Rick Springfield: Back In Overdrive
Rick Springfield doesn't rush his albums out, so when a new one arrives there is always an air of anticipation. With Venus In Overdrive, Rick steps back into the power pop domain he owned in the early 80s, while adding a strong contemporary twist that makes this material some of his most classic and most catchy in a long time.
I spoke with Rick a week or so back about the new album, the upcoming tribute album and what keeps him fit and ticking after all these years in the business.
Good Morning, Rick! How are ya?
I'm good. How ya doing?
That's good. I'm ok… You will have to excuse my rough voice though; it's 5 in the morning.
But, here we are.
Thank you so for the opportunity with Venus in Overdrive with Angelmilk in Europe…we'll do the very best job that we can.
Great. I'm actually really excited about this.
So why Europe now? Or, why not before? I know you are very proud of this record.
Yeah, I think because of this record, the strength of the record and also we're touring so much and the live show is really, really great and we've had a lot of people coming in from England and Europe to see shows over here.
So I know there's still interest over there and it just seemed like the right record to start it off over there.
Absolutely. Your reputation for live performances precedes you; it's been with you all your career but especially in the last 5 or 6 years. Has that been an important part of continuing your career?
Yeah, the live show has been really getting better and better and the audiences have been responding which is-- it's a very high energy show. I think number one is to go out there always be current and always look to the future, which is why I keep recording.
We do new songs as well as all the old stuff. And, we tour in a way that keeps it very fresh. We can go out for a couple of days and then go home for a rest or do other things. We all have studios and other things; I'm doing the acting thing, too. It's a great way to tour. I do a lot of flying but it's worth it.
I know a couple of other bands, like Night Ranger...Jack Blades, is a great friend of mine and they kind of do the same thing these days because he's a family man as well and it's just great that you can do that these days.
I mean obviously if we went to Europe it would be a little longer but I just went to Australia for 3 weeks and I can handle that. That is always fun being in a new country anyway because we tour America so much that it's great to go out 3 or 4 days and go home.
I like it. There's obviously a lot of ground to cover in Europe and part of our deal with you was encouraging the touring aspect of it. So, is it's something you'd like to do and you plan on doing?
Yes, very much. I think this is the record to do it with it. It's time now and we're gonna go back there and do it.
Great! Have you set a time? I know that you're busy through the rest of the year with the album in America. Early next year perhaps?
Yeah, that would be great timing actually.
We'll look forward to that. This is an extraordinary album, mate. I'm just so thrilled to be working on getting it to as many people as possible.
I guess no more thrilled than you are getting it released!
Why is this such a special album to you? You know, you could say that for every release but there's just something about this one, isn't there?
I don't know. It's just, the music comes when it comes, you know. I think its back to more a band, I think. We recorded it in like 30 days which precluded any fussing around with it…and changing stuff just because I was bored.
So, I think it's was a very honest record and I like all the things that it says. You know, there are things that are going on, in our heads right now, and it's just one of those records that I can listen to all the way through which I can't usually do on my own records. I'm usually so sick of them by the time they come out just because it took such a short time, that it is still fun to listen to.
Cool. And I guess fun to play as well?
Yeah, yeah…we're playing a couple of those songs live already and they sound great live because they are such band songs. They are real easy to do live without a lot of production or anything.
You said that songs come when they come, but that hasn't always come easily has it?
No. You know I go through a lot of dry spells and when I collect enough ideas, I start writing. And so, you know, you can't force it. I mean, that's why I really haven't, so far, written for other people - I only have enough songs for myself.
That's an interesting take, because your songs have been covered over the years but you haven't necessarily written for other people, have you?
Not for other people, no.
What sparked the creative thing here? Was it the partnership with Matt, or something driven by personal circumstance?
That's something that helped move it along [working with Matt], but the actual getting the idea for the song and coming up with the subject…I don't know, it just happens.
And like I said, it's not something you can force but certainly, for the first time writing with Matt, we were kind of in competition with each other, you know, to write the best part of the song (laughs).
That was really fun and you are almost writing for an audience right away. If you are writing with someone else, you send them a piece and they are like” yeah” and then they try to write something better. So, it was a great process, very fun process-the most fun I've had writing in a long time. I'm usually writing and it's a bit tortuous for me and it's very lonely kind of experience and this is more fun.
You've said that before and it's really interesting because you always pour your heart out into your songs.
On Venus In Overdrive I can hear classic elements of your own song writing from the past and I can hear some new things. Are the new things Matt's influence or were you experimenting as well?
I don't know. There's a bit of both. Matt came up with stuff that sounded like, you know, more along the lines of my old stuff and I'm usually the one that kind of wants to change things and be different.
I mean, thinking back, you've never really recorded the same album twice, EVER, have you?
