Goo Goo Dolls singer Johnny Rzeznik wrote this heartfelt acoustic rock track during a dark period in his life when he was trying and failing to overcome his alcoholism. Looking back at the tune in a 2020 Behind The Mic episode with American Songwriter, Rzeznik said he regards "Sympathy" as a prequel to the 2016 Boxes single "So Alive."
Rzeznik was hesitant to address his demons so openly. Before Gutterflower hit the shelves, he confessed to the Los Angeles' Daily News: "The hardest thing to relate to is yourself. It's the most frightening thing to make an honest statement about yourself and put it out for the world to scrutinize. That's a dangerous place, but I have faith in myself and my music. If I get hammered, I don't care. I'll get up and walk away."
In 2019, Rzeznik still counted the track among one of his proudest songwriting achievements. "I'm proud of 'Sympathy' because it's the most honest, autobiographical thing that I ever wrote," he told American Songwriter. "I am proud that I kept it simple on the record. It could have easily turned into an overblown ballad but I thought it would take away from the real meaning of the song."
This was released as a promotional single and peaked at #10 on the Adult Top 40. It also bubbled under at #115 on the Hot 100.
This appeared on the soundtrack to the teen romantic comedy A Cinderella Story (2004), starring Hilary Duff. It was also used on the TV show Charmed in the 2002 episode "A Witch In Time."
The music video, filmed in Las Vegas, took a cue from HBO's Taxicab Confessions, a documentary series that captured intimate hidden-camera footage of taxi passengers. The band's former touring keyboardist, Dave Schulz, famously appeared on an episode of the show and - according to the Goos - got "liquored up and made some bad decisions." In the video, an "invisible" Rzeznik hangs out in a cab unbeknownst to the passengers who come and go.
The clip was produced by Tony Bongiovi, a record producer (and cousin of Jon Bon Jovi) who co-founded the Power Station recording studio in New York City.
Gutterflower is the Goo Goo Dolls' seventh studio album and, peaking at #4, earned the band its highest position on the US albums chart.