Rick Springfield Interview: Superstar's Memoir 'Late, Late at Night' Details Turbulent Life
Singer/songwriter/actor and now author Rick Springfield has a total of 17 Top 40 hits to date, a Grammy Award for the 1981 hit “Jessie’s Girl,” and skyrocketed onto the pop culture scene that same year with the simultaneous release of his iconic Working Class Dog and a role on the ABC daytime drama General Hospital.
In his memoir released October 12, 2010 entitled Late, Late at Night, the pop icon takes readers inside the highs and lows of an extraordinary life. Every page resonates with Springfield’s witty, wry, self-deprecating, brutally honest voice. The book reveals his father’s serious illness and death, the music world in the 70s and 80s, a troubled youth, affairs with famous actresses, drug use, and his lifelong bout with depression.
“It was just, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ Music really saved me. That was what gave me a way out of the place I was in as a teenager.”
Springfield has been writing and performing music for more than four decades. An accomplished actor, he has performed on Broadway, headlined in Las Vegas, and starred in numerous movies and television series; most recently he played a twisted version of “himself” in Showtime’s hit Californication. The sixty-one year old rocker maintains an active touring schedule and he and his wife Barbara have two sons: Liam, 24, and Josh, 21.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Rick, as a first time author, what did you find to be the hardest thing about writing a book?
Rick Springfield: Nothing really hard. It was a fun exercise for me. I wrote it myself without a ghostwriter and I enjoyed the process. There were a couple of hard moments reliving some of the darker things, but once I committed to telling the truth, I looked forward to the writing process every day.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): But you had second thoughts about publishing the book.
Rick Springfield: Yeah I did. Once I finished it and I realized that people might actually read it, I started to get really cold feet. My main concern was how they would view my wife. I didn’t have any concerns about how they would view me, but I did have concerns about how they viewed my wife and that was the main one.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you ever tell your mom later in life about your suicide attempt at age 17?
Rick Springfield: No, she doesn’t know. I’m hoping she won’t read the book.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I was just going to say that she certainly knows it now.
Rick Springfield: Yeah (laughs). She will know about it now.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you ever discuss your depression with her?
Rick Springfield: She knew I was a pretty dark kid. I had a lot of problems as a teenager as you can see in the book. She took me to psychiatrists to try and figure out what the hell was wrong with me, but I never heard the word “depression” back then. It was just, “What’s wrong with him?” Music really saved me. That was what gave me a way out of the place I was in as a teenager.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You say, “I soldier on” and “soldiering on” many times in the book. Was that something that came from the depression or are they words your parents instilled in you at an early age?
Rick Springfield: “We soldier on” is my mom’s thing. This is a woman who was raised by Victorian parents who lived through a depression. Her parents died when she was 15 and my mom had to take care of her baby sister so she knew that you had to get over it and get on with it and that was her attitude. My dad was more of the nurturing parent, but I learned how to stay committed to something from my mom.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You write about the incident at age five when your mom walked in your bedroom to see you humping a pillow.
Rick Springfield: Right (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did either of your parents give you “the talk” about sex?
Rick Springfield: I don’t think I put this in the book, but my mom gave me a book called The Facts of Life when I was 10 or 11. She said, “If there are any questions, just come and ask me.” I read part of the book and went to her and asked, “What’s erection mean?” She said, “Go ask your father.” That was pretty much the extent of it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you ask your father or decide to drop it?
Rick Springfield: I just went and asked the kids at school (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’ve experienced so much physical danger in your life ranging from ingesting potentially deadly hallucinogenic mushrooms, robbing liquor stores, and contracting STDs to almost getting blown away in Vietnam in 1968. What would you say has been your most harrowing life event?
Rick Springfield: I think falling 25 feet to a steel stage was probably one of them (laughs). I was in Vegas when the rope broke on the set in the show. I was falling for such a long time that I thought, “Wow, I wonder if this is going to kill me.” That was probably the most recent incident.
Certainly the months I spent in Vietnam were probably the most continuously frightening. We all thought we were just a couple of minutes away from a rocket or a mortar hitting us or getting shot at by the enemy or the “friendlies.” We actually got shot at by South Vietnamese as well. It was pretty freaky.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’m sure you were very scared when your son, Liam, fell from his apartment window.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That has to be the worst nightmare for a parent.
Rick Springfield: Yes.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Rick, you’ve had counseling and taken medication. What helps you the most now in dealing with your depression?
Rick Springfield: Being grateful for what I have, being grateful for my family, being grateful that I still enjoy my career. I’m still very driven and I think that’s part depression, part just my general drive. I’m very hungry for new things, which is one of the reasons I thought I could write a book. Meditation has helped me a lot. I was in full in-depth therapy for years. It doesn’t cure anything but it helps you identify what’s driving you.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You say that your dogs help you also.
Rick Springfield: Yeah they sure do. I’m really feeling the lack of one right now. In fact, we’ve been on this book tour and every time I see a dog I have to run out of a restaurant or stop in the street just to pet them and instantly I feel better. I know that for a fact. They take dogs through sick kids’ wards to make them feel better.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Absolutely. There are national organizations that promote therapy animals for use in hospitals, nursing homes, and other organizations.
Rick Springfield: Right, yes.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me, what was Doug Davidson’s reaction when he read that you told everyone he was still a virgin at 20 years old?
Rick Springfield: Doug has the best sense of humor of anybody I’ve ever known. He was totally fine with it and thought it was hilarious (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Rick, do you feel that with today’s technology and with American Idol being so popular that it’s easier now for young people to break into the music business as compared to 40 years ago?
Rick Springfield: No, I think its way way harder and the reason for that is there are no real record companies anymore that know how to build an artist. Every artist that we love that’s had long careers came up slowly. I read a couple of months ago Bono saying that they wouldn’t have made it today because the first couple of records didn’t do very well. Now, if your first record isn’t a platinum hit you’re gone and the record company doesn’t want anything to do with you.
I had three failed records before Working Class Dog. I think also with the whole American Idol thing … it’s not creating lasting careers because these kids, although they’re staggeringly talented, are pulled out of day jobs and suddenly they’re playing arenas. They have no musical view of themselves; they haven’t grown up through music, paid their dues, and discovered their own voice. Many of them don’t write and they get the same guys crowding around them saying, “We’ll give you a song so just sing this and it will be a hit.”
I think that’s unfair, but that’s the way we want to choose our pop stars right now … through voting (laughs). Having said that, there are some great artists that will come out of there and who will have a view of who they are and will go on, but I think many of them will not.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you working on a new album?
Rick Springfield: Yeah, I’m getting ready to write and record a new one.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I also hear you’re working on a script for a television show.
Rick Springfield: Yeah, that’s one of the things I’m writing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is it a reality show?
Rick Springfield: No, it’s not a reality show. I’ve been offered those so many times and I’m just absolutely not interested in doing that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You also have the third annual Rick Springfield & Friends cruise coming up November 15-20. When will you be back on a concert tour?
Rick Springfield: When this book tour is over we head out (laughs). But, I’m really excited about the reaction of the book so it makes being out here and away from home kind of bearable. At least I can handle it much easier (laughs).
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