'Jessie's Girl' singer still rockin'
If you’re like many of Rick Springfield’s fans, you’ve seen him in concert time and again. But you’ve never seen him quite like this.
Springfield will take to the stage Dec. 4 at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino as part of his series of “Stripped Down” solo shows. Without the usual power-pop ballast of his backing band, the audience will enjoy a greater sense of connection with the musician.
“It’s a very different show, very intimate and laid-back and with a different set list from the band show,” he said. “I have a couple guitars up there with me and something I call ‘band in a box.’ It’s all about audience interaction. I actually call people out for being late. Hopefully, there is a lot of humor in the show.”
He had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he wrote “If Wishes Were Fishes,” which he debuted in his “Stripped Down” DVD/CD set released this past spring. A new crowd favorite, “Wishes” is about having it all and wanting more: “Wish I could get that knighthood from the queen/I wish folks would quit calling me Rick Springsteen. I wish the IRS would permanently misplace my file.”
Humor is one of Springfield’s most powerful weapons against the depression that has dogged him since puberty, an ailment he’s dubbed “Mr. D.” The personification came in handy when he was penning his best-selling 2010 memoirs. “It helped me to write my autobiography ‘Late Late at Night’ because I could give my depression a voice, which certainly helped with the narrative,” he said. “I don’t know if it helps me deal with it. Meditation helps a lot.”
Another tactic, one that has marked Springfield’s career, is staying busier than a working class dog.
He’s in the midst of a tour featuring venues across the American West. Audiences are responding warmly to his sets, which include unplugged versions of original hits like “Love Somebody” and covers like the blues standard “Rollin & Tumblin.’”
Of course, Springfield plays “Jesse’s Girl” at every show. It’s an unwritten edict because, for sheer catchiness, the song is hard to beat. It helps that it’s on a topic everyone can identify with, unrequited love -- or at least lust. It’s also got a heck of a hook, an element of song construction Springfield said can’t be over emphasized.
“There are so many great hooks around that it’s amazing there are only 12 musical notes,” he said.
Asked if he considers any recent songs to be particularly infectious, he cites a tune from an unexpected source: pop princess Katy Perry. “I thought ‘Roar’ was a catchy one, so we decided to do a rocked-up version of it in my band show,” he said.
Springfield’s schedule would sound positively back-breaking were it not for the enthusiasm he brings to his myriad pursuits. He’ll wrap his current slate of shows with a Feb. 13 performance in Nashville. It’s a fitting conclusion considering that his upcoming album “Rocket Science” is infused with country influence. The record, Springfield’s 18th studio effort, will hit shelves on Feb. 19. Fans have been treated to a preview of the album in the form of the single “Down,” which Springfield wrote with Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus.
“I’ve been listening to a lot of country and I’ve always loved the instrumentation of banjo fiddle and pedal steel, so I added some,” Springfield said.
Of course, acting continues to beckon.
Springfield admits he once questioned the wisdom of taking on the role of the romantically inclined doctor Noah Drake on “General Hospital,” which he played from 1981 to 1983.
His good looks spurred near-hysteria among younger female fans, which in turn wreaked havoc on Springfield’s credibility.
Despite having a string of hits that continued long after “Jesse’s Girl” hit No. 1 with a bullet, he was plagued by critics who viewed him as little more than a teen idol. Still Springfield, now 66, has found acting to be a challenging and rewarding avocation over the years.
He had a role in the 1990s TV series “High Tide” and is currently a cast member for the show “True Detective.” The pinnacle thus far of his on-screen career is the supporting role he tackled in last year’s feature film “Ricki and the Flash.”
Springfield said working with Meryl Streep, an actress with three Academy Awards to her credit, was an epiphany.
“She is a very brave actor. She’s not afraid to change it up, even if the performance is working. She’s always looking for more,” Springfield said. “It’s pretty great to be schooled one-on-one with one of the greats. It’s like getting bass guitar lessons from Paul McCartney.”
Springfield’s his first novel, “Magnificent Vibration” (2014) was remarkably well received. The New York Times bestseller centers on a man who has a direct line to God. With its mixture of surrealism and profundity, the story was called “remarkably creative” by the Kirkus Review. He’s now working on the sequel.
In a recent interview with Michigan Local News, Springfield seemed almost bemused by the novel’s success: “It got better reviews than my music ever got. Maybe I’m on a good track.”
Each endeavor helps fuel a career of considerable longevity.
“I think any new exposure in a new area translates to widening the audience at a show,” Springfield said. “Definitely, my younger audience wasn’t even born when I started recording.”