When Rock Solid host Pat Francis sits down with a guest for his comedy podcast about all things music, the conversation is as much a chat with a friend as it is an interview.

And as a friend of Francis, you talk about music both classic and new; listen to songs both hits and long-forgotten B-sides; and share rock star stories.

Through his affable manner, depth of music knowledge, and love of artists and their craft, Francis celebrates the careers of guests from Melissa Etheridge to Dweezil Zappa, and in doing so unearths treasured backstories.

“What’s fun about the podcast is that I am trying to be a professional interviewer, but I am also trying to ask the questions that I think a fan wants to know, because I am a fan and I want to know,” Francis said.

Rock Solid is coming to San Francisco January 20, 2018 as part of the 17th annual SF Sketchfest, a comedy festival with diverse programming that includes comedic shows, panel discussions, and tributes. Francis will record a live episode with his most coveted guest yet.

“My number one guest of all time has always been Rick Springfield,” Francis said. “I’ve never stopped trying to get Rick Springfield.”

The 1980s pop legend has sold 25 million records and has 17 US Top 40 hits, including “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” "Affair of the Heart," and "Jessie's Girl,” for which he won a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. Springfield wrote Top 5 hit "Love Somebody” at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco when he was in town shooting the 1984 movie Hard to Hold. He recorded the song at the Plant studio in Sausalito.

For his upcoming 90-minute conversation with Springfield at Cobb’s Comedy Club, Francis plans to focus mainly on the music.

“I want more people to know his deeper catalog. I feel like since I know it so well, I am the person that can bring it to the masses,” Francis said. “I think people just know the hits and the hits are great, but I think some of those really deep album cuts are even much better.”

Francis is well-versed in the musician’s extensive catalog of 19 studio albums. He plans to ask about some of his favorite, though perhaps lesser-known, songs such as “Walkin’ In,” which is an extra track available only on the Best Buy version of Springfield’s 2016 album Rocket Science.

As a longtime fan, Francis has followed Springfield's career since the 1981 multiplatinum album Working Class Dog. His latest album, The Snake King, is set to be released January 26, 2018, just days after the Rock Solid interview. “I buy his albums the day they come out, for all these years,” Francis said.

The Snake King is described as Springfield “traveling down a dusty dirt road to explore the blues side of his rock ‘n roll.” It also showcases his guitar playing. “The album is a blues-based record about God, the devil, and sex,” Springfield said.

“I think what he’ll appreciate the most is when I am talking about recent albums that people most likely haven’t heard. I am going to play songs that you know he’s excited about because this is his newest music,” Francis said. “That’s where I see guests light up the most, when they’re like, ‘Wow, this guy really knows my music.’”

Springfield’s diverse entertainment career spans four decades and has been well documented throughout the years, with coverage featuring his talents as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, soap opera heartthrob, movie actor, and best-selling author. He wrote the candid 2010 memoir Late, Late at Night about his battle with depression. He interacts with fans as host of annual fan getaways. He performs solo acoustic shows where he openly tells personal stories when introducing songs.

“So there’s a lot of stuff out there about him,” Francis said. “What I want to focus on is, this guy is not just ‘Jessie’s Girl.’ He’s not just that handful of hits that everyone knows. He’s continued to record albums. He’s continued to tour and, even though the music is upbeat, the lyrics are sometimes very, very dark. And I don't know that people really realize that sometimes.

“He has a song about child abuse, a song about missing children. There are some songs that I assume are autobiographical where he is very hard on himself,” Francis elaborated.

Francis, 53, was a full-time stand-up comedian for about seven years through the mid-1990s. A veteran of SF Sketchfest, he has participated several times over the years as a guest on the podcast Never Not Funny and on the Bluff You game show. In 2016, Sketchfest invited Rock Solid to the event and Francis recorded an episode live with local rocker Sammy Hagar. In 2017 Rock Solid returned, doing an interview with "Weird Al" Yankovic. Also last year, Rock Solid presented "KISS and Tell," where Francis and three other comedians read from the autobiographies of KISS band members.

Rock Solid podcast host Pat Francis interviewing Sammy Hagar at SF Sketchfest in 2016.

There are 338 episodes (and counting) of the weekly podcast which is recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Francis’s nephew Kyle Dodson. Rock Solid has garnered more than one million downloads since it began in 2011.

Francis has a knack for drawing details from his guests who often disclose behind-the-scenes gems that every music buff loves to hear. In an October 2017 episode, drummer Stewart Copeland reveals that members of the Police clashed when writing songs for the group’s most iconic albums, particularly Zenyatta Mondatta. Copeland further reveals band dynamics referring to Sting as “quiet and deep” and to himself as “loud and shallow.”

Rock Solid podcast host Pat Francis during interview with The Police drummer Stewart Copeland.

In a June 2016 episode, Berlin singer Terri Nunn tells the story of auditioning for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars while sitting in a lawn chair next to Harrison Ford. To Francis’ delight, Nunn also recalls recording her solo album at Paisley Park, where Prince always wore full makeup and stage clothes. Back in 2013, singer-songwriter John Waite becomes emotional when describing the inspiration for his song "St. Patrick’s Day," a deep album track that only a dedicated fan like Francis would recollect, ask about, and play.

“During that song, John Waite put his hand on my hand and he started to tear up. When he left that day he was like, ‘Man, you really got me. I haven’t heard that song since I recorded it,’” Francis said. “So many guests, when I walk them out to their cars after the show say, ‘I have never done an interview this long. I have never gotten to say these things.’ And that’s what I love.”

For episodes that do not have a musical guest, Francis and a rotating cast of comedic co-hosts debate subjects including favorite live tracks or best tunes featuring brass instruments. They discuss themed topics including songs with hand claps or songs used in Quentin Tarantino movies. On occasion, listeners pick a topic and co-host. For an episode called "Goodwill Hunting," a listener came up with the idea to play songs from 99-cent CDs purchased at Goodwill that week.

“I bought 15 CDs. I took one song off each. The co-host did the same and that was the show,” Francis said. “It was so much fun and really cool because we had all kinds of different music. We had country music and Barry Manilow, just everything.”

With his comedic background and passion for music, Francis makes a fun show from any topic and makes his guests feel comfortable to chat. While much has been covered about Springfield, Francis knows much remains to be said.

“I think Rick Springfield is willing to talk about things and I think that it’s kind of therapeutic for him to admit these things so I am really looking forward to some good stuff,” Francis said. “He is an open book and I really know his music. That is what I really pride myself on.”

Rock Solid podcast with Pat Francis, featuring Rick Springfield

Cobb's Comedy Club
January 20, 2018
4pm, $25