No, (laughs) it's safe to say, for better or for worse, I've never recorded the same album twice!! (laughing)
Well now, you're always moving forward. I remember, hearing Tao…and then, a couple of years later, Rock Of Life was like….'Wow, who is this artist?? Who is this guy?
I adore Rock Of Life, I think it's fantastic and a real personal statement. Venus in Overdrive is the first time I've had that feeling that reminded me of the shift that was Rock Of Life.
It's pretty big change, certainly from the last one. I have a lot of influences and a lot of things I like. I'm influenced by what I hear and what goes on in my life and, I think you know, I was in a pretty dark place when I wrote Shock Denial Anger Acceptance and I think that shows. And, I'm in a much better place in my head with Venus in Overdrive.
It seems to reflect a more positive mind set.
Yes, definitely. There's sad stuff in there but it's approached from the perspective, you know, that life goes on.
I definitely feel a positive undercurrent. What songs especially mean something for you?
On the new record?
On the new one, yes. Is there anything that sort of stands out? Obviously, the Sahara songs…
Certainly, Sahara has really special meaning for me. The daughter of a friend of mine who I got to know really well since she was 5. She got cancer and passed away at 13…
That was just a gigantic blow for everybody who loved her. She shows up in a couple of songs. She's named Sahara and she's part of the source of Oblivious. And also, she is God Blinked.
She had a pretty big influence on me: her life, certainly her past…there's positive takes on it.
How hard is it to celebrate the life of Sahara when faced with witnessing the injustice of what no child should ever have to go through?
I think just celebrating who she really was helps everybody - that's the point of the song. The pain is in there, sure. When Sahara died, her mom said if I was gonna write a song, make it a celebration.
And I've tried to do that. I certainly do with God Blinked. I wanted to write her a song towards the end of the album.
That song is a real left turn on the album.
Yeah, (laughs) I know.
Another reminder of Rock of Life for me – like If You Think You're Groovy…
It makes really interesting listening. I love Saint Sahara, too, and then closing the album with that is a really uplifting way to close out the album.
Yeah, it's the only song we fade. I'm not a big fan of song's fading out; I always think it's kind of weird you know, gradually getting softer. We always like to end songs, so everything ends except for that one. We couldn't think of an appropriate ending and the fade thing is really a spiritual thing to do, you know, with the kids singing along in the background.
Yes, that works in a big way.
I'll tell you what – I'll Miss That Someday is absolutely mind blowing. I still can't believe how good that song is.
Well, great. That was the whole thing of loving someone so much that sometimes you just want to beat the shit out of them. (laughs)
And, like when my dad died, the things I missed the most about him were those little human failings, things I didn't think I would miss. It's kind of what's it's about.
Would you officially call that a song for your dad or is it just part of the makeup?
Well, it's more a song...Matt started it, around his dad—the issues he was having with his dad, and we both had the same sensibility about it. We know that, when they go, you're going to regret all the things that you said in anger and wanted to bite my tongue about.
(laughs) There's some great lines there I love the play on words moving between lines.
And I must admit, listening to Venus in Overdrive—that's such a commercial groove. I can almost hear that on R&B radio.
It was another kind of left turn, that one. I heard some song, some iPod one, and I was influenced by kind of getting that feel. And then, the song kind of came from that. The title - I had it floating around in my head for a while. I don't know where it came from but I don't quite know what I thought but I knew what I meant. It turned out to be about someone really heavy, bringing love to the table and changing you because of that aspect rather than the negative aspect.
And the ballad Oblivious – lush!
Yes, We put an extra little bit of strings on that as background. I think it warranted it.
You're singing a little bit of falsetto through the album for the first time in a while.
Just because the mood caught you? It works really well.
I don't know how that stuff comes up. It seemed appropriate; the best place to go with the melody. I mean, I don't really know how to dissect that kind of thing. It's just one of those things where it just comes from…I don't really know where that is.
(laughs) You've been a huge Beatles fan ever since the beginning really, haven't you.
Was She your little tribute to the guys?
Definitely. And also, 3 Warning Shots. Not so much a sonic tribute, although it sounds kind of Beatle-y at the start. It's about John Lennon's death.
But She is very much Beatle-y.
Do you, at this point in your life, afford yourself the luxury to look back over where you've come from?
Not really. I have always looked to the future, which has been a good thing, and also a bit of a failing. I don't really dwell on the past much. I've never been one for putting up platinum records and awards, stuff like that. They are out in some shed, gathering mold, slowly turning to dust. (laughs)
I've been at people's houses where that stuff is all over the place. It kind of makes you feel uncomfortable.
It's just not your style?
Well, it just like looking at something you've already done. I don't know what the point of that is because it's done. I mean, I have always been thinking about the next song. So, once the album's done, I'm thinking about the next thing I wanna do. You know, and it's a bit of a pain in the ass, sometimes, because it's hard for me to relax.
