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It would be fair to say the new release, “Boxes,” isn’t just another album for the Goo Goo Dolls. And the two years that preceded the album’s release saw big changes, especially for singer/guitarist John Rzeznik.

With “Boxes,” Rzeznik and his bandmate, bassist Robby Takac, have become a duo following the departure of long-time drummer Mike Malinin. And they’ve arguably introduced more new musical elements on “Boxes” than on any Goo Goo Dolls album since 1995’s “A Boy Named Goo.” That album gave the group -- which just played Red Butte Garden in September but is returning Friday to help break in the new Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City -- its first major hit single, “Name.” That album also signaled a shift away from the scrappy punk sound of its earlier records toward a poppier, more accessible sound that has helped make the Goo Goo Dolls a fixture on mainstream radio for the past two decades.

For Rzeznik, changes on a personal level have been even more seismic. He has gotten married and turned his life around by getting sober and staying that way for the past year and a half. It’s had a big impact.

“Well, I’m not a miserable (jerk) to everyone anymore. That’s a good thing,” Rzeznik said in a recent phone interview. “I wake up in the morning and actually feel hope in my heart, and I look forward to getting through my day, which was not the case. It’s like, you know, it was like I was wearing my father’s clothes, like hand-me-downs. My father was a brutal alcoholic, just crazy. I thought that was my destiny as well. You know, I finally got slapped in the head hard enough to go get help. I mean, I’m happy today. I don’t know, it could all go to hell tomorrow. But I do get up every day and work at it for the first few minutes I’m awake in the morning, and I get through my day.

“The best part about it is seeing my friendships heal up a little at a time,” he said. “Just to get a phone call from Robby out of nowhere, for no reason, just to say hello, like the first time that happened, it made me cry because I was like, ‘Wow, I think this is starting to heal up.’ ”

Rzeznik simply reached a point where he realized his lifestyle had to change. Being sober is also changing Rzeznik’s perspective on his own behavior and sense of self-confidence and self-worth.

“It’s like I just lived my life just so incredibly full of fear, so incredibly full of fear,” he said. “And I wanted to start writing this record, and I dove into it, and I felt a lot of pressure that I was putting on myself. Yeah, I was just uncomfortable with feeling anything, and every time I had an uncomfortable feeling for the last 20 years, I just drank it away so I didn’t have to feel it. And I was blacking out. It was crazy. I was just blacking out and what really got to me was when I had one drink, the only thing I was thinking about was where am I getting the 10th one? And when I was on my 10th drink, I was like where am I getting my 20th one? It’s like, you know, I want a Pepsi every once in awhile, but I don’t sit down and drink 30 of them.”

Rzeznik’s new sober perspective certainly had an effect on the Goo Goo Dolls’ music. Lyrically, “Boxes” has several songs (“Reverse,” “Flood” and “Boxes”) that relate to the changes in his life. Perhaps more fundamentally, Rzeznik went into the album eager to change up his songwriting approach and, as he put it, “throw out the rule book” on what a Goo Goo Dolls song should sound like.

He decided he couldn’t reach those goals himself and that meant working with outside songwriters.

This wasn’t the first time Rzeznik had tried working with outside writers. As far back as the 2006 album, “Let Love In,” he had tested the co-writing waters, writing with the producer of that album, Glen Ballard, on three songs and with Ballard and Greg Wattenberg on another tune. But for “Boxes,” Rzeznik was looking for a whole new level of collaboration.

He paired up again with Wattenberg, as well as Derek Fuhrmann (who is Wattenberg’s production partner) and Drew Pearson as primary collaborators. They brought an open-minded approach to working together and Rzeznik said he was pushed by his writing partners.

“I insisted that we start from zero,” he said. “We’d just walk into a room. We don’t know what the hell we’re going to do. Let’s just do it. One day we wanted to play with synthesizers. The next day we wanted to play with a beat box. The next day we just wanted to play acoustic guitars. It was that loose. And I sort of put a bit of traveling into it as well. Like we went up to Seattle. We worked up in Seattle and then we worked in Los Angeles. I have a studio right in Hollywood, and then we worked there for awhile. Then we worked in Buffalo at Robby’s studio and then we went to New York for a lot of it, and I worked with Greg Wattenberg. It was so awesome. It was just (me) taking the role of being the student as well as a collaborator and partner in crime.”

The music that emerged on “Boxes” still sounds like the Goo Goo Dolls of recent vintage, with plenty of mid-tempo pop tunes that have graceful melodies. But there are plenty of stylistic and production touches injected into songs that bring the songs more in line with today’s glossy top 40 pop sound, such as the synthetic clap-along rhythms in the title song, the Mumford-ish folk anthem gang vocals of “Reverse,” and the way the first single, “So Alive,” uses those two words as a big sing-along refrain. A couple of songs (the string-accented poppy anthem “Flood” and the expansive “The Pin”), meanwhile, feel more adventurous and stretch the signature Goo Goo Dolls sound fans know from hit singles like “Iris,” “Slide, “Black Balloon” and “Better Days.”

Rzeznik doesn’t deny that today’s pop trends figured into the production on “Boxes.”

“I mean, like the guys we hired to produce and the guy we hired to mix the album, Mark Endert, they’re very, very like, they’re all over that world. And it’s like, ‘Cool,’ ” Rzeznik said. “If I didn’t like it, I wasn’t going to do it. Believe me, man, there were a lot of things where I was like, ‘Uh-uh, that ain’t happening.’ But you know, we just wanted to have an open mind. We wanted to do what’s best for the band, and it felt like growth, so why not?”

The Goo Goo Dolls figure to play a few of the new songs this fall on the group’s headlining tour. But the hits won’t be neglected, Rzeznik said.

“It’s really pretty amazing when somebody says to you, ‘Look, there are like 12 songs that you have to play in the set,’ ” he said. “And that’s great and I love doing that. I love that. I get kind of ticked off when artists won’t play their hits. It’s sort of like, ‘Come on, man, people are paying money to come see you.’ But we definitely want to play some of the new stuff, but there’s definitely required stuff that we have to play.”
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