Tonight on the Epix satellite channel, a new rock documentary called “An Affair of the Heart” airs. It charts both the professional life of “Jessie’s Girl” singer Rick Springfield, as well as the fans whose lives he has legitimately touched. It’s an impeccably crafted and well-told documentary, which combines riveting drama from both on and off the stage, and will give you a greater appreciation of the guy whose song you sing along to every time it comes on your car radio. We spoke to Springfield about his early collaborations with David Fincher, why he’s such a fan of Stanley Kubrick, and his response to the outpouring of appreciation leveled at him this year (he also appears in Dave Grohl‘s great “Sound City” doc).
The first thing I wanted to ask you about is something that I came across on YouTube not too long ago, which is the “Bop Till You Drop” music video by David Fincher.
It was the first video he had done. He had just come off of “Empire Strikes Back” [editor’s note: it was probably “Return of the Jedi“] and he wanted to get into movies and it was the first thing he had directed. He seemed like a very smart guy and I loved sci-fi so as soon as he came up with the sci-fi concept I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” It was just incredible.
So you knew back then that this guy was special?
Yeah the thing opens with this amazing shot of a space dome and we were looking at it and he goes, “Yeah that’s a salad bowl.” He enlisted all his friends and had this great costume for the monster. It was the first video like that. He did a bunch of my videos and a concert movie called “The Beat Of the Live Drum,” which we filmed in Tucson and he optically opened up the dome and had all of these satellites flying around.
So you’re involved in a couple of documentaries. The first one, on EPIX, “An Affair of the Heart.” What surprised you the most about that one?
The stories. I had no idea. They came to me and said, “We want to do a documentary on you and your fans.” And it’s like, okay, so it’ll probably be shots of the band performing and people saying, ‘I’ve been into you since I was a kid’ or whatever but they got into such deep stuff and when we were away and they were away from us, they went to the homes of these fans and families. And it’s like part reality show, part rock documentary. I had never seen a rock documentary quite like that. I had no real idea that it went that deep. At meet and greets, people always want to tell you their story and you don’t really have time for it. I guess after 30-odd years, these peoples have gone through their lives and I’ve been incorporated in that journey.
Was there any one story that really stuck with you?
Certainly the preacher and the gang rape thing. That floored me. I wouldn’t have expected that album, “Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance” album. That’s a very angry album, I was very pissed off at something in my life and I couldn’t stop writing about it. And she picked that record and knew what that was about – shedding anger. It was a pretty deep connection with the record.
You’ve had a long relationship with film – you’ve been in a movie, your songs have been used in countless movies. Are you inspired by films when you write?
Yeah I get ideas from everywhere – from books, from movies. I draw inspiration from something that I hear in a restaurant and you hear it and have to write it down. I’m writing right now and I don’t know where it comes from.
Do you have any touchstones that you return to?
Well, “A Clockwork Orange” I’ve seen more times than any other movie. And “2001.” I’m a giant Stanley Kubrick fan. To me those are perfect movies. I had an old accountant and he said, “I’ve got to go to England to settle one of my client’s estates. I’ve got to go settle Kubrick’s estate.” And I went, “Fuuuuuuuuuuck, Kubrick has been your client this whole time and you never told me?”
Have you ever thought of writing a musical?
Yeah well Rogers and Hammerstein was the first music I ever heard, because my parents were big fans. And I still have it on my ipod. I would love to do that. I’ve thought about that for about twenty years. That would be a real ultimate goal.
Do you have a story in mind?
I have a couple of ideas. They’re pretty all-encompassing. I kind of go with the biggest idea. I just have to nail it down. I know I can do it because I wrote a book and I know the discipline of getting it down and I’ve written some scripts. I consider myself a writer. So I don’t know when.
You work so much and still inspire so many people but have you thought at all about retiring?
I like a vacation every now and then but I’m the type of guy who sits on the beach for an hour and goes, ‘Okay, let’s go do something.’ I can’t watch television because I can’t sit still long enough to get through a whole program. That’s why I like flying so much because I have to stay in that tube and focus. But I don’t see retiring. As long as I can do what I can do.
What’s interesting too is that all these huge musicians like Dave Grohl are huge fans – does that sort of surprise you when somebody like him comes to you?
It did initially. Because initially it was a teen thing and it was mixed in with the soap opera thing. And I think a lot of people didn’t think I wrote or that it wasn’t my music. As time as gone on, I knew that time would reveal to people what I was really about. And you’ve got to stay in it long enough for that truth to come out. As musicians we’re all fans. The thing about being a professional musician as opposed to people who just listen to music, people who listen to music use it like they use their clothes or their hairstyle. They use it to inform people of who they are. Musicians don’t have to do that. So I can like a Justin Bieber song. I can like Tool. I can like Nine Inch Nails and Frank Sinatra. And that’s okay. I’ve heard along the years that musicians follow me. Musicians have to be open to any influence.
And the internet had democratized music…
And you get to hear anything!
Right and things are kind of reappraised.
Yeah that always feels great.
“An Affair of the Heart” airs tonight on Epix.