(laughs) But, I also feel that it is a part of my drive, too.
How do you relax? In the down time?
I think the only time I truly relax is when I'm sleeping and sometimes not even then or when I'm on an airplane. I fly a lot and there, I can't move.
You're forced into just sitting there.
I heard Ray Davies liked to fly too because he can get time to, or he used to anyway, take that time to write.
It's really forced relaxation, as long as you are ok with flying, which I am.
Well, you would have had plenty of time to relax during the flight to Australia then.
I had a LOT of time - a real lot of time. The longest flights in the world.
It's a shocker. Getting from here to the UK and back is a nightmare.
That's a big one. I think Australia to the UK is bigger flight than to the states.
It's like 30 hours by the time you get there.
Thank God for the iPod and for the iTouch. That's what I definitely rely on. It's the only time I ever watch movies or any television is on my iTouch. It's a big screen iPod.
Technology is definitely…there's more toys out there than ever, isn't there?
It has enabled me to travel. It was miserable before the cell phone but now I can call home whenever I want to instead of having to wait to get to the hotel, or to the gig or whatever.
The cell phone has made traveling a much more happy experience for me. And, then, the iPod, having it there, having videos on the small sized screen. All that stuff.
In your trip to Australia, doing the mini-headlining set for the Countdown Spectacular [a 12 minute set!], how did you feel when you threw that nice little medley of songs there at the end, but how did you feel, having to throw Speak to the Sky into the mix?
(laughs) I actually suggested that myself.
Did you really?
The emphasis was Speak to the Sky and it can back, “yeah yeah, definitely”. And it certainly didn't really fit musically but it was one of those things that I just had to do. It was my start; it was my first single as a solo artist. It was a big hit in Australia. And, it was an audience that remembered it.
It was a pretty receptive audience, wasn't it?
They sure were.
Did you find a difference in each city or were they just enthusiastic wherever?
They were all pretty much up for it. It was great to see. Sydney and Melbourne were like big cities everywhere - they are always a little crazier. But, everyone seemed to enjoy it.
It's an interesting concept for a show, isn't it?
I'm not sure the quirkiness of it could work in the states.
No. It's a little too….uh….well, you know maybe not. I mean, I can't really… probably, the closest thing to it would be like a Hullaballoo tour.
They had a bunch of actors in that. I don't know if any of those guys are still alive.
(laughs) Maybe not.
I think, fortunately, because of good Australian genetics, we're all still here.
We are!! You are doing pretty well, aren't you?
It kind of is the kind of country that affords people that. How do you keep fit? Your stage show is so energetic and whatever. How do you keep fit? Is it all down to just good genetics?
I love what I do and, like I said, you know, forward looking is the right state of mind when you play. And I never accept it, when although I know that everyone wants to hear the old things, I never accept it as just that, which is why I put in new stuff and keep it interesting and forward looking for me too.
You know, working and playing is a workout. I come off pretty drenched and it's a great aerobic workout. I've always been a real watchful eater. I'm not a dieter as I don't think that'd work. But I've always…when my dad first got sick, when I was 21, I started to think about what I put in my body. That's usually a wakeup call for a lot of guys, you know, whatever happens to your dad. I was very connected to my dad. He had a huge effect on me.
I started looking into eating problems.
I could be a dad myself today if all goes to plan.
No shit!! (laughs) Aww, dude! Congratulations!
Thank you, mate. I've got two small boys, 2 and 5, but
Yeah, I know, I know.
Yeah, number 3.
Oh, that's awesome! Wow! Due date is today? No wonder you are up early.
Number three is actually due today.
Wow!! That's fabulous. What's that make him, a Leo?
I don't know. My wife's a Leo and she's July 28, so…
You know I think it's later in July, actually. I'm a Leo. Well, congratulations.
A new kid is about to walk on stage.
Absolutely. My wife so over it. She is just, like, come on already. (laughs)
(laughs) No shit. (laughs) Oh God. Well, have a great one then, and I hope it goes great and…
Let me know what you have and what you name it.
I sure will. What do you think of the tribute album that we're also going to do in Europe?
Oh, I thought it was great. I love some of the approaches. Actually, the version of Speak to the Sky—I thought it was much better than mine. (laughs)
It's kind of quirky, isn't it?
The tunes have a great live feel…
Very, very cool. I'm very happy with it.
I really appreciate getting the ok to use Right Planet Wrong World. I've always loved that song.
That's a good song. There's a couple of good songs I wrote with Jeff [Silverman].
I wrote Dream in Color off of Rock Of Life with Jeff. And Religion of the Heart off Karma with him, too. So, I've always had a long relationship with Jeff.
Great songs and he's a really good guy. Why did that song perhaps not fit anywhere earlier on?
