Exclusive Interview: Rick Springfield on An Affair of the Heart

The rock and roll legend talks about his new documentary An Affair of the Heart, his acting career and which movies use his music the best way.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

I thought a Rick Springfield documentary would be a standard biography about the highs and lows and a triumphant comeback. I never expected it to be such an emotional tear-jerker. The Epix documentary “An Affair of the Heart” shows Springfield through the eyes of his fans. Not just adoring groupies, but women who devote their lives to seeing him perform, women who have survived assaults and health crises with his music, even one who helped Springfield make it home for a family emergency. I accepted a phone interview with Springfield sight unseen but after seeing the documentary, we were able to have a much deeper talk about the power of music than I’d imagined we would. Also I recommended Lamberto Bava’s Demons to him.

“An Affair of the Heart” premieres on Epix May 15.

CraveOnline: I’ve always liked your music but now that I’ve seen the documentary, it’s going to make me cry thinking about these stories every time I hear it. Has the music always been this emotional or was this a new experience?

Rick Springfield: No, it’s always been emotional for me. It’s always come from a true place in me. I guess as you get older, you get better at putting your emotions out there in songs.

But to the extent that the experience people have with it, it gets them through horrible attacks or helps them overcome health issues, do you take that with you?

They actually have very good takes on what the songs are about, the albums are about. I think fans that listen to it get what it’s about, even if it’s just the undercurrent of the song and not really spelled out. They get the emotion and that really proves it, some of those stories I think.

In the film there’s about five or so really featured fans. How are you able to connect with the thousands and millions of fans?

Well, you can’t really connect personally with them all obviously, but we’re very fan friendly and we see a lot of them after the show and things like that. I really understand how important fans are and I get that we exist because of them so this really is a documentary for the fans.

Are there more fans on the level of JoAnn and Sue that didn’t make it into the movie?

Yeah, there’s quite a few fans that follow us every show. There was actually one story that didn’t make it to the doc that I felt was pretty wild. This woman had one of my songs on her cell phone. When someone would call in it would play. She got into a bad car accident and crawled out of the wreckage and ended up in the bushes. The paramedics were treating her, her life signs were going down and someone called her. The song came on and the paramedics said her life signs started to pick up. So I think that’s the connection we have with music. I mean, I’m a fan of people too. I have that deep connection with a couple of artists as well so it’s really an amazing thing when it happens. It’s not as much to do with the artist almost as it to do with the person where they are in their life, what the song says to them and how they view the artist.

Were there artists that you followed on tour as a fan?

Not really, not really because I was in bands myself. I wasn’t that kind of a fan but certainly meeting Elvis and meeting McCartney were pretty [big]. I acted like a 12-year-old I’m sure.

You’ve had these experiences on tour for years and the film crew was following you around, but when you saw it put together in a finished film, what did the filmmakers illuminate for you?

We kind of exist in our own bubble and we think when someone leaves the room that they cease to exist and it’s all about us. It was really eye opening to see the fans going back home and their lives continuing and it being part of their lives. I kind of didn’t really imagine that it must have been an issue for the husbands that they’re coming on the road a lot. I understand that totally. I also understand the whole thing of it being road trips for some people where they all just hook up with friends and make it a weekend. That kind of thing really surprised me too, the life that goes on outside our shows.

There’s a fleeting anecdote about “Jessie’s Girl” in the movie where you say if you’d scored, there’d be no song. Was there really a Jessie?

Yeah, yeah, of course there was. All of my songs, and I think most writers, they start from a kernel of truth. Then they go somewhere else with it but the inspiration generally comes from something that happened to them and that was completely truthful. It’s just his name wasn’t Jessie. That was all. The whole emotional thing was right on which is why I think it connected, because it was so truthful.

Does that person know he was Jessie?

No, no. I lost touch with him. Before the song became a hit, I lost touch with the couple. They moved out of state so I don’t think they even know to this day that the song was about her.

You’ve got to think they used to know a guy named Rick and he wrote this song…

I don’t know, a lot of my friends thought it was them and I had to say, “Sorry, dude, no.”

Do you think the best use of that song was in the movie Boogie Nights?

Yeah, I thought it was a great juxtaposition. I thought that was a very unique approach to the song. I think that was part of the thing that really began to elevate it above just regular hit song status. It kind of started to give it a slightly timeless vibe that it’s taken on a little bit of, which has nothing to do with me. It’s how it’s picked up and shared around different projects and how it’s viewed by everybody.