Rick Springfield has toured for 30 years, but fame didn't come easily for the industry veteran. Though he had a handful of hits early in his career in Australia, he had trouble achieving the same success after immigrating to the US in the 1970s.
Springfield first made inroads into American pop culture with a role on the hit daytime soap opera General Hospital (at a time when daytime soaps could still become hits). He then found success with his 1981 album Working Class Dog.
Springfield is now best known as a musician, thanks to 17 Top 40 hits including "Don’t Talk to Strangers," "An Affair of the Heart," "I've Done Everything for You," "Love Somebody," and "Human Touch." But he's also starred in a movie with Meryl Streep, filmed a documentary, and written a novel called Magnificent Vibration and an autobiography titled Late, Late at Night.
Springfield's biggest success, however, remains his 1981 Grammy Award–winning No. 1 smash single "Jessie's Girl," a staple of any good '80s playlist. I exchanged a few quick emails with Springfield to talk about his success, the changes in the music industry, and how he feels about his biggest hit.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Kelsey McKinney: When did you realize "Jessie's Girl" would be such a hit?
Rick Springfield: I actually didn't think "Jessie's Girl" would be a hit, which is why I don't pick the singles. Glad I was wrong on that one.
KM: Do you still enjoy listening to it and playing it live?
RS: It's more like a family member now, it's been around so long. I get joy from hearing the audience's reaction when we play it live. It's like my child, only it doesn't steal the car at 3 o'clock in the morning and come home stoned.
KM: Which song in your discography do you wish could have been your biggest hit?
RS: All of them. They all mean something to me, and writers write to connect with other people. I guess that's what a hit means. It means they connected with a lot of people. But wait for the new songs.
KM: What are you working on right now?
RS: In the studio, the music takes on a life of its own once the songs are written.
We're recording a new record right now. It will be out around June or July, and it's a little more country-tinged. I think the last four albums have been really strong, song-wise, and this new one I think is the best one yet.
KM: You've been in the music industry for more than 30 years now. What has changed?
RS: I've gotten older, but so has everyone else. I've actually been in the music business for 50 years, if you consider my start at 15.
The business has changed dramatically but only the business side with the Internet and the collapse of record companies. But the music is still produced in the same way, in that it comes from a human being, regardless of how it's recorded and distributed.
KM: How has your relationship with your fans changed throughout your career?
RS: We've gotten older. Oh wait, I already said that.
I have a better appreciation of the fans now than I used to when I started. I understand that the artist is here because of the fans and not the other way around. We hold a fan event every year at a Club Med, and the fans come down for a five-day party. It's a great time to hang and get to know each other.
KM: Many of your songs focus on love and loss. How much do your own relationships play into these songs?
RS: All my songs are biographical, and they represent the ups and downs of a continuous relationship. There is a lot of spiritual meaning in all of my songs — a double entendre that can be taken regarding love or a spiritual path. Your call.
KM: How do you balance your work and your family life?
RS: I don't. They are one and the same. A lot of the time I work at home, and a lot of the time my family is glad to see me gone. I am lucky enough to love what I do, so it never feels like work to me.
KM: How do you talk to your children about your fame?
RS: I don't really. It's just part of our life, and they understand it like I understand it — which is not really that much. We live in a small town, so it's not really an issue here.
KM: What in your career do you feel the most proud of?
RS: That I am able to diversify in a bunch of different areas and do reasonably well in those areas. Plus writing is at my core, so I am proud of songs like "Jessie's Girl" that hit a common chord.
Rick Springfield will be performing with Tad Kubler of the Hold Steady at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC, on Sunday, April 19. Tickets are still available.