John Rzeznik has been on my interview bucket list for a long time, and I almost missed the opportunity when an email from the Goo Goo Dolls’ publicist went to my spam folder. It wasn’t as if Rzeznik needed the publicity for the upcoming show at Riverworks this Sunday, the 102.5 Deck the Hall Ball has long since sold out.
The Goo Goo Dolls primary singer and songwriter has one of the most recognizable singing voices around, and while we could have started with any topic, we immediately launch into his favorite topic, his soon to be 3-year-old daughter Lili.
“Just to see someone with so much joy, it makes my life so much better,” Rzeznik noted with a sense of pride.
Rzeznik jokes that he hopes his daughter has more of his wife Melina’s DNA than his, because he was a “hell raiser,” when he was a child. His voice beams with pride as he discusses his daughter’s wonderment with ornaments on their Christmas tree.
“My life is so different than it was, I was living in a dark place for a long time. To be finally given the chance to break out of that and then this beautiful little wonder came along. I feel like because I got sober, I was able to continue the mission, whatever that mission is.”
With the holidays approaching, Rzeznik reflected on his return to Buffalo. Even though his well-documented life story has been less than idyllic, his voice is filled with optimism and an appreciation for his hometown and his family.
“I miss home, I miss going to Niagara Falls, and summers in Buffalo and being with my friends and family. But I get to go back, and I am glad my kid is getting to know my sisters, they are amazing people. They are characters and they’re funny and quirky, but most importantly they are strong women, and I want my daughter to have them as role models. I want her to be strong and never be afraid to speak her mind to anybody.”
Rzeznik doesn’t hide admiration and appreciation of the profound influence his older sisters had on his life, especially in helping form his love of music.
“Their taste in music was eclectic, I listened to their albums and tried to play Gang of Four songs. It wasn’t like anything on the radio, it was special, you had to go and look for it. That is what excited me about it.”
We didn’t spend all of time waxing nostalgic, especially since the Goo Goo Dolls are coming to town to promote their latest album, “Miracle Pill.” After revisiting their breakthrough album “Dizzy Up the Girl,” last year, The Goo Goo Dolls served up an uplifting and optimistic set of songs, many of them are in the current set.
“I love this record because I got to do what I wanted to do. I wanted to work with people that were above me in production, engineering and songwriting and playing.”
“The album as a whole speaks to the desire to make connections. That’s why vinyl is coming back, because it created an immersive experience. You looked at the liner notes, and wondered who they were singing about.”
There have been three singles released from “Miracle Pill,” including the title track, “Money, Fame & Fortune” and “Indestructible, three of the first four tracks on the album. While many albums are front-loaded, with the hits early in the track list, some of “Miracle Pill’s” best moments occur at the end, with the last two songs, “Autumn Leaves” and “Think it Over.”
“It’s interesting how we sequenced the album, ‘Autumn Leaves’ it’s kind of this bittersweet farewell. Then it takes a breath and goes into ‘Think it Over” which is kind of like an encore.”
“ 'Think it Over’ was awesome to record. We were working at Capital Studios in Los Angeles and the lady that runs the studio is a legend, Paula Salvatore. I asked her for the best old-school backup singers and the next day we had half the cast from ‘20 Feet from Stardom’ in the studio.”
“To work with people that sing with such emotion was inspiring and it made me feel the real power of collaboration, and having faith in something, even if it’s the power of your own voice. It blew me away watching them sing.”
Another thing that inspires Rzeznik is the renaissance of his hometown.
“It’s great to see Buffalo and Niagara Falls and the whole region coming back, the city that so many people gave up for dead. It has so much soul, it has a great vibe. It’s creating its own identity with the unique architecture, with food, beer culture and art.
“It’s vibrant, and I see real greatness, and its where the artists are going. Places like Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Cleveland and Akron, Ohio and Allentown, Pennsylvania. You can afford to live in those towns and create your own scene.”
As we finish up, Rzeznik took one more happy look at his past, back when the Goo Goo Dolls spent years riding around in a van. Before they became as synonymous with Buffalo as chicken wings and beef on weck.
“When Robby (Takac) and I started, the only places to play original music were the Continental and McVans, and McVans was gone right after we started. Our manager Artie Kwitchoff (current owner of the Town Ballroom) told us we were going to create our own original music scene. He scraped together the money and we rented out VFW halls and plastered the town with posters until the clubs had to pay attention. I have always admired him for that.”
Rzeznik may not have discovered a “Miracle Pill,” but he has found the happiness and joy he has created for so many fans over the years. That may be the greatest Christmas gift of all.
Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.