Rick Springfield has wished he had “Jessie’s Girl” so many times, he jests, “It’s not like a song anymore; it’s more like a family member.”
Yet his infectious, chart-topping 1981 rock single is far from the only claim the Aussie heartthrob, now 61, still holds to fame: His autobiography, Late, Late at Night (Touchstone), published in October, made The New York Times best-seller list; a new documentary about his relationships with his fans, Affair of the Heart, will be released later this year; his acting career continues apace with guest shots on Showtime’s Californication; and his last studio LP, Venus in Overdrive, debuted on the Billboard charts at No. 28 — his highest position since the early 1990s.
On Feb. 18, Springfield’s concert schedule brings him to the MotorCity Casino Hotel’s Sound Board venue.
You’ve been a celebrity in the United States since the ’70s. Why a book now?
Because I’ve had a really interesting life, I think, a very unique life. I’ve done things a lot of people would be surprised to learn about. And I’ve learned a lot; I’ve had a lot of human issues. It’s not a book about the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, although that certainly factors in because I chose that as a career. It’s about my struggles, and I know a lot of people will look in and see themselves in there. Plus, I love writing. I’ve wanted to get into prose writing for a long time because I started with that as a kid. That’s what I thought I would do for a career, and an autobiography seemed like a great way in.
Is there one thing in Late, Late at Night that even avid fans might find surprising?
I think the fact that [the book] opens up with me hanging myself in my parents’ garden shed is probably a shocker to a lot of fans. That, at just 17, and my continuing battle with depression, are threads that go through the book. I know since it came out I’ve heard from a lot of people, even old friends, who’ve said, ‘Yeah, I have problems with that, too.’ They’re thanking me for kind of taking the lid off it, which is great. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not as cool as going to rehab with a [cocaine] problem, but it’s certainly very important to talk about.
Thinking about what you could have missed must be a sobering prospect.
Absolutely. Although I’ve had some pretty dark moments, I’ve already lived a lot of life and had amazing kids [Liam, 25, and Josh, 22]. The thought that my kids might not have been born makes me shudder. That’s like insane to me.
My own sons had friends who took their lives early. That’s really one of the reasons I put it in there. If one kid hears the story and says, ‘This guy went on to have a life and a career he loved and a great family,’ they might think twice. My point in the book is [to] give it a week, a month, a year, because things will change. It’s not always going to be as dark as it seems, and I’ve seen that. I’ve looked into the abyss. I mean, mine wasn’t an attempted suicide, where you take a handful of sleeping pills then call your best friend and tell them. I went out there to do it; I was ready to go. Luckily, the rope came untangled from the beam or the story would have ended there.
You’re also known as Dr. Noah Drake from ABC’s General Hospital, a role you played in two stints, 23 years apart. Daytime soaps are in trouble. Would you ever consider returning as Dr. Drake a third time?
No, I don’t think I’d be interested in going back again. Soap operas are such a difficult thing to work on. They’re shot so fast, they’re all dialogue, you bang through it, get an hour out every day. It’s really tense, hard work. I’d rather do shows like Californication, where I can reach a bit more, you know? I think soaps are suffering now because of the reality shows, and all the interview shows in daytime. It seems like everybody and his frickin’ aunt has an interview show these days.
Not long ago, you released an album of lullabies called My Precious Little One. Quite a shift for a rocker, isn’t it?
It’s actually songs I wrote in 1985 for my firstborn. I didn’t write them to be released or anything; I wrote them just for the kids. And about a year and a half ago, I found a tape of the songs in a drawer and really liked what I heard. I was charmed by them and the memories they brought back, so I ran to my studio and re-recorded them. We put it out just as a little side project.
“Jessie’s Girl” was featured in the first season of Glee.
And getting it back on the charts, I think that helped a lot as far as awareness among younger audiences. They’re coming to the shows, and I’m thankful for that. That’s powerful stuff. Hard-core fans come to hear album cuts and things like “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and “Affair of the Heart,” but every writer lives to have at least one song like that in a career. I’m very proud of having written it.