Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik is ready to take center stage. After four years away from the spotlight, the singer-guitarist and his bandmates – bassist Robby Takac and drummer Mike Malinin – are back with their eighth studio album, Let Love In (the follow-up to 2002’s Gutterflower). To write and record it, Rzeznik went with the rest of the Goos back to his hometown of Buffalo, New York. “It helped me reconnect with my own identity,” he says. PEOPLE.com caught up with Rzeznik, 40, about how – despite his resistance – he’s found love in his life and why being off the radar is a good thing.
Did you have any apprehension about being off the radar for so long?
I think it’s good to let people forget about you for a little while. You need to have a life to write about. I was trying to focus on that. I tried to challenge myself to go from the gut on this one and not hold anything back.
What was going on in your life that drove the songs?
The last album went gold – it was perceived as a failure and it made me reassess things. I went back and listened to that record a lot and went back to journals I’d been writing. That record came from a really confusing place. We’d just come off a huge success and I was new to living in California and it was a confusing, lonely time. I lost a bit of my idealism. I was out doing a lot of dating and that’s enough to send anybody running into a severe depression (laughs).
Are you still single?
No, I have a really great girlfriend, Melina – we live together. I’m really, really happy with that. It took a little adjustment because I hadn’t lived with anybody since my wife and that was years ago.
How’d you meet Melina?
I met her in a record store in New York City about two-and-a-half years ago. We were doing a signing. She was doing these charity auctions on eBay and she had a bunch of CDs for me to sign. We kind of hit it off and we talked on the phone for months. I tried to run away from her every possible way I could. She was like, “You’ll be here when you want to be.” I was very smitten with that.
It’s a good time for you – you’ve found love and now you’ve got a new album.
It feels amazing. I really like this record – I’m not trying to blow my own horn here. We took a year to write and record it and it’s a really good feeling to finally have it completed. It’s exciting to be working again. I’m not ready to get a real job yet.
You guys will be hitting the road with the Counting Crows this summer. Are you ready?
I’m spending a ton of time at the gym and running until my feet are killing me. I’m trying to get back in shape. I’ve got to lose the last few pounds. I got back to Los Angeles from Buffalo and got on my bathroom scale and went, “Oh my god, you fat pig.” Now I’m getting my groove back.