A little over ten years ago, John Rzeznik, lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls, wrote “I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)” for the Disney animated feature “Treasure Planet.” The song became so popular that you’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone who couldn’t sing a few bars of it. It was a solo production for Rzeznik, which is fitting, since the lyrics are so deeply personal. Rzeznik drew from his own experience to write from lead character Jim Hawkins’ point of view. He connected so strongly with Hawkins, in fact, that he says he still feels as connected with him — and with the song — as he did ten years ago.
“And I want a moment to be real, Want to touch things I don’t feel, Wanna hold on and feel I belong.” -John Rzeznik
Rzeznik took some time out in the midst of recording his 10th studio album with the Goo Goo Dolls to speak with Disney Dads.
“I was invited to write the song and I was really excited. It was a Disney movie, after all, which is a great opportunity for any musician. I went and saw the movie when it was mostly still in the pencil-sketch phase, and I was instantly moved by the character Jim Hawkins.
“I lost my father when I was 15, and my mother died less than a year later. Jim Hawkins also didn’t have his father in his life, and I could relate to his rebellious feelings and those feelings of abandonment. It was just him making his own quest in life. He was trying to do something, to become something. I hadn’t read the book ["Treasure Island," by Robert Louis Stevenson], so seeing this movie was my first experience with the story and the character. I remember thinking, Wow! This is kind of strange. The character even kind of looks like me.’”
In the movie, as in the book, Jim Hawkins is a feisty kid, a fatherless teenager full of angst. He’s primed to leave home — find adventure, figure out who he is, and provide for his struggling mother — when along comes an opportunity to chase after buried treasure. In the process, Jim meets Long John Silver and tries to find a father figure in him, but Silver turns out to be a scoundrel — like the pirate he is.
“It was a really scary time right after my parents died,” Rzeznik continues. “I had four older sisters, and they looked out for me. Along with a lot of sadness, I had a lot of anxiety, anger, and rebellion. My father was an alcoholic, so there was a lot of distance between us when he was alive, but I loved him, and I know he loved me.
“As far as the character Jim goes, he lived from his heart. He was a really, really good kid, and he was really confused. I could relate to that. I remember difficult things after I lost my parents — being on my own and trying to get up and get to school on time, on top of it trying to deal with the hole that was left in my life, and the uncertainty of where I might end up.
“The movie was so well done. They brought Jim to life so well, and the depth of the characters in the movie was really great. Being asked to write a song for this character was one of those situations where as an artist you’re inspired instantly by what you see. I can still relate to that character even all these years later.
“I’m working on my tenth studio album now, and it’s a really fun album. It’s very up-tempo and fun, very positive. I’m looking forward to finishing it. It’s been a great experience. I decided I was going to go into this project with the right attitude, and it’s been paying off.”
We asked him if he thinks of his parents now, in the midst of his continued success as an artist.
“I always wonder what my parents would’ve said to me, how they would’ve felt if they had lived to see my success. I always thought it would be really really awesome if they were still here and I was able to provide for them the way they did for me.”