When you think of Rick Springfield, you primarily think of two things: Dr. Noah Drake and “Jessie’s Girl.” But the Grammy-winning Aussie singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor and author, who turned 66 (!) on Aug. 23 and has been performing for more than 50 years, has produced a rich, deep and diverse body of work that cannot be defined by – or confined to – one No. 1 pop song and a character, however iconic, on a soap opera.
Consider his latest role, as bandmate and love interest of the luminous Meryl Streep in Jonathan Demme’s “Ricki and the Flash,” a star-studded film about a bar band and the various personal dramas of its members; or his tell-all memoir, “Late, Late at Night,” which Rolling Stone named the No. 23 rock memoir of all time, and in which he discusses his relationship with a 15-year-old Linda Blair (“The Exorcist”) and the time when his 4th-grade teacher asked him to spank her one day after class.
Catch Springfield being his rock-star self Wednesday night at the Hard Rock Live near Hollywood along with ‘80s acts Loverboy (“Turn Me Loose,” “Working for the Weekend”) and The Romantics (“Talking in Your Sleep,” “What I Like About You”).
Springfield talked to Miami.com about the show, his experience working with Streep, his new album “Rocket Science,” his novel “Magnificent Vibration,” and, yes, a bit about that bizarre day in 4th grade.
You’re at the Hard Rock Live along with Loverboy and the Romantics on Sept. 2 – that’s three acts who have some big hits. What’s the breakdown of the show – who plays when and for how long?
[Laughs] Thank you for thinking I have a clue. I think it’s Romantics, Loverboy then us. It will be a show full of hits though, for sure.
Can we expect some new songs from you from “Rocket Science,” as well as your greatest hits?
Yes, we are doing a couple of songs from the new album as well as all the hits, except “Jessie’s Girl” – I’m tired of playing that. OK, not really. Just kidding. The new album comes out in January, and it’s the best record I’ve ever made. How’s that for a bold claim!? It is full of hooks, hopefully says something more than a desire to get laid, and will entertain and enlighten.
What’s your role in “Ricki and the Flash,” and what attracted you to it?
I play Meryl Streep’s character’s boyfriend. We are a bar/cover band in Tarzana and my character is in love with Ricki, and Ricki isn’t so sure. What attracted me to it is Meryl Streep, Jonathan Demme, Diablo Cody, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer and Sony Pictures. It’s a script with a lot of heart and depth about some imperfect people trying to make their lives work in their imperfect world. It’s about redemption, forgiveness and good rock-and-roll.
Were you able to teach Meryl Streep a thing or two on the guitar?
Yeah, she asked some questions as far as the authenticity of how certain things and moves looked. She’s pretty great, and I actually expected nothing less. She delivers. Very challenging and difficult stuff, singing and playing in a genre she’s not done before, AND doing it in character. Amazing. She’s my star pupil.
Did you two have natural chemistry together?
I like to think so, but she may have been acting. That’s the first thing Jonathan Demme looked for was our chemistry together, and Meryl is a very likeable human being, so it was pretty natural and good chemistry for us.
Do you keep in touch now that filming is long over with?
Well, of course, at the premiere and through interviews and stuff. But it’s very hard to say goodbye to people you’ve become entangled with during an acting project that spans weeks or months, but it’s part of the process to not hang on, as everyone has to get on with their lives and their next roles, movies, whatever. But if she called me socially, yes, I would definitely answer the phone. She is a great person as well as a formidable actor.
You’re best known for two things: “Jessie’s Girl” and playing Dr. Noah Drake on “General Hospital.” Do you ever feel like screaming “I’m more than that!”? Is it kind of a mixed blessing having two incredibly successful aspects of your career that naturally overshadow the rest of it?
Hopefully, some of the new work I’m involved in is changing that perception. If not, I’m good with the “Jessie’s Girl”/Noah Drake thing.
What inspired your stint on “True Detective,” and how was the experience?
Well, it’s a role that is “against type,” as they say in the movie world, and that is always exciting to play. The script was excellent, dark and wild, and I got to channel my inner creep.
What stands out the most for you during the period between when you started out performing in the ’60s until you exploded onto the pop scene in 1981 with the album “Working Class Dog”?
Being broke and hungry. It sucked.
You’re about to turn 66 – how did that happen? You seem forever young.
Only Rod Stewart is “Forever Young.” I met a guy at the airport today I hadn’t seen in 40 years. It was weird realizing how fast that time has gone.
What keeps the drive alive for you in terms of touring?
An unrequited desire for people to like me. Actually, it’s my connection to people that is the big driver in touring. I’m a loner by trade and playing gigs gives me a chance to connect.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I don’t think I’m there yet.
What was the toughest thing to reveal or talk about in your memoir, “Late, Late at Night”?
All of it. Especially the bad stuff. I realized what a jerk I am.
Did your 4th-grade teacher really ask you to spank her, and did you oblige?
Yes, of course – why would I make that up? It’s embarrassing. Yes, I did oblige, but I’m sure I had a pretty weird look on my face.
How’s the sequel to “Magnificent Vibration” coming, and what’s the premise?
That’s a secret. But it will be freaky. And hopefully funny.
Is/was there a real “Jessie’s Girl” in your life?
Yes. All my songs start from a point of truth.
Was it tough adapting to life in the U.S.?
Very hard adapting to being a stranger in a strange land. Brutal stuff. Brutal, but necessary. And sometimes incredibly fun, too.
Was it a tough decision to change your name from Springthorpe?
No, I was 16. The leader of the band I was in said, “You’re not Springthorpe – you’re Springfield,” and I just said “OK.”
Name one thing that you love to do in your spare time that would surprise people.
Kiss my dog until she bites me.