Sometimes, it's the title of a song that comes first and sparks the imagination.
When writing songs, Rick Springfield said a title will sometimes be the inspiration for the lyrics that follow. Take, for instance, the song "Down" from his new album, "Rocket Science."
"'Down' was a song where the title totally came first," Springfield said via email. "I was getting a ride from Atlanta to Nashville on Jay DeMarcus' tour bus. We'd been filming in Atlanta and the show got shut down for the ice storm, and since we both had work back in Nashville, I rode with him and we wrote 'Down' on the ride to Nashville." Jay came up with the title, and we thought instead of it being a song about being 'down,' we should make it about never letting someone down, and it grew from that."
While the song written with Rascal Flatts' DeMarcus is rock, there are some country elements. The influence of country music can be heard throughout "Rocket Science," which was released in February.
"I was just listening to a lot of country and digging how they were using a lot of pop influences, and I liked the mix," Springfield said. "I've always been a banjo, fiddle, pedal steel fan, so it wasn't difficult to decide to do. My first ever hit in the States, "Speak to the Sky' in 1972, I played banjo on, and it could be classed as a country-ish song."
Another song on the album with a definite country sound is "Let Me In," which has deep personal meaning to Springfield.
"It's about my wife and my relationship. We've been married for over 30 years, and there are a lot of ups and downs with a couple who are together that long. This was one of the down times," he said. "She shut me out and I was trying to get back in. I've written a lot of my songs about my girlfriend/wife, starting with 'Don't Talk to Strangers,' so she has been a great source of inspiration, even in the down times."
The Grammy Award-winning Springfield will perform songs from the new album, along with classic hits like "Jessie's Girl" and "Don't Talk to Strangers," July 3 at Festival Park in Elgin. The concert, part of Grand Victoria Casino's Summer Concert Series, begins at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 5 p.m.
Joining him in Festival Park are fellow rockers Loverboy, whose hits include the anthem "Working for the Weekend," and the Romantics ("What I Like About You").
Springfield said "Rocket Science," his 18th studio album, is his most positive one to date.
"The tone of it, lyrically is very positive," he said. "Songs like 'Pay It Forward' and "Crowded Solitude' and 'Light this Party Up" are very positive affirming songs. Even "All Hands on Deck" has its positive side. I got tired of whining, so I thought I'd put a positive slant on the record. I write from a dark place most of the time, but that can still produce 'light-filled' songs."
Springfield kicked off a national summer tour in June, with special guests the Romantics, Loverboy, 38 Special, The Fixx, Night Ranger and Tommy Tutone joining him in various cities.
So far, the tour is going well, he said. Asked if there are any odd/unusual/funny stories from the road, Springfield said: "None you can print."
"But my band is amazing and we all like each other, so that helps on and off stage," he said. "We run a pretty tight ship, so there's not a lot of room for crazy stuff, but it does happen every now and then."
During the tour, Springfield is giving fans a chance to be "Honorary Guitar Tech" for the day. Fans can purchase the opportunity to go backstage, help crew during sound check and the show, meet Springfield and hand him his guitar between songs. The honorary guitar tech also receives an autographed guitar. The funds raised will be given to the estate of Ruben Velasco, Springfield's friend and guitar tech who recently died of cancer.
"Ruben loved his gig and performed it to the end," Springfield said. "Being honorary guitar tech gives the fans a chance to honor him and give some financial help to his family."
In many of the cities, including Elgin, there is a wait list for the opportunity.
Along with being an award-winning musician, Springfield is also an accomplished actor. He recently starred opposite Meryl Steep in "Ricki and the Flash" and appeared on HBO's "True Detective." He also stars in an indie film slated for release this year.
"I have a movie called 'Traces' coming out soon and we are looking for the next great acting gig," Springfield said when asked about projects after the concert tour.
He's also busy writing, he said. Both his autobiography, "Late, Late at Night," and his debut novel, "Magnificent Vibration," were best sellers.
"I have a couple of ideas," he said. "One is the sequel to 'MV,' and the other is ... well just weird. I am writing a lot these days, which is a good use of all the travel time."
Springfield said he is looking forward to the annual fan getaway in the Bahamas in November.
"It is five days of partying with me and the band, and we do different sets and cocktail parties, photo sessions ... I sometimes show up somewhere with a guitar and play old songs from years ago, fan favorites," he said. "It really is an awesome time, and you can't beat the Bahamas and free alcohol."
Kathy Cichon is a freelance writer.
Rick Springfield with Loverboy and The Romantics
When: July 3
Where: Festival Park, adjacent to Grand Victoria Casino, 250 S. Grove Ave., Elgin
Tickets: $45-$75 reserved seating; $30 general admission lawn
Information: 847-468-7000 or grandvictoriacasino.com/events/gvc-summer-concert-series/