Rick Springfield owned the 80s. The Australian rocker released a string of hit albums and popular singles, including the Grammy Award-winning song “Jessie’s Girl.” He also kicked off his role as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital and starred in the 1984 film Hard to Hold.
Decades later, Springfield continues to enjoy success with recurring acting roles, writing books and, of course, his music career. He’s releasing a new album, The Snake King, on Jan. 26 and heading to Patchogue Theatre for his “Stripped Down” one-man show on Jan. 13. The singer spoke with me about his new music, past work and favorite New York memories.
How is The Snake King similar to or different from your previous albums?
It’s blues-based, lyric heavy, lots of guitars…As a kid, my first bands were white boy blues bands, and my guitar playing has always been blues informed. At this point, after three good pop/rock albums, I wanted to do something different that addressed issues that people may not expect to hear coming from a one-dimensional, soap opera, pop geek.
The new song “Little Demon” rocks hard!
I had a riff in my head and built the song around that riff. I needed some lyrics so the sexual angst thing works I think because of the instrumental nature of the song. All these songs are open to interpretation so I will leave the lyric part alone.
You seemed to really hit it off with the Foo Fighters for the Sound City film soundtrack. Was the idea ever discussed to collaborate on an album together?
They are all great guys and great players and I had fun writing “The Man That Never Was” with them, but we never discussed doing more. Dave [Grohl] always seems to have the next five projects lined up in his head, and he was already moving on I think. But I would enjoy writing with them again. We actually came up with a couple of other ideas while we were writing “The Man That Never Was.”
I interviewed you once before for the book MTV Ruled the World: The Early Years of Music Video and something that is sometimes overlooked is that you were one of the most played artists on MTV early on.
I was in the right place at the right time as were a lot of the artists back then. It was fun making videos, but it was two separate art forms that sometimes took away from a great song or added interest to a mediocre one. And there was way too much hair and frigging spandex. I am proud to say I never wore spandex. A pink suit, yes, spandex, no. My favorite video of mine is the one David Fincher directed, called “Dance This World Away.” There were some really talented filmmakers getting into music vids. I feel lucky to have been a part of something that became such an industry standard at the time.
What are some memories of writing “Jessie’s Girl” and filming its video?
I had the guitar riff and wrote the verses, but I had this other song that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t finish. I liked the B verse of it, and it fit into the “JG” verse I already had. I wanted the song to build up to the chorus, but I only had a TEAC four-track [home recording device], a crappy pawn shop bass guitar and cushions for drums. The instrumental side was a little sparse, which made me come up with the stripped down verses and the “all in” choruses. I liked the song, but thought it was a good album cut, not necessarily a single. The video was a blast. I didn’t really know why they gave us 1,500 bucks to shoot it because there was no MTV at the time we filmed it. I wrote and drew up the storyboard. Then we shot it over three days using back alleys and found places that we filmed in, ‘til the neighbors complained and the cops arrived. Then we’d throw all our gear into the van and skedaddle. Guerilla filming, for sure.
You’ve written two books, your autobiography, Late, Late at Night, and a novel, Magnificent Vibration. Is working on books as fulfilling as writing music for you?
Yes, it is. I love the process and I can do it anywhere—on planes, hotel rooms, in vans and cars. It’s a productive use of what would normally be down time.
What are some memories of playing in New York over the years?
Ha! Radio City; Night of 100 Stars; drinking my first Irish Car Bomb; signing albums in record stores; playing in Times Square on NYE for a million people in the streets; getting electrocuted at Max’s Kansas City in 1973; filming Ricki and the Flash with the awesome Meryl Streep and the beautiful and spiritual Jonathan Demme; reading a fan’s Facebook post—she worked in the Twin Towers—on the morning of 9/11, 15 minutes before the plane hit and she perished; Smith & Wollensky; running a 5K through Central Park in the snow at midnight; and just walking around those streets filled with electric energy.
What can fans expect at the upcoming “Stripped Down” show at the Patchogue Theatre?
It’s a fun evening filled with private family photos, stories, laughter, tears and versions of songs that I was scared wouldn’t work with just one guitar and one voice. I can talk directly to the audience and change it up anytime I feel like it, because there’s no band to rehearse first. I love doing the show because it’s different every night…and I get to play guitar. Actually guitars because I bring a bunch of them.