All this renewed attention accompanies Springfield’s fine new album, Venus in Overdrive. It’s his first for the New Door label, which has built a roster of “heritage” artists that’s beginning to look like a Behind the Music episode guide. In Springfield’s case, New Door has exhibited a knack for exploiting pre-existing name recognition and for coaxing familiar-yet-fresh music from an artist who has seemingly done it all before. The title track is a song Chris Daughtry might wish he’d written, while “What’s Victoria’s Secret?” feels like 1981 again, but in a good way, reminding us why “I’ve Done Everything for You” and “I Get Excited” were such terrific power-pop (while not-so-subtly echoing the guitar riff that helped drive “Jessie’s Girl” to the top).
Popdose caught up with Springfield on Tuesday, shortly after his appearance with Reege.
Did the show go well this morning?
I don’t know! I’m the last person to ask. I never have any idea how I come off on TV. They tell me it was fine, so I just take their word for it and go on to the next thing.
So, listen, Rick: Some screaming girl I didn’t even know dug her fingernails into my forearm during one of your concerts in 1982. I still have the scar.
Oh, man. (Laughing) You’re not gonna sue me, are you?
No, but I would like an apology.
Oh, I don’t know. I think there’s a statute of limitations on those sorts of things, isn’t there? So… (assuming voice of Nelson from The Simpsons) Ha-ha!
I would guess that a lot of your interviews start out with these kinds of anecdotes.
Well, anecdotes, sometimes, but never like that. That’s a first.
Happy to contribute. You’re in the middle of a big push this week … Regis and Kelly, Good Morning America, back on General Hospital.
They were really great. They let me come on and do the new single as my alter-ego, Eli.
Thank goodness you got a second character on the show. All the best actors do.
Yeah, I would have felt left out.
Ever think about going back to GH more regularly?
Nah, not really. I’ve gone back intermittently, and that’s really enough. I love acting, and going on the show is always a great way to boost the profile a little bit – and I have to say, getting to come on set for a day or two and do a new song on the show is not a terrible thing. But I’ve got a lot of things I want to do.
It must be gratifying to have gotten so many high-profile bookings surrounding this release. It seems like you’re everywhere for the next week or so.
It’s been great getting to push this record so hard. It’s a worthy album; I’m really proud of it, so I’m very excited that they’re letting me go on all these shows and play the songs.
Well, “Victoria’s Secret” certainly is a song that’s easy to imagine hearing on the radio. Is that a goal these days when you’re writing, to shoot for something that will get on the radio and reach new fans?
I can’t do that – write with any kind of goal in mind. I’m just writing for myself, trying to write a song that I’ll like. You know, I’m fortunate if anything comes out at all, so I never think to myself, “I’ll do things this way, and maybe I’ll reach this age group.”
I know there are professional writers out there that can write like that, but it’s never worked for me. I just have to write songs in the way that appeals to me the most. If I’ve got something to say, I just look for the truest, most original way of saying it.
“Victoria’s Secret” is a great idea for a song. But that guitar riff: There’s something slightly … familiar about it.
You noticed, huh? Obviously, we did that on purpose. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s got some of the same chords and a similar progression [to “Jessie’s Girl”]. I felt like the song can stand on its own…
It’s got a great hook.
… But we thought we’d give it that little extra goose of instant-recognition, just to drive things home a little bit. I don’t know if radio will happen – it’s so different now, and we’re looking for places where we might fit. The record company has been great, they’re working it really hard. So we’ll look for the best way to get the music the attention we think it deserves, whether that’s TV or the Internet or radio.
Did you have the contract with New Door before you recorded the album, or did they pick it up after they heard it?
We signed a deal with them before I wrote anything for the new album. Jeff Moskow [New Door parent company UMe’s VP of marketing and A&R] has been there for me my whole career, and there are some great people from the label who have been involved all the way through the process. It’s great to be back at a label with people who are excited about you as an artist, not just somebody who makes something to get onto the shelves in a store. And now that the record is out, I can really feel them supporting it, which is also nice. There’s a real united front on this one.
You created a label [Gomer] and put out a couple albums yourself earlier in the decade. What was that like?
It’s fun, trying to take care of all sides of the business while still trying to make music. But it’s a limited thing — there’s only so much you can do without the whole apparatus. On the first record [Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance] I spent a lot of money getting it to radio, and it turned out to be kind of wasted money.
