The Goo Goo Dolls are approaching 40 years since formation in 1986 and 13 studio albums into their career. Not only that, but they are furthest away from surfing along on past success as any modern rock band could be. The band is on a rich seam of form. John Rezeznik talks about putting in the work.
Being a career musician is hard work. John Rezeznik knows. Over their near 40 decade career, The Goo Goo Dolls’ ability to adapt to changing musical trends while staying true to their core sound has been key to their longevity. And putting in the graft has helped too. Rezeznik also knows that the system in which he works, “the music business or whatever you wanna call it” is the part that’s broken. While his band has kept on changing, the changes that have come along in the music business haven’t exactly made life easier for long-in-the-game musicians.
But John Rezeznik and Robby Takac put in the work. Not only that, but they are furthest away from surfing along on past success as any modern rock band could be. The Goo Goo Dolls are approaching 40 years since formation in 1986 and 13 studio albums into their career. But the band is on a rich seam of form - their last two albums Chaos in Bloom (2022) and Miracle Pill (2019) both particularly well received.
Is there a special feeling to being at this stage of their career yet still making great new material?
Well, it’s a complex answer. Amongst all the flux, the constants have helped. Rezeznik’s writing partners (he mentions Greg Wattenburg, Drew Pearson, Derek Fuhrmann) have been rocks - “people I love and respect and who have done more than I have”.
And - for what it's worth, (probably in truth quite a lot) The Goo Goo Dolls had a run of 11 studio albums on the same major label, Warner Records. That is unusual these days and speaks to Rezeznik’s philosophy to stick with music relationships through thick & thin.
Mostly, though, the key to the band’s longevity has been a focus purely on the music.
“I’m not using music to launch my clothing line, or my cologne or my vodka. I’m a songwriter and a performer - that’s what I do - and I have been blessed enough and lucky enough to earn a living from it”.
So many bands have a complex relationship with their biggest songs (probably because they essentially set a one dimensional benchmark - that of popularity) but dealing with that and playing those songs like it’s the last time you ever will, is part of doing the work. The Doll’s most biggest song and most recent tour are no exception:
“Robby convinced me, play Iris last. But that’s what bands do when they only have one big song! So everyone has to stick around and hear all the other songs before you get to the hit”. But you know what, it works, so we play Iris last”.
Well when you have one of the biggest indie songs ever, that’s a good attitude to have.
While to my mind, The Goo Goo Dolls are a classic album band, it is their chart-topping singles, including of course "Iris," but also giants like "Name," "Slide," and "Black Balloon." These songs have helped define their legacy and will grow in perpetuity when it comes to streaming count.
The Dolls' music is marked by hooky melodies, heartfelt lyrics, Rezeznik’s distinctive vocals, and a balance of acoustic and electric feel. Their ability to create relatable and timeless songs has contributed to their enduring popularity in the world of rock music. The band has developed nicely through the mists of time. When I ask Rezeznik how he would approach making a career in today’s industry, he gives me the same bemused answer as many guests do on The Art of Longevity: “I don’t think I could”.
But he and his band have crossed the Rubicon and so his anxiety is instead projected onto the next generation of musicians forged from the same stuff i.e. focused on the music:
“How much amazing music is not being heard because [TikTok] is the metric you have to use, to decide if an artist is viable or not. Through Tik Tok? Gimme a break”. That’s what worries me about the next generation of musicians - are they gonna be able to do that? Being poor and famous, I’m not sure that’s gonna work”.
That’s exactly what the “music business” is trying to figure out.
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