Music & Nightlife

Pop star Rick Springfield’s music career takes a darker turn

You’ll hear much of Rick Springfield’s compelling new work at the Best In Show Tour on Tuesday at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater.
You’ll hear much of Rick Springfield’s compelling new work at the Best In Show Tour on Tuesday at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater. Getty Images for SiriusXM

In the ‘80s, if you heard the name Rick Springfield, you probably thought of two things: “Jessie’s Girl” and Dr. Noah Drake. And that might still be true today.

But Springfield, who is now a still-youthful 68 years old, has been doing his best to change that limited view of his career accomplishments. He has drastically expanded his acting roles from the soap opera “General Hospital,” landing dark roles in HBO’s “True Detective,” the film “Ricki and the Flash” opposite Meryl Streep, The CW’s “Supernatural,” and FX’s “American Horror Story: Cult.”

And his music has taken a darker turn as well, reflecting his lifelong struggle with depression and suicidal tendencies. Springfield’s latest album, “The Snake King,” is a raunchy, authentic bluesy work that questions today’s society and religion and shows off his underrated guitar skills.

You’ll hear much of Springfield’s compelling new work at the Best In Show Tour on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater, along with fellow ‘80s bands Loverboy (“Working for the Weekend”), the Greg Kihn Band (“The Breakup Song”), and Tommy Tutone (“867-5309/Jenny”).

Springfield talked to the Miami Herald about the show, his new album, and how he deals with depression.

Q: What inspired the heavy, Delta-blues sound of “The Snake King”?

A: I started out in a blues band as a kid, so it’s always been my kind of go-to music, and I’ve been playing slide for about 20 years and I’ve never really had a place to showcase it. So lyrically, it’s a fairly different album for me — there are a lot of things I wanted to say and talk about, and it just seemed like the right kind of niche, to put that in a blues-rock setting. And I love playing guitar.

Q: Yes, the guitar work in particular is really strong, especially the riff in “Little Demon.”

A: Thanks, man — yeah, we do that live. It’s great, actually. Some of it really works well live. I wanted to do [a blues album], but I didn’t just want to recycle old blues songs that everybody’s heard and have been done better. So I wrote new stuff, and I think of myself as a writer more than anything, so it was more fun for me to do that.

Q: The lyrics are pretty dark, with lots of stuff about religion and sin and sex — is that something you’ve been wanting to get off your chest?

A: Yeah, it’s a bit of a poke in the eye to the dogma of religion. I mean, I consider myself spiritual, and am on a spiritual path, but the dogma gets me riled up sometimes. And if I fear what’s happening in the world, or I see evil everywhere and I just don’t see the hand of God anywhere, plus my own darkness, you know, with depression and everything — there’s a lot to say.

Sex is still in there as well, because it’s a big one, but basically the album is really about God and the Devil — it covers a lot of ground of things I’m interested in.

Q: Have you gotten any backlash about it? The political climate is pretty volatile right now …

A: Yeah, there’s been a few — I’m done with Rick Springfield now, and all that kind of stuff. But a lot of people love it, and I knew it wouldn’t be one of those records where people go, “Ah — it’s a nice record!” I knew it would [anger] some people, and that’s kind of the point. I didn’t want to hold back because of that, and if nobody shows up at a concert, well, I just won’t tour [laughs].

Q: Tell us some of your blues heroes, because a lot of influences pop out on your album.

A: Yeah, well, I think a lot of guitar players my age are raised on copying, you know, Albert King and BB King and even Chuck Berry, and the whole Chicago blues scene was really big for me — Howlin’ Wolf. And all the great English bands suddenly went, “Hey, here’s all this great music that you guys have produced,” and America went, “Wow, that’s pretty cool!”

I’m Australian, and in Australia, we all heard the Yardbirds and the Stones and even The Beatles doing songs we’ve never heard before by other artists, and we went back to those artists and started buying their records and doing their versions. It was pretty amazing.

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Rick Springfield in “General Hospital.” ABC

Q: What would you tell fans who are still stuck on your “Jessie’s Girl” pop-rock persona? Are there any left?

A: Yeah, I mean, I can’t get off the stage without playing “Jessie’s Girl,” obviously, but that guy is still alive in me, because it was just what I was doing at the time. And the new stuff actually fits really well with the old stuff in the live show, because we have a really powerful band, and we play those old songs with a lot of punch — it’s a very big sound, live.

Q: This concert seems to be a pretty nostalgic thing, so will you be performing a lot of new stuff, or mostly the hits?

A: We always do all the hits anyway, and this show is wall-to-wall hits with everybody there — it’s like nonstop. But we do play some of the new stuff because it keeps it alive for us, so it’s not just an oldies show — it keeps it vibrant and new.

Q: You’ve been very candid about your experience with depression and attempting suicide. What helps you alleviate all of those feelings?

A: Feeling like I can do something productive with it. A lot of those songs came out of darkness and my difficulty with myself, and it still continues to. There’s a song on the new album called “Suicide Manifesto” that’s probably the darkest thing I’ve ever written, but it’s bringing that to work, so it doesn’t just defeat me. And that helps me, to know that I can do something with that depression, other than just sit and mope, and hope the day gets better. So I’ve always tried to be proactive with it and use it rather than have it use me.

Q: You’ve been extremely prolific, not only in music but also acting and writing, so that must be great therapy for you.

A: It is, yeah. It’s part of my drive. I think I will always think I’m never enough and I gotta do more, so the upside to that is it keeps me seeking and it keeps me driven.

Q: You’re 68, but you don’t look anywhere near 68. Do you feel 68?

A: No, actually I don’t know what 68 feels like, but I guess it feels like I am. I love what I do, and I try to take care of my body and my health as much as I can. But a lot of it’s just, you know, don’t get hit by a truck, and eat well [laughs]. And enjoy what you do as a career.

Q: Any more acting gigs on the horizon?

A: I hope so. We’re looking on having meetings when I get back from this tour for more stuff. So yeah — I really enjoyed the last couple of years, the things I’ve been doing. It’s really a lot of fun for me, so I wanna do a lot more of that.

Q: Your roles have been really dark, too.

A: [Laughs] Yeah, I like that, too, playing against type. That always surprises people, and that’s great — I love that.

Q: Is there a chance you might go back to “American Horror Story”?

A: I think I died in that one, didn’t I? But you never know.

If you go

  • What: Best In Show Tour with Rick Springfield, Loverboy, the Greg Kihn Band, and Tommy Tutone

  • When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28

  • Where: Pompano Beach Amphitheater, 1806 NE 6th St., Pompano Beach

  • Info: www.theamppompano.org; $39.50-$149.50

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