeznik, singer/guitarist in the Goo Goo Dolls, is no songwriting neophyte. He's been the band's chief tunesmith throughout its decades-long history, and he's written (or occasionally co-written) an enviable number of hit songs, with tunes like "Iris," "Slide" and "Name" highlighting the group's dozen pop hits.
But over the course of writing and recording the band's ninth album, Something for the Rest of Us, Rzeznik says he was faced with dry periods when ideas just weren't flowing.
"It's really frustrating," says Rzeznik. "It's kind of scary looking at the blank page. You look at it and say, 'Oh God, what am I going to say? How am I going to say this in a coherent way?'"
Fortunately, Rzeznik was able to draw upon some specific inspirations for some of the songs on the new album, which will be released later this year. While he's usually written about love and relationships, this time around he found himself exploring more topical themes.
"It's not like a concept album, because I hate that term, but a lot of the subject matter on the album addresses what people seem to be going through in a very angst-ridden time in America," says Rzeznik. "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 try to give them some kind of hope or something."
The writing and recording of Something for the Rest of Us was neither quick nor seamless for the group, which became a mega-platinum rock act in the mid-'90s. Rzeznik and his bandmates — bassist Robby Takac and drummer Mike Malinin — ended up working on the record for two years.
In fact, Something for the Rest of Us was originally going to be released this past fall, until the group realized there was still room for improvement.
"We had the album in our hands, and we listened to it, and we were like, 'Wow, this is really good,'" he says. "Then we had Paul [Hager, who's mixed the Goo Goo Dolls' sound at shows] come in and mix a couple of songs, and 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."
Rzeznik is also feeling better about where the Goo Goo Dolls stand as a band now than he was a few years ago.
Prior to the 2006 release, Let Love In, he was uncertain about whether the group would stay together after its next tour. But Rzeznik says the three musicians managed to work out their issues.
"It's nice because everything feels really comfortable. We're one of the few bands lucky enough to be able to go out and earn a living playing live — and not have to worry so much about chasing hits.
"We kind of lost our focus at certain points. It's nice to have that back."