Goo Goo Dolls’ Katrina-Relief Song Inspired By ‘Unfairness In This Country’

Song began as a holiday single, ended up a symbol for Katrina survivors.

When Johnny Rzeznik started to write songs for the next Goo Goo Dolls album, the lead singer couldn’t have known that one of them would become a symbol of hope during one of the nation’s most devastating disasters.

Soon after it hit the streets, “Better Days,” the first single from the band’s forthcoming, still-untitled ninth studio album, was used by CNN during the channel’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its subsequent relief campaign for the displaced victims along the Gulf Coast (see “Katrina Devastates New Orleans; Mississippi Death Toll Rises To Over 110″ ).

“It was like, ‘Whatever we can do, let’s do it,’ ” said Rzeznik, who also appeared with the band on MTV’s ReAct Now: Music & Relief benefit in September (see “Reznor, Kanye, Green Day Reflect On Disaster, Inspire Relief For MTV Special” ).

Rzeznik started the song intending for it to be a holiday single, but it ended up being something different. A self-pronfessed news junkie, Rzeznik said “Better Days,” which was recorded a few months ago, was largely inspired by our nation’s social and political landscape.

“Right now, I feel as though there’s a huge amount of unfairness going on in this country and it’s really starting to annoy me,” he admitted. “I know I’m not an authority on it, but I just wanted to speak my piece — I don’t know if I’m speaking for anyone else, although that would be nice.”

With lyrics like “I don’t need boxes wrapped in string/ And desire and love and empty things/ Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days” and “Tonight’s the night the world begins again,” the song’s message of starting anew is one many Americans can relate to.

It’s also a message that Rzeznik himself knows. The singer was battling some dark days when the Goos recorded their last studio album, the somber Gutterflower, nearly three years ago, but he says that the band’s upcoming release will be more positive.

“You know, it was a really strange time in my life when we made that record,” he said. “I was really unhappy at the time, but it’s like, who cares? I did feel like I was losing [sight] of what we were supposed to be doing, and now I feel as though I’ve regained my traction.”

So far, the band has recorded about 15 tracks for the disc, which is being helmed by producer Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette, No Doubt, Dave Matthews, Christina Aguilera).

Formed some 20 years ago in Buffalo, New York, by Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac, the singer says the bandmembers (who include drummer Mike Malinin) are grateful they can still make a living making music. The band reaped multiplatinum success with efforts like 1995′s A Boy Named Goo and 1998′s Dizzy up the Girl, but has also had some rough spots (see “Are The Goo Goo Dolls Calling It Quits?” ).

“We’ve had hits and we haven’t had hits, and that’s OK,” Rzeznik said. “We’ve been through so many different kinds of musical styles, but as long as you follow your gut and don’t worry about the outcome as much as the process, then you’ll be fine.”

Rzeznik uses the familiar analogy of saying the band is “like a marriage.” The singer has branched off in the past to work on solo projects, like producing Ryan Cabrera’s debut LP (see “Ryan Cabrera Finds Soul, Considers Tour With Kelly Clarkson” ) and writing songs with Replacements leader Paul Westerberg, but says his heart lies with the boys.

“I went and did a couple things on my own, but after I had those opportunities, I realized that I’d rather be here with them,” Rzeznik said, before adding quickly: “I would love to do a song for Avril Lavigne. I think she’s really coming along and growing into a great artist. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next.”

For now, Rzeznik has his hands full finishing up the new Goos record, which is slated to drop early next year.