You know, when you put things out yourself you definitely have more control, and you make more money per record sold. But that’s never been the point, for me, to make more money. I’m always more concerned with getting the music heard, and there’s no question it’s easier to do that with a label behind you.
Anytime I make a record now, I’m looking to catch some lightning in a bottle – sort of like Michael McDonald did a few years ago.
I know some people who aren’t going to like you saying that.
Don’t worry about it. But Michael McDonald made his comeback with an album of covers. You did the same thing a couple years ago [with the Day Before Yesterday album]. Was that your thinking on that album?
Not really. It wasn’t exactly an original idea, doing a covers album – everybody seems to be doing them these days – but I thought I would take a bit of a fresh approach to it. A couple of the songs I did were under-the-radar hits, or things that have kind of been forgotten. They’re all songs I loved, and I wanted to take a break from writing at that time … I don’t know, there were a lot of reasons I did it. There wasn’t much to go to radio with, we discovered – I mean, it was a bunch of covers.
They must have given you some new material to play, though. Do you still keep any of them in your show?
We did a couple of them for awhile, but if I’m going to be out there playing, I’d rather do my own stuff.
Your voice sounds better on the new album – purer in tone, whereas there was some gruffness on the previous few records. Were you having problems, or were you just messing around with different styles?
You know, I’ve never liked my voice all that much. I don’t know many singers who are completely happy when they hear how their voice comes through. So I had been experimenting with some different approaches on my last few albums, trying to get a different sound. When we started recording this album, Jeff [Moskow] said, “Why don’t you just sing out?” I figured, hell, I may as well just let it go and not be afraid of what I think.
I’m intrigued by the fact that the booklet for the new CD features a dozen pages of you posing with fans. That’s not a typical rock-star posture.
I wanted to pay tribute to them, because they’ve been loyal to me for a lot of years. I’ve let myself get a lot closer to them over time.
You know, when you’re at the height of success it’s hard not to get caught up in whole “you’re great” thing. It’s a rare human being who can avoid becoming immersed in that – it’s natural to see all those people out there screaming and go, “Hey, now I’m cool.” I came to see the fans as sort of the minions who served me, and that’s an unhealthy and … just wrong way to think.
So success had spoiled you?
(Laughs) Yeah, I guess. I always wanted a long career, and the longer you’re in it you see what the course of a career in this business really is. Once you’re past that burst of success you get more interested in what you loved about music in the first place. And as I started opening myself up to the fans I began to hear the stories about how songs help people through tough times in their lives, and what my music means to them. It’s humbling. So I’ve learned to have a great deal of respect for my fans, and I do whatever I can to give them a little something extra. That’s why I’m doing this cruise in the fall.
Right – the cruise. (The inaugural “Rick Springfield & Friends Cruise” departs Miami Nov. 13 on the Carnival ship Destiny, for four nights of concerts, karaoke, trivia contests and meet-and-greets on the high seas.)
Oh, man, I love traveling on water, I’m a complete ship freak. The cruise is sold out already, so I’m real excited about it. We saw the ship the other day, and it’s pretty awesome. There’s a huge pool area with arena seating, where we can do a little blues set, an acoustic songwriters show, whatever we want to do.
How did this idea come about?
There’s a company that organizes these things – they started out with soft-jazz artists, like Dave Koz. They try to pick artists who they think will sell well and be comfortable in the situation – they’re always hedging their bets, and we all thought that with the loyalty between me and my fans that we’d be a good bet.
Still, it sounds like close quarters, a singer surrounded by fans for four days. Are any other artists going out with you?
Yeah, John Waite will be out there with us, and some other soap stars … what’s that? (a moment of mumbling away from the mouthpiece) … daytime drama stars, excuse me.
(peals of laughter on both ends of the line)
That was Alana, my assistant. It was a joke. I think.
Now that you’re doing a cruise, is one of those colossal Vegas gigs the next thing?
Well, I was in EFX [the megawatt special-effects extravaganza at the MGM Grand] for two years, so I feel like I’ve done my time in Vegas. Two years is a long time to be going to the same place, doing the same show night after night. I mean, they were really great about it – they re-wrote the show around me and what I could bring to it — but I’d rather be doing my show, taking it out to the fans.
Buy Venus in Overdrive at Amazon.