Rick Springfield had just rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange when our phonecall begins. “I stopped major companies from trading,” he says chuckling at the craziness of it all. Talking to him it’s clear he’s not the kind of guy who puts an end to corporate trading. He’s modest and self-effacing, friendly and willing to talk openly and honestly about anything, including what has been a pretty bizarre career.
For instance, when Springfield had his biggest song — the number one hit and Grammy winner “Jessie’s Girl” — he was in the middle of a two-year stint on “General Hospital.” He also wrote an acclaimed memoir, plus, last year, a bestselling novel, “Magnificent Vibration.” Right now he’s in “Ricki and the Flash,” starring opposite no less than Meryl Streep in a film by Jonathan Demme.
He plays Greg, part of an aging, small-time covers band fronted by Streep’s Ricki. Demme, he tells us, “wanted someone to sell the fact that this guy is supposed to be a really good guitar player who never made it. There’s a scene that was actually cut about Greg being on the cover of a guitar magazine in the ’80s — a shredder magazine. He settled into the fact that he had his shot, but he’s happy to still be playing his guitar.”
Springfield himself still plays big concerts, and his 18th album is due at year’s end. But he really liked the portrayal of those who hadn’t had his luck. “There’s a sadness to that, but it’s also kind of cool. There’s a lot of damaged people in that story,” he says. “It’s what I loved about the movie.”
They did play live, this being a Jonathan Demme movie, he of “Stop Making Sense,” “Storefront Hitchcock” (about Robyn) and three Neil Young concert movies (so far). “He knows what live music feels like. Since we were a cover band it would have looked odd if it was lip-synched to perfect tracks, like most music in films. He wanted it rough and ready and real, and that’s what we played.”
Streep herself learned how to play rhythm guitar in the months leading up to the shoot. Springfield got to actually see the Oscar-winner nervous. “Which was very encouraging and heartening for me, who was nervous to be in a movie with Meryl Streep,” he says.
“Ricki and the Flash” arrives almost concurrently with Springfield’s stint as a shady psychiatrist on “True Detective.” He hasn’t seen it. “I generally don’t like to see stuff that I’ve done,” he admits. “A lot of my friends emailed me and said, ‘Dude, you creeped me out so bad.’”