Rick Springfield has a rocking time with Meryl Streep, writes Neala Johnson
You play Meryl Streep’s lead guitarist in Ricki and the Flash. Is it true all the songs the Flash perform filmed live?
Yeah, Jonathan Demme wanted us to play live, which is pretty unheard of. Most films, they record it in the studio or at least do overdubs then lip-synch. This was played live in the moment. When I heard they weren’t even going to do overdubs, I started to sweat.
Who are the other “real” musos in the movie band?
Rick Rosas was Neil Young’s bass player — unfortunately he died four days after the shoot, which freaked us all out. Joe Vitale, the drummer, played with Crosby, Stills and Nash. Bernie Worrell was in Talking Heads. And Meryl — I’ve never seen anybody take two months to learn electric guitar, then sing and play and pull it off. It’s astounding. She brought it.
How did you old pros initiate Meryl into the band?
First of all I went, ‘Oh my God, it’s Meryl Streep!’ But the intimidation of ‘Oh my God, it’s Meryl Streep’ has gotta go out the window as soon as you can throw it because it interferes with everything. Especially when you’ve gotta kiss her! I’m going, ‘Oh. My. God. I’m kissing Meryl Streep!’ So she initiated herself by not wearing ‘Meryl Streep’ on her shoulder.
You’d had hit songs in Australia, solo and with Zoot, before moving to America in the ’70s. What led you to try acting over there?
I thought I could make money as an actor while I was waiting for a record deal, honestly. Which was pretty stupid because most actors in class were waiting tables waiting for an acting gig! But innocence is a good thing and I actually did start to make some money as a contract player for Universal.
How did it work in the 1980s when you were touring and acting?
I would fly out to play on the weekends, then fly back Monday morning to work on General Hospital. I was out of my mind.
What is it about acting that gives you a rush?
Writing a song that you feel you’ve nailed, recording a performance you feel is good and completing a scene that you feel you got pretty close to — it’s all the same rush to me.
You’re out front at your gigs. How did you adapt to being Meryl’s side-man, Greg?
I had to focus on being a musician and not a rock star. I modelled it off some friends of mine — Pat Benatar, we toured with her, and her husband, Neil Giraldo, played the guitar on the recording of Jessie’s Girl. So I modelled Greg on Neil, because he supports Pat by almost facing her the whole show rather than facing out to the audience.
Did anything in the movie ring true with things you’ve lived in your musical life?
I do remember playing in clubs and being excited if there were three people there and two of them clapped at the end of a song! In Greg’s position, I would have been pretty jaded and pretty pissed off that nothing had really happened (laughs).
What can you tell us about your new album, Mayhem?
I’ve been listening to a lot of country because rock has gone to Nashville — it’s certainly not on the radio any more! So I’ve written a couple of songs with Nashville guys. It’s coming out in October. And it’s basically the best record I’ve ever done.
What’s your reaction these days when Jessie’s Girl comes on the radio?
It’s like seeing your son in the crowd. The funniest thing is hearing muzak versions of it in the grocery store.
We often hear about life on the road causing bands to split ...
That’s why I’m a solo artist!
... Do you think you could tour with Meryl Streep?
Oh yeah, she’s nicer than any of the bandmates I was ever with.
SEE RICKI AND THE FLASH OPENS TODAY
“I thought it would just be something to pay the light bill” RICK SPRINGFIELD ON ACTING