What's on Tap

What's on Tap

So Alive: Goo Goo Dolls' songwriter reveals creative process

Posted September 1

The Goo Goo Dolls played Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek in Raleigh on Aug. 7, 2013.

— Music is a mirror.

It reflects the humanity of life, where you are at any given moment. The choices you make when you choose what to play. And how to play it — headphones? Living room stereo? Road trip with all the windows down and sunroof wide open, as loud as it can go? Whether you’re listening on your own, with someone, or with a crowd. Why…to improve your mood? Keep the party rolling? Provide a distraction, or motivation, or maybe to heal something inside…

Just as much as music is a mirror for us, music is a window for the artist. A chance to see inside, to understand, to appreciate, to simply gaze in and marvel at the creativity to craft the sounds that move us all.

Sometimes the window is more transparent than others. For John Rzeznik, lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls since 1986, it’s crystal clear.

Propelled from relative indie band obscurity — what he claimed was all he really wanted — into the mainstream (and eventually superstardom) when Rzeznik wrote “Name” in the mid-90s, his songs often have an autobiographical perspective.

Second chances, and positivity about living your own life and being fully alive, were recurrent themes Aug. 27 at Raleigh’s Red Hat Ampitheater. On a summer tour with Collective Soul to promote Boxes, released in May this year, Rzeznik explained his creative process in a recent interview on fan site AbsoluteGoo.com.

Which song on your new album are you the most proud of?

I think “The Pin.” I hate describing what I’m trying to say in these songs. I’m not good at it. It’s a song about one of those places that you go to. It’s about someone who’s really really longing to be accepted, and it doesn’t happen, but you keep going back. That seems to be a theme in a lot of my music – where do I belong? Where do I fit? And I think a lot of people feel that way, which is nice that people relate to that. I mean, it’s not nice, but it’s just how I think. I’m always an outsider, so I’m always looking in on everyone living their life, which gives me a good perspective to write about. But then it feels incredibly lonely.

What do you think is the best and worst thing about co-writing or collaborating with someone else?

The best thing about collaborating is that you don’t have to sit in a room and deal with the isolation. To me, after 20 years of sitting in a room alone writing songs, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I started getting really depressed because I couldn’t deal with sitting around alone anymore. It was fun to start writing with people. Before, I felt like the process was starting to implode on itself, but then I started getting such interesting input from outside people, which really takes the music further. The songs go further when you have other peoples’ opinions. You really leave your ego at the door. That’s the best part. I don’t know if there are any bad parts about it. I guess when I decided to forge some relationships with people, it took time.

After commenting that “it’s the perfect summer night,” Rzeznik introduced “So Alive,” Boxes’ hit release, with “Don’t let anyone, or anything, own you.”

The lyrics read like the 50-year-old he is, halfway looking back and halfway opening the door to the best still yet to come, on his own terms.

Feeling like a hero, but I can’t fly
No, you never crash if you don’t try
Took it to the edge, now I know why
Never gonna live if you’re too scared to die

Gonna disconnect from the hard wire
Time to raise a flag for the cease fire
Staring down the hole inside me
Looking in the mirror, making peace with the enemy

I’m so alive, I’m so alive, I’m so alive
You can make it on a wish if you want to

Open up my heart like a shotgun
Blinded by the light of a new sun
Get up, get up, get out and get done
For the first time I feel like someone

Breaking down the walls in my own mind
Keeping my faith for the bad times
Get up, get up, stand like a champion
Take it to the world, gonna sing it like an anthem

I’m so alive, I’m so alive, I’m so alive
You can make it on a wish if you want to

I am no man of steel
I have no heart of stone
Don’t tell me how it feels
I’ll find it on my own

Never gonna live if you’re too scared to die

I’m so alive, I’m so alive, I’m so alive

It seems as though most mature rock bands release new material just to release new material. Thanks to Rzeznik’s songwriting, the Goo Goo Dolls still have something to say. We should all listen.

Jen is a Sustainability Analyst for the City of Raleigh by day, but writes about Raleigh life by night for Raleigh & Co.


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