I think by the time, I think that was around the time of Karma that we wrote that, and I didn't really think it fit. There's a lot of leaving songs off so it fits the whole concept. I don't always stick just every song I think is good on it; I try to make a concept out of the album, a kind of feel…
...a musical statement. And if it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit, and I didn't think that one did. But I've always liked the song. I've liked everything I've written. There's a great song called Hey Eileen—it's about my mom.
Oh, that's right!
It was on a fan thing that I did [SDAA Special Edition]
I've got that song and you're right, it didn't really fit anything but it was a great stand alone song.
I still to this day absolutely adore Lust from the Sahara Snow release.
I may rerecord that one someday because I like that song so much.
That was a great, great song. Really great vibe.
I was actually thinking about it for this album but we had so many songs for this album that…maybe the next one.
Interesting. I could hear that on this one.
Where to from here? I guess hit the road and the promotional trail and the usual?
Yeah, we're going to New York for a week and do TV and press and stuff. We're doing a song for the rock guy I play on General Hospital. We're doing What's Victoria's Secret on the day that the record ships.
And we're going to radio and doing all the promo, and then the tour. And then, we do the cruise in November.
Oh yeah, that's a unique kind of idea, isn't it?
It's gonna be fun.
And John Waite's tagging along with you - he's another great talent.
Yeah, John is coming on it. A couple of actor friends of mine are coming on for Q and A.
That's good. And, could that become an annual thing or a more regular thing?
This one's sold out already. So, we'll see how it goes, see if everyone enjoys it, if I enjoy it. If it all goes well, we'll do it again.
Fantastic. You've got a great band with you. Are the usual guys going out on the road with you?
Absolutely. They all played on the record, too. They are such a great band; I don't need to replace anybody.
No! No, it sounds like a great live record.
Anything you would like to add – especially perhaps to the folks in Europe that we are targeting with this release?
I don't know why we haven't been back to Europe before this.
Well, now's a perfect opportunity. And we've got some radio play in Sweden there already, if Rob told you, I'm not sure.
Yeah, that's great.
Are you coming back down to Oz for your own tour?
Yea, nothing is planned yet but I would think that that would certainly be in the offering. I'd love to that. It's all about coming home.
How's your mum doing?
She's great. She's kicking butt down there.
If you don't mind my asking, how old is she now because my nan is in her 90s so it's good genetics again.
Almost 88. I'm amazed. She's driving all her friends around to doctors visits and stuff because she's still mobile. (laughs)
(laughs) that sounds great. Mine goes to shopping trips to Melbourne on the plane.
Does she? That's cool. She still does her own messages. She calls them. She got her little wicker basket over her arm.
It's great to see. It gives you something to look forward to, doesn't it?
Yeah, our family home is there.
And how are your kids, Rick?
Great! They're both home on holiday at the moment…finding their way in the world.
Are they in the business at all?
My eldest son, Liam, is an actor. And he's going to do a play reading for some writers. He's looking for an agent now. He's going up on general meetings with TV shows, things like that.
Yeah, so he's just starting to get into it.
Are they into the music at all?
Aw, very much so. They both are big, huge fans.
What's your favorite music? But, there's one question that I want to ask you; what's your favorite new bands and music?
I really liked the new Mute Math album - I thought that was great. And I'm a big Queens of Stone Age fan. I like some of the heavier stuff like Tool, and Def Tones.
I did want to ask you, do you feel the craft of record making is in danger of dying away, when the promotion of iTunes and just downloading one song is so prevalent at the moment?
No, I think album music is always going to be there. They still want it; they are just getting it in a different format. I think certainly music won't go but the art of the album cover, the whole album graphic, is fast disappearing.
People aren't interested in that anymore. They couldn't really care less about the cover or any information about who wrote what, or who played what, or who did what or where it was recorded. I still love all that kind of stuff.
Oh, me too.
I offered a record to a kid the other day, the daughter of a friend of ours, and she said she didn't want it. She said, it's ok - I just download my music for free.
It's pretty scary. She didn't want the album. I was trying to give it to her. I guess it wasn't a band that she liked.
What do we do to educate people that it's NOT free?
I don't know. I don't think you can educate them. Don't download for free - that's like trying to keep people from drinking—prohibition didn't work. Once they discover it, it's there. I think we'll have to find ways to encode stuff and get people to have to pay for it because it's not fair to steal artwork. You don't go to the gas pump and pump for free. But, it's become accepted. Free music. It's part of the game.
It's a very big problem.
Well, look, I'll let you go, mate. You're busy and, certainly, I could use a bit more sleep before things go south here.
(laughs) I'll bet you will want that…in just a few hours.
Absolutely. But, thanks for your time.
Thanks, Andrew, anytime. Good luck today.
Thanks, Rick, I'll let you know.
Alright. Bye, bye.
c. 2008 MelodicRock.com / Interview by Andrew McNeice March 2008