Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rick Springfield looks back, performs show at the Colonial Theatre tonight

NH Weekend Editor
Rick Springfield leaves behind the usual arena-rocking backing, heading out on the road with a format the
Grammy winner hopes offers audiences a bit more of a "Human Touch."

The "Stripped Down Tour," which includes a concert tonight at The Colonial Theatre in Keene, is a pared-back performance designed as a sort of retrospective of the 64-year-old performer's career, with familiar and lesser-known songs interspersed with stories and an audience Q&A.

And from "Sound City" fame to a forthcoming star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, from the sometimes sordid road trip of his autobiography to an inventive adventure in his first novel, Springfield has some tales to tell.

"I've had a pretty unusual life," said Springfield, whose string of hits over the years includes "Human Touch," "Jessie's Girl," "Affair of the Heart," "Love Somebody," "Don't Talk to Strangers" and "I've Done Everything for You." "I have a lot of stories, and a lot of them were turned into songs, so it's a very natural kind of thing" to share the experiences that shaped the lyrics and songwriting process. "It's told with some humor — not just, 'This is why I wrote it and when I wrote it'."

The more intimate production is a purposeful departure from his usual high-energy, full-band show, with more of an unplugged sort of vibe.

"It's me and a bunch of guitars and stories. It's a very laid-back thing," he said. "There's some hits — you know, some of the hits that I can't really get off stage without playing, obviously — but I tell some stories about them (to add to the performance.) There's some more lyric-driven songs, and there's some fan favorite songs off some earlier albums and stuff from my childhood. It's pretty full scope. We tried to give it an arc of a life, so that's where's I was aiming. It's fun to play, and people really seem to dig it.

"It's very different from the band show ...," he said. "Having the two touring identities is a lot more fun for me."

The approach has played well, with new dates extending his 2014 schedule.

'Sound City' Strides

The tour comes in the wake of the well-received "Sound City" documentary, in which Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame, and a who's who list of musicians chronicle the rise, fall and rebirth of sorts of a Van Nuys, Los Angeles, studio and its revolutionary Neve analog mixing console. Springfield not only appeared in the film in interviews but collaborated with Grohl on the song "The Man that Never Was" for the Grammy-winning soundtrack.

"It was a great experience," Springfield said of participating in the documentary and recording sessions. "It was really, really incredible.

"Sound City was my home for quite a while," he said. "I think both me and Stevie Nicks spent a lot of time there just hanging out. It became my home away from home. And I think that's why our stories resonate. We were both part of that studio. My manager (at that time, Joe Gottfried) owned it. I'm glad that he finally got the attention because he loved that studio. He passed away in the '90s, but I know he's up there smiling."

The documentary not only focused on the pivotal albums recorded in the original studio over the years by acts like Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen, Tom Petty, Guns 'n Roses and REO Speedwagon, but featured returning musicians who composed and played new tunes on the 1970s-era sound board after Grohl installed it in the Foo Fighters' own 606 Studios. In addition to Springfield, Nicks and Grohl, the soundtrack's roster included Paul McCartney, Trent Rezner, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Brad Wilk and Tom Commerford of Rage Against the Machine.

Celebrating an Era

"Sound City," which earned a Grammy for best compilation soundtrack for visual media, celebrates the creative process of days past — a technological and musical ode to the imperfections and sense of personality that underscored album creation before the digital age remastered the art.

"Dave did a great job of telling it, too," Springfield said of a story that revolves around recording equipment designed by British engineer Rupert Neve. "It's a difficult story to a degree (because) it's a technical story — parts of it. But I thought it was real entertaining, and it was well done.

"Writing the songs was a great idea, and then we ended up doing a short tour with it, too, opening and closing when they went around for film festivals showing the documentary," he said. " We played Sundance and South By Southwest (SXSW) and went over to London and did some shows over there. We did a total of about 10 shows, I think."

Springfield, whose career also includes acting stints ranging from a heartthrob doctor in the soap opera "General Hospital" to a debased version of himself in Showtime's "Californication," revisits another coveted spot of California real estate this spring when he gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.

"When I first came over here in 1971 from Australia, I lived near Hollywood Boulevard," he said. " I used to walk the boulevard and look for other Australians (honored) there. It's meaningful to be there for sure."

Still, his journey has included some missteps, and he's been open about the bumps in the road. His 2010 autobiography, "Late, Late at Night," dealt candidly with issues such as depression and infidelity, and his current tour continues a conversation about professional and personal highs and lows.

"I think they connect with the humanism, the human element of it — our screw-ups, and as anybody else, our occasional successes," he said. "Basically that's the idea of the whole thing: to illuminate a life, to a degree."

Springfield echoed sentiments shared by actor and rapper Will Smith, who appeared on the "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" last month and spoke about keeping life in the spotlight in perspective. "You just keep loving people. The thing is to make sure ... your art is a gift to people to help their lives be better and to be brighter," Smith said, cautioning that "you'll see people fail in this business (because) they're in there for their ego and they start doing it for them. And it's like, no, ... you're trying to help people just get through a day."

"I fortunately realized a long time ago that it's about the fans and not about me," Springfield said. "It takes a while to be in the game and get that. Initially, you think it's all about you and what people can give you, not how you got there and how you stay there. Honestly, when you can afford the light bill, (the way you approach your job changes). My mind started to think of other things and go other places and understand.

"It's not an easy life, but it's a fun life, and I'm glad I picked it," Springfield said. "Once you start making money, you get a different perspective on it. Your mind gets to go to other places. The (easing of that) fear is the one gift that money really allows. You can help out the family and other people, and it frees you. Some people just end up thinking about themselves, or like Will Smith said, (others focus on) what you can do for others. It's the only way to live life."

Behind the Pen

That's also the premise of sorts behind his most recent writing project, his first novel. Titled "Magnificent Vibration," the book conjures a bit of heavenly intervention to put a bit of meaning back into one man's existence.

"It's slightly metaphysical," Springfield said. "It's the story of a 32-year-old guy who's been through a brutal divorce and has a job he hates. For him, life is one gray road until he flops over like a dead fish. He steals a self-help book and written on the inside cover is "1-800-CALL-GOD." So, he does. Three people get involved, and where it ends up is surprising.

"It comes out in May," he said. "It's gotten some really good advance reviews from some serious literary magazines so I'm jazzed about that, because they love to rag on guys like me."

Springfield, who tours regularly and continues to release CDs, including 2012's "Songs for the End of the World," said the book came together in a matter of a few months.

"I write a lot on planes. I started on Christmas vacations to Australia. I'm not the kind of guy who can sit on a beach for hours a day. I take my computer with me on airplanes and cars, and it's a great place to write."

CAREER RETROSPECTIVE: From “Sound City” fame to a forthcoming star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, from the sometimes sordid road trip of his autobiography to an inventive adventure in his first novel, Rick Springfield has some tales to tell. His latest pared-back tour has an unplugged sort of vibe, with songs interspersed with stories, and followed by a Q&A with the audience. 
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