Appears on: Rick Springfield
Over the past three decades, Rick Springfield has worn many hats as an entertainer and performer. The creator of some of the finest power-pop of the ’80s, he’s a Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and musician who has sold 25 million albums and scored 17 U.S. Top 40 hits, including “Jessie’s Girl,” “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” “An Affair of the Heart,” “I’ve Done Everything for You,” “Love Somebody,” and “Human Touch.”
He’s an accomplished actor who starred in 2016 opposite Meryl Streep in the feature film Ricki and the Flash and gave a chameleonic performance as the creepy Dr. Irving Pitlor in HBO’s prestige drama True Detective, and an equally creepy performance as Pastor Charles in the FX’s latest edition of American Horror Story, “Cult.” He also enjoyed a three-episode arc as Lucifer on CW’s long-running hit show Supernatural.
He’s also a talented author; both his candid 2010 memoir Late, Late at Night (which Rolling Stone named one of the 25 greatest rock memoirs of all time) and his 2014 comedic novel Magnificent Vibration earned rave reviews and spots on the New YorkTimes Best Sellers’ list. In 2013, Springfield wrote and recorded “The Man That Never Was” with Dave Grohl for the soundtrack to Sound City, the Foo Fighters’ frontman’s documentary about the San Fernando Valley recording studio that was Springfield’s home away from home (his manager owned the building). Rolling Stone called Springfield’s touching interview in the film its “breakout story.” In 2014, Springfield was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located around the corner from the first apartment he lived in when he first arrived in the U.S. from Australia in 1971.
That Springfield has not only enjoyed longevity, but remained vibrant and relevant at a time when many veteran artists would be resting on past laurels, led Rolling Stone to dub this stage of his career “The Rickonaissance.” “I guess it may appear like that, but in my head, I’ve never really left,” Springfield says. “I think it’s really important to stay connected to the vitality of your career. I have a certain pride that I’m not a total nostalgia act. I’ve never been the guy who hung the platinum albums on my walls because, to me, it was looking back. I’m very passionate about moving forward. I have to write new music. I have to record. I’m always working on the live shows. I have to always be working, otherwise I think I’d just turn to smoke and disappear.”
Springfield’s latest musical effort is The Snake King, his 19th studio album, which he released worldwide in January through Frontiers Music. Written by Springfield himself, The Snake King finds Rick travelling down a dusty dirt road to explore the blues side of his rock ‘n’ roll and marks a definite departure from the power pop he has been known for. A blues-rock album is the record that Springfield has “always wanted to make.” He explains, “All my first bands that I played in as a kid in Australia were blues bands, trying desperately to copy as best we could the amazing music we were hearing coming out of the Chicago blues scene and the older stuff from the deep South.”
All you have to do now is check out the first couple of cuts on the album, “In the Land of the Blind” and “Little Demon” or maybe the title-track to get an understanding of the blues-laden journey Rick wants to take you on. And of the many delights on this album, Rick’s underrated guitar playing really shines here, perhaps more so than on any album in his storied catalog. “My guitar playing was always influenced by the same guys who influenced all the English players I grew up with, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page, etc. Everyone was playing their version of what they heard from the Southern Blues and the Chicago scene.”
The idea of a blues record came to Rick while on the road performing a solo/songwriter show called Stripped Down for the past two years and the show has included a couple of blues songs within this show, played on his steel resonator guitar. “The blues songs are so much fun to play and they got such a reaction from the audience that I started thinking about including some of that vibe in my next album.” As for the lyrics? Not what you’d expect either, but we’ll leave it up to the listener to decide what’s being relayed there. As Springfield explains, “And with the shape of humanity’s struggle against this amazing planet, I wanted the album to be more lyric driven, so, for better or for worse, it produced The Snake King. Good luck to us all!”
Music has always been a healing force in the Australian-born Springfield’s life. The son of an Army officer, Rick and his family moved every two years. “Which meant every time I made a friend, I knew I’d be leaving him,” he says. “It was super stressful for me. I’d go to a new school and go through the trauma of trying to fit in.” Books and records became his savior. Then at age 11, he encountered his first guitar. “This kid brought one to a Christmas fair at my school in England and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen,” Springfield recalls. “He let me hold it. I hit two strings and the two strings happened to be the first couple of notes of the theme song to my favorite cowboy show at the time, Cheyenne. I realized instantly I could play the guitar. Some guys fall in love with cars, some with football teams. I fell in love with guitars.”
It has been a long and fruitful affair, and one that has gifted him with a powerful connection to his legions of devoted fans, who pack his annual fan getaway events, as well as the nearly 100 shows a year he performs both with his band and solo in an intimate “storyteller” setting that he captured on the 2015 CD/DVD and concert film Stripped Down. Though too self-deprecating to discuss his immense appeal, he will acknowledge that the fans connect with him through the music. “I guess they think I’m honest,” he says. “They must like my approach, what I write about. I think they like that I have a sense of humor in it at times. Because the ‘cute’ thing isn’t going to last forever.”