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It would be easy, Goo Goo Dolls' singer and guitarist John Rzeznik admits, to tour and just play “Iris,” “Name” and the rest of songs fans know by heart — to be a barnstorming greatest hits attraction and forego releasing new material, like the Goo Goo Dolls did earlier this year with “Boxes.”

But Rzeznik, who appears with the band Nov. 13 at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg, resists complacency.

“I think I still have something to write,” Rzeznik says. “Whether anybody wants to listen or not, that's another thing.”

If fans take the time to listen to “Boxes,” they'll find a few surprises. The album features collaborations with songwriters including Gregg Wattenburg and Drew Pearson.

“I wanted to get together with some really interesting people” Rzeznik says of the contributors.

Collaborations can have a deleterious effect on recording sessions, the old too-many-cooks conundrum. But “Boxes” avoids the blandness that often permeates group efforts. There's a buzzing and intoxicating thrum that radiates from the songs such as “Pin” and the title track.

“We were in this old recording studio in Hollywood and went to the tech and asked (for) what was really weird,” Rzeznik says. “We were using old-school spring reverbs and things like that. It took a lot to get things to work correctly, but it was fun.”

“Boxes” also marks a turning point in the band's history: It's the first album with just Rzeznik and bassist/singer Robbie Takac. Drummer Mike Malinin exited in 2013. “Boxes” also marks an unofficial anniversary of sorts, with 2016 marking 30 years since Rzeznik and Takac started performing together.

The prescription for the band's success? Good fortune and selflessness.

“Robbie and I have been able to keep our egos in check long enough to get to the important things,” Rzeznik says. “Not to say we don't have ego battles, because we do. But at the end of the day, the band is more important than my ego problems or his ego problems.”

Another element in the band's ongoing success — “the biggest thing that helps,” according to Rzeznik — is his sobriety.

“I don't want to jinx it,” he says, “but I am a disastrous and notorious alcoholic. Sobering up a couple of year ago was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I will never go back to that. I can't go back to that. It's like a sick, dark, lonely world and I don't want to be there anymore. Now, I can connect with people and talk to them.”

That connection includes an ongoing appreciation of his work, his music, his life, and especially fans. Rzeznik says that's part of the reason he'll never turn away from requests to hear the band's greatest hits.

“I'm lucky I have songs that people still want to hear,” he says. “That's an unbelievable luxury. If I keep the perspective that I'm there for the audience – which is really the truth, I want to entertain them, I want them to be happy and go home and go that was awesome — it keeps my head right. Nobody out there in the world wants to hear my rock star problems.”

Homegrown talent

The Goo Goo Dolls have a local musician in their ranks. Korel Tunador, a native of Rosslyn Farm, who performed locally in bands including Crisis Car, Lovechild and Opek 15, is a valued member of the Goo Goo Dolls' touring ensemble.

Lead singer and guitarist John Rzeznik says Tunador's musical versatility is astounding.

“You can hand him a tuba and he'll figure out how to play something on it,” he says. “But he's a very eclectic, kind of artistic guy. He's very into the vibe and energy of what's going on. … And he's truly one of the nicest and most humble people I've met in my life.”

Hailing from Buffalo, Rzeznik also sees a kinship between his hometown and Pittsburgh and why the Goo Goo Dolls do well in Western Pennsylvania.

“If Pittsburgh was planted somewhere in Europe, people would travel from all over the world to see the beautiful bridges and rivers and architecture,” he says. “To me it's an elegant place. But its roots are built in hard work, the same with Buffalo and Cleveland and all these places where people understand us. I was maybe 12 when all the industry left town. It's finally coming back, and it's amazing what the city is becoming now. It makes me so happy, because that part of the world and the people who live in that part of the world — Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit — they're the salt of the earth.”

— Rege Behe
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