Rick Springfield can’t wait to get back on tour to play live shows when the coronavirus pandemic fades and concerts are safe again.
“We’re all eager to get out and play again,” he said recently on the phone from his Malibu home. “And I think the audience is desperate to get this common cause going again. Everyone is missing that. “
But while the pandemic forced most live shows to be canceled, including the co-headlining dates Springfield booked with the band Chicago last summer, the musician, actor and writer has not been idle in the meantime.
It wasn’t until 2021 that Springfield released its second novel and released a single, which was recorded with Joey Molland, the last surviving member of Badfinger, for an album with covers of the band’s songs.
A new concert documentary filmed with the Santa Monica High School Orchestra will be released on Sunday, February 14th.
And the 40th anniversary of his best-known album, Working Class Dog, which included Springfield’s signature hit, Jessie’s Girl, will be celebrated this month and throughout what he calls the Year of the Dog.
There’s a lot going on in Springfield, so we talked about the new documentary in which Springfield reinvents some classic songs with orchestral support.
“Orchestrate my life”
A few years ago Springfield was invited to Rock Meets Classics in Germany, an event where rock musicians spend a night of classic rock with an orchestra.
He liked the results so much that he asked conductor Wolf Kerschek to orchestrate a full show of Springfield songs, resulting in a 2019 tour, an album and now the documentary, Orchestrating My Life.
“I wanted to film it because it was such a different show,” says Springfield. “We’ve had live performances out there, but none.”
Instead of the professional orchestras like the Pacific Symphony that accompanied him and his band on Costa Mesa that year, Springfield invited the Santa Monica High School Orchestra to join him at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills and share the limelight.
“The idea, to some extent, was to promote music in school and don’t let that be (the topic) that everyone drops,” he says. “I think that’s very important. It’s a great way for kids to focus and possibly make a career in music later.
“We had 100 kids on stage, all of whom are very good at their instruments,” says Springfield. “I always say you won’t get 100 mathematicians out of a math class, but you could get 100 musicians out of a music class. So don’t drop the music “
Kerschek flew from Germany to Los Angeles to direct the show. He only had one day to rehearse with the students.
“It could have been a gigantic train wreck,” says Springfield of the tight schedule. “But it actually turned out to be very good. You did the homework and it worked out very well. “
In between songs, director PJ Wolff gave interviews with a few students and segments about Springfield’s life and career, illustrated by films, videos and photos from the archives of the 71-year-old Australian musician.
‘World on fire’
After his 2010 treatise “Late, Late at Night” Springfield switched to fiction for the comic book science fiction mystery “Magnificent Vibration”. He had planned a new stand-alone novel, but the cliffhanger on which he had finished the first book lured him back to a sequel, “World On Fire,” which was released – initially as an exclusive Audible – in January.
“I kept coming back to it because I wanted to know what happened,” says Springfield of his characters Horatio “Bobby” Cotton and ex-nun sister Alice Young, who this time are fighting to save the planet from the collapse of the environment .
“It’s about my concern for the earth,” says Springfield. “I thought I can’t change it personally, just in real time on my own. But I can change it in fiction. It’s pretty scary – we’re sure at a turning point – but it’s also a humorous book. I mean, I try to do it with some humor so it’s not all bleak. “
There’s also a pandemic, a story Springfield began writing years before an actual pandemic broke out.
“It was weird to end this whole story, editing, and story during an actual pandemic,” he says. “That was very strange.”
“Working class dog”
By the late 1970s, Springfield had achieved a small amount of success and then seen it slip away. But his manager owned the Sound City recording studio in Van Nuys, so Springfield would record new tracks when the studio was empty.
“It was a very inexpensive recording,” he says. “Mainly because I played most of the instruments, but also because we got caught between big acts that paid a lot of money.”
And at first it wouldn’t even be an album, says Springfield.
“I wrote the songs, not for a record, because I would have kind of given up on ever getting a record deal,” he says. “I was probably on four different labels and nothing really happened, except for a hit in 1972 when I first came over.”
The club scene in Los Angeles was hot, bands like The Knack of “My Sharona” were just being discovered. Springfield says he’s hoping for his new hook-oriented pop-rock material that could help him regain the limelight by performing around town.
The album, which eventually delivered the iconic hit “Jessie’s Girl”, also featured strong tracks like Springfield’s cover of Sammy Hagar’s “I Did Everything For You” and “Love Is Alright Tonight”. But after RCA signed it, the label sat on it for months without releasing it.
Then Springfield signed to show Dr. Playing Noah Drake on the soap opera “General Hospital” around the same time that “Working Class Dog” was out, though nobody – not Springfield, the network, or the label – believed there would be a crossover appeal between the songs and show.
“I just took (‘General Hospital’) because I had no money,” says Springfield. “I think my view was that all 70-year-old blue-haired ladies iron or sit back with their cats and that wouldn’t affect my music career.”
But “General Hospital” clicked with younger viewers in a way most soaps didn’t, and the album broke big. “It was one of those really random moments that you can’t plan for,” says Springfield.
As for “Jessie’s Girl”, he once says in the new documentary that it is a double-edged sword that gives him access to fame and success while defining him so sharply that it is sure to be the headline of one day his obituary .
“It overshadows a lot of new work,” says Springfield. “But every writer wants to write at least one song that has some kind of legs and a place in the pantheon, wherever they come from. I am definitely very proud of that. “
And now dogs
In the documentary, Springfield can be seen driving his Norwich Terrier Bindi to the show. And his novel “World On Fire” begins with the character Horatio, who takes the name Bobby in honor of his beloved, deceased dog.
And then there’s Ronnie, Springfield’s bull terrier, who landed in a shirt and tie on the cover of Working Class Dog.
“Dogs have always been a very important part of my life,” he says. “I actually came up with the shirt and tie because my old manager had an Irish setter.
“He and his wife would leave it with me if they went out and I would basically get bored and stoned and dress him in all kinds of my jackets and hat. I would take pictures of him and laugh at my ass all evening and dress that dog up.
“When this album came out, I didn’t want to put my photo on it because I had my photo on the last three albums I’d released. So I dressed Ronnie. He was a champion, just the look on his face you can tell he was digging it up.
“Was nominated for the best album cover so I was excited about it.”