BEAVER CREEK — Grammy winner and bestselling author Rick Springfield is standing center stage, as he has for 30 years, except on this night, toward the end of his show, the houselights are up and the crowd is peppering him with questions. Some are amusing, some are skewering.
Springfield has been touring for more than three decades. Mostly it’s been straight ahead rock music. The Stripped Down Tour is a little different, and different is good, he says.
“This is laid back with a lot of joking around. I get to have a conversation and talk with the audience,” Springfield said. “I like the freedom and the spontaneity. Most of the questions are really clever.”
The Stripped Down Tour is Springfield and a guitar, which is plenty because he can really play. He added a beatbox, a laptop computer that plays parts he prerecorded to go with some of the songs. He also added the Q&A. In his life, Springfield has been way up and way down, and both the questions and answers reflect that.
“I’m not the shiny guy people think I am. I suppose they confuse who I really am with my stage persona,” Springfield said. “But good can come from hardship. Hey, if things had gone my way at the time and I’d gotten laid, ‘Jessie’s Girl’ would never have been written.”
Springfield is still the only artist to use the word “moot” correctly in the lyric of a rock song, as in, “I wanna tell her that I love her but the point is probably moot.”
“I didn’t have a rhyming dictionary back then. I just went through the alphabet and came up with words that rhyme with ‘cute,’” Springfield said. “I’ve always tried to use original phrases, and that one stuck around.”
Speaking of writing, his first novel, “Magnificent Vibration,” will be released May 6, and he’ll soon receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
His 2010 autobiography, “Late, Late at Night,” is a New York Times best seller and also hit the Los Angeles Times and Publishers Weekly lists. He wrote it himself, which makes it even more gratifying that Rolling Stone named it one of the top 25 rock autobiographies of all time, he said.
“I wanted to be a writer before music took over. I’ve always been an insatiable reader and always wrote my own stories. The only good grades I ever got in school before I was kicked out were for creative writing,” Springfield said.
“Magnificent Vibration” is by turns hilarious, poignant, spiritual and over-the-top. Think Tom Robbins with God on his side.
It features a hero who has hit a dead end in his life but who receives a 1-800 number connection to God through an inscription in a self-help book, which might just provide him with a shot at saving the planet.
Writing teachers tell you you’re supposed to have the end in mind before you begin. Then again, Springfield never got along all that well with his teachers.
“I know that’s the prescribed way, and I wish I have that kind of discipline. I wrote the first sentence and it went from there. I was interested as a reader to find out where it was going,” Springfield said. “I’ve always felt that way about songwriting.”
He and his agent were having a political disagreement via email when she said one of his replies sounded like beginning of a novel. It wasn’t, but it generated that idea that was. It took four months to write it and six months to edit it.
“I enjoyed the process. I had a blast,” Springfield said.
He might bring his guitars along on the book tours. He might bring his books along on the music tours.
In the early ’70s, Springfield had a handful of hit records in his native Australia. He moved to the United States and started acting as a way to pay the bills.
He’d been a contract actor with Universal, working on television shows such as Battlestar Gallactica and the Rockford Files. A guy who had seen him read for Universal was casting for a new doctor on General Hospital.
“I didn’t think I was right for the part, I didn’t think I’d get it, but I did,” Springfield said.
About that time he also had an album recorded and ready for release.
“It came together at that moment serendipitously,” he said.
Many at the time mistook Springfield for a soap star trying to convert daytime success to a music career. They had it backwards, he said.
“If you pay attention to where I’ve put my time, who I really am becomes clear,” he said.
He first picked up a guitar at age 12 in his native Australia. He has sold 25 million records and had 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,” and “Jessie’s Girl,” which won the 1981 Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal. He won a Grammy this year for a compilation of his movie music.
“I thought that fiction might be in my future, but then my career took a different path once the Beatles showed me what a blast being in a band could be.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.