In 1981, Rick Springfield pulled double duty as an actor on the wildly popular ABC soap opera General Hospital and as a rock and roll star. Riding high on the success of his breakthrough album Working Class Dog, Rick toured the country, living the fantasy he first dreamed of as a boy growing up in Sydney, Australia. “There was this core innocence about the whole thing,” Rick, 74, tells Closer. “It was all very exciting.” He followed up his early success with a string of popular LPs and other hits, including “Affair of the Heart,” “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” “Love Somebody” and “Human Touch.”

The release of Automatic, Rick’s latest album, brings him full circle as a musician. He played all the guitars and keyboards on the album, and wrote some deeply personal songs he hopes will resonate with fans old and new.

You released your first solo album in the early 1970s. What do you remember most about that time?

“I’ve always been very driven. I was actually surprised [success] took so long! Coming over here was incredibly exciting. For people living overseas, America was the golden country. Getting off the plane from Australia in Hawaii, seeing Pearl Harbor, getting to Hollywood and seeing the sign for the first time. I used to write to people in Australia I hardly knew just so that I could have the return address of “Hollywood, CA.”

So, America was a dream of yours?

“Sure. People who live here have no idea what that’s like coming from another country to suddenly be in America. Every song you grew up with is linked to America. There are all the movies. It just felt like coming to Disneyland for the first time for me. It was incredible, mind-blowing for a kid from Australia.”

Your new album, ‘Automatic’, is very personal.

“There are a couple of songs on it about friends. You have to get that inspiration from somewhere. This album developed differently. Before, I’d write records. This time I wrote a song and went to record it straight away. It inspired me further that I had one [song] and an idea for another. I’m not the kind of guy that can write from 9 to 5. I’ve got to feel like I have something to write about.”

The album is dedicated to your longtime soundman Matty Spindel, who passed away last year.

“His loss is something that will be felt by me, my band and the entire touring family for a long, long time. I wrote the song for him “She Walks With the Angels.” I used the feminine because he was very in touch with that side of himself. There are secret references all through the song that are very Matty.”

You’ve been recording and touring for most of your life. I’m sure that’s created a pretty extensive fan base.

“We certainly have hard-core fans. It is also great when people bring their kids to the shows. However, I’m always just happy if anybody shows up. I love to play guitar, and I play to connect with people.”

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You’re headlining the I Want My ’80s tour through the end of the year. How’s it going?

“Great. I’m doing this tour with the Hooters, Paul Young and Tommy Tutone. It reminds me of when I was a kid. I used to go and see shows and they’d be five bands. That’s how I saw the Beatles for the first time. I loved that. This type of package tour brings that whole vibe back.”

Your 1981 album ‘Working Class Dog’ and the hit “Jessie’s Girl” were a huge breakthrough for you. Tell us about Ron, your dog, who appeared on the album cover.

“Ron was a fantastic animal. He came to me at the right time. I was splitting up from a girlfriend and just met the girl who would become my wife. At the same time, I landed the General Hospital role [of Dr. Noah Drake] and I was about to start recording Working Class Dog.”

How did you like working on ‘General Hospital’?

“I was only on it for about 18 months, but it was a high point. It was the most popular soap opera ever. Elizabeth Taylor even guest-starred in it.”

You recently turned 74. What do you like best about being the age you are now?

“I see my age now, and I’m like, ‘Wow!’ When I look back, although there are things I’d change, if I did I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I’ve made mistakes and done stupid things, but as long as I’m healthy, I can keep doing what I love. That’s the key for me. Now I try to just be a better version of myself in every aspect. In writing and performing. In being a good human being and being spiritual. I don’t have a list of stuff that I crossed off, that I’ve done like a bucket list.”

No bucket list?

“No, it’s just a continual journey for me. I just have a constant desire to be. However, meeting Paul McCartney was great. Meeting Elvis was great.”

You met Elvis Presley? Do tell!

“I was flying back to the United States from Australia in ’72. Elvis was in the front of the plane wearing a powder blue suit. I liked him, but I wasn’t a giant fan. My girlfriend was. So, before the plane landed, he walked back and signed autographs for everyone. So, we talked for a bit.”

How about Paul McCartney?

“I met him a couple of times in different places. But that was great because he was my focus as a young man and musician. Meeting him was really memorable.”

In your memoir, you wrote about your battle with depression. Are you happier today?

“It’s always a struggle. A happy life, I think, is kind of pointless. You have moments of happiness. Sure. Life is tough for everybody. Every single person in the world has battled the darkness of their mind. I think the most important thing to being happy is finding someone you connect with to spend your life with.”