It's been 40 years since Rick Springfield released his first album, "Beginnings" (Real Gone Music). But the real crux of his story came in 1981, when a role on TV's "General Hospital" dovetailed into that year's "Working Class Dog" (RCA), which peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and catapulted Springfield to superstar status thanks to Grammy Award-winning No. 1 single "Jessie's Girl." A string of hits followed in the mid-'80s, including "Love Somebody." The Australian-born singer/songwriter/guitarist/bandleader has been a low-key icon ever since, with a career ebb and flow that included a run on Showtime's "Californication"; a best-selling autobiography, "Late, Late at Night" in 2010; and the documentary "An Affair of the Heart: The Journey of Rick Springfield and His Devoted Fans." The music remains constant, however, and his first new rock album in four years, "Songs for the End of the World", arrives Oct. 9 on Universal Music Enterprises.
1. So does it feel like 40 years? Forty minutes? Four hundred years?
It seems like 400, I think-at times. [laughs] It seems like a completely different time to me. I see photos from that era and I don't remember being that person. I thought of the first album being called Beginnings and this one being called "Songs for the End of the World" and wondered if it was some kind of closure.
2. Singing about the end of the world does make that implication, doesn't it?
Most of it is personal and comes from relationships, but this one has a little bit of a tinge of what I've been feeling and what I've been thinking about a lot, which is the state of the world. You can't get away from the fact we're completely destroying the world and no one seems to have the overall power or inclination to stop it.
3. But the album's not a downer.
Oh, no, of course not. I didn't want this album to be preachy at all. The worst thing in the world is to appear preachy. There's a tongue-in-cheek aspect to the record, some humor. I've always had that in my psyche. I mean, look at the cover of "Working Class Dog". So the record has an aura of what I'm thinking, but it's not to wake anybody up and say, "Hey, this could be it in the next 15, 20 years for the human race." It's just my take on it.
4. There are five bonus tracks and lots of Web content for the album. Are you getting into the new-media landscape?
Absolutely. It's like magic. The first time I saw some of the stuff we're doing my jaw dropped. I wanted it to be something really unique. With [new song] "I Hate Myself," we put it out through social media and demonstrated the chorus and had fans send in their versions. About 500 people sent me versions of them singing, and some are pretty hilarious, and they're all on the song.
5. Should we worry about where your head's at when you sing "I Hate Myself"?
[laughs] Anyone who's read my autobiography knows I have some self-worth issues, so it kind of came out of that. But I've always dealt with my depression and turned it into a positive thing. There's a degree of self-loathing [in the song], but it's great to play live because everyone gets into it. I do a whole preamble about it and everybody sings it with quite a bit of gusto. I always wanted to write a song like "Louie Louie" or "Wild Thing" or "Twist and Shout," and this feels like I did it.
6. You're known for having a predominately female crowd, which most people expect to favor ballads. But you get them to rock out. What's the secret?
I've got to tell you, we're getting a lot of guys. Now that it's OK to like me, a lot of guys come up to me and say, "Yeah, I grew up listening to your music through my older sister's bedroom wall and I love it." It's become a date night, too. I've heard some funny stories: "I took my girlfriend to one of your shows and I finally got into her pants." And because of songs like "Jessie's Girl" being on "Glee" and in movies we get a younger crowd, too, so I'm very pleased with the cross-section of the audience now.