Against all odds, Australian-born heartthrob Rick Springfield has sustained a dual career as rock star and actor for 35 years. “Working Class Dog,” his multi-million-selling 1981 album, broke big while he starred on the soap opera “General Hospital.”
Fast forward three-plus decades. In 2015, he starred alongside Meryl Streep in the movie “Ricki and the Flash.” And he released his 18th studio album, “Rocket Science,” in February.
Along the way, he’s also added the title “author.” A well-received, warts-and-all 2010 autobiography called “Late, Late at Night” was followed four years later by a novel, “Magnificent Vibration.”
And he factored prominently in Dave Grohl’s 2013 documentary “Sound City,” which chronicled the fabled California recording studio where many classic albums, including “Working Class Dog,” were recorded. Springfield joined Grohl, John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks and Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen for a handful of performances as the Sound City Players.
This summer, the 66-year-old Springfield is back on the road. Appropriately enough, he arrives at Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square on “throwback” Thursday, with Night Ranger and Loverboy in tow; tickets are still available. He called recently while on his way to the airport in Los Angeles.
Are you frantically getting ready to depart for the big summer tour?
Springfield: I don’t really think about it until the day before I leave.
Is that because of dread?
Springfield: No, no, it’s great. But I’ve been doing it for so long… there’s no real prep. I always keep a suitcase packed. I just have to pull out some clothes. I’ll go out for two weeks at the most, then come back for a break.
If I can do that, I’m good. These guys that still go out for three, four months at a time, I don’t know how they do it. I don’t like being away from home for that long. I used to love it, because it was a boys’ club on the road. Now I’ve gotten married and gotten older. That boys’ club lure is not there any more.
Your autobiography made clear how much of a boys’ club it was. I can see how you’d want to not act like that now.
Springfield: It would be a bad move, to say the least.
You’re working on a sequel to “Magnificent Vibration.” Did you envision multiple volumes initially?
Springfield: It finished on a cliffhanger. I was interested to find out what might happen if they went one way or the other. I hadn’t planned on it, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it.
When you’re writing prose, do ideas come in the same way as songwriting? Is it a similar discipline?
Springfield: It is similar in a lot of ways. I rely a lot on working on something, and then going to sleep and hopefully coming up with a new idea. I’m a big believer in you work while you sleep. Answers have presented themselves to me after I’ve slept on something.
Everyone’s woken up saying, “I just dreamt a great song.” Most of the time, it’s a Rolling Stones song that’s already been written. But sometimes it’s an original idea.
The Rolling Stones did use up a lot of chord progressions.
Springfield: There’s only 12 notes. It’s amazing that so many amazing songs have been written on 12 notes.
Were the songs on “Rocket Science” written recently, or were these ideas that had been around for a while?
Springfield: It’s all new stuff, except for “Let Me In.” We booked a studio in a month’s time, and we only had two songs written. I work well under pressure. We ended up with 16 or 17 songs.
Including one you wrote in Tahiti. Because you finished the song there, you could probably write off the entire vacation as a work expense.
Springfield: I thought about that, but my accountant said that’s the kind of red flags that the IRS will call you up on. I have a studio in my house, but I can’t write off that because she says it will pull up a red flag, even though it’s legal. You never want to get audited.
When putting together a set list, how do you approach the old-versus-new songs dilemma?
Springfield: It really depends on the record. I have a really hard-rocking band, the best band I’ve ever had. We play everything with a lot of fire, even the old stuff. You were kind of limited to a degree sonically and, to a lesser degree, stylistically back then.
A lot of the new songs fit in well. They’ll stay if the audience gets it. If it takes more than a couple listens and the audience doesn’t seem to be getting it, I’ll pull it out. The song I did with the Foo Fighters (for the “Sound City” project), “The Man That Never Was,” I thought was a homerun. But nobody really got it. A documentary has a limited viewership, even though I thought “Sound City” was an incredible documentary.
We’re doing four new songs from “Rocket Science.” We do all the hits. And we do a medley that includes six well-known songs. We cover a lot of ground. We even do a rock version of the Katy Perry song “Roar.”
You can’t put “Jessie’s Girl” in a medley.
Springfield: Of course not. We actually extend it. I went to see The Who in 1966 and they did a 12 minute version of “My Generation.” So that kind of stuck in my head.
Have you ever done a show where you didn’t play “Jessie’s Girl”?
Springfield: We do a fan getaway every year; we’re going to the Bahamas in November. It’s a five-day event where I hang out with the fans all day and all night, and we drink and party and play different sets. These are hardcore fans. They’re actually fine with me not doing “Jessie’s Girl.” They want to hear the newer stuff, or deep album favorites that they’ve never heard me play live.
Have you ever frozen and not remembered the lyrics to “Jessie’s Girl”?
Springfield: Yeah, there was one time. I have kind of an ADD thing going on. So if someone holds a sign up and I try and read it while I’m singing a song, I’ll lose my place. I did that once with “Jessie’s Girl.” It was pretty funny.
It would seem like you could sing it in your sleep at this point.
Springfield: All the old ones, I don’t have to think about. But I do have a lyric screen for some of the newer ones, until I learn them. When we were doing the “Sound City” thing, I would have little notes of paper up on my monitor. Stevie Nicks had two full screen monitors rolling for every single song on the right and left of her monitor. So I don’t feel so bad.
You played the big IHeart Radio ‘80s-themed show at the Los Angeles Forum on Feb. 20 with Tears for Fears, Culture Club, Billy Idol, Loverboy and Missing Persons.
Springfield: The English bands are so different. When we did the Foo Fighters thing, everyone came backstage – Cheap Trick, Joan Jett, everyone in the American bands was just hanging and being very cool.
The English bands, I don’t know what’s wrong with them. They won’t look at you when you pass them in the hall. I’m going up to them like, “Hey!” and they’re looking at the other side of the wall.
I think the English are still jealous that America invented rock ‘n’ roll.
Springfield: (laughs) They’ve had some pretty freakin’ amazing acts. I think it comes down to a personal, ego issue. If Paul McCartney doesn’t have a freakin’ ego, then no one else has an excuse to be a d---.
Paul McCartney is a different species of human. He doesn’t even seem to drink water onstage during a three-hour show.
Springfield: And he still does all the songs in the original keys. At the Super Bowl halftime show, usually there’s (taped) tracks running, there’s a vocal track pre-recorded. McCartney had 16 inputs for his full band, and that was it. He really is genetically unique.
That Desert Trip festival in California in October features McCartney, the Rolling Stones and the Who.
Springfield: I saw all those guys in the ‘60s. I saw the Stones in ’65 or ’66, The Who, the Beatles. It was a great time to be in Australia, because they’d come to Australia before they made it in America.
You, Loverboy and Night Ranger at Champions Square -- that bill is right in the wheelhouse of ‘80s rock fans. There are a lot of hits there.
Springfield: It’s a full-on, all-hits show. My band hasn’t been together as long as those guys have, but I’ve been playing as long as they have. All three of us are tight rock bands. It’s a great show. It’s very exciting to do these kinds of shows. People have to pick and choose where they’re going to spend their entertainment money. I love the idea of giving more bang for the buck.
You could probably sing for Loverboy or Night Ranger, too. You probably know those songs by heart at this point.
Springfield: I have heard them many times.
Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.