Rick Astley talks ahead of headline gig at Birmingham Genting Arena
Two years ago Rick Astley returned with an album that surprised everyone – even himself. His number one album 50 sold more than 300,000 copies and was one of the biggest selling albums of 2016. What was even more incredible was that Rick wrote, produced and played every instrument on that comeback disc.
This year, he went and did it again by releasing a new album, Beautiful Life, which he’ll tour this winter. He’ll headline Birmingham’s Genting Arena on Thursday with special guest Gabrielle.
Rick will be mixing new tracks with the hits. “Well, I would be foolish if I didn’t play any of the hits I have. I didn’t have that many, but I’ve had a few, so obviously, I’m going to be playing them. But also we had a record about two years ago for my 50th birthday called 50, so we’ll be playing a few songs that that. In the UK, it went great, and that was really out of the blue, and it was just a really great experience.
“We had a number one album, and that was freaky. We were all a bit weirded out about that to some degree because it had been a very long time since something like that had happened (laughs). I’m comfortable about playing a few songs from that record as well.
“I just try and have a bit of fun, you know? I kind of respect the fact that it’s definitely an element of nostalgia, I think, coming to see somebody of my age (laughs). But in a way, it’s sort of nostalgic for me as well.”
Rick has had a remarkable career. He created a stable family life following a challenging childhood. He gave up fame by voluntarily retiring, aged 27, with sales of 40 million. And then he made that comeback in 2016 as his album 50 hit the number one spot 29 years after his last chart-topper.
“It’s very weird. Luck plays a big part in someone’s musical career, that’s for sure. I’ve got friends who are mega-talented. Never made it as artists; just didn’t get their break in the right light on the right day. We’ve all got albums that we love, that no one else has heard of. How did that happen?”
Rick says fame is very different the second time around to the emotions he experienced during his 20s.
“Yes. My knees hurt (laughs). It is different. Of course, it is because, to be honest, in a bizarre way, I didn’t have the same connections to the songs back in the day even though that’s when they were hits. They kind of turned into something else because they’ve been a part of my life, and when I sing those old songs for people, they’ve been a small part of their lives, you could say. Then I get the connection. You know what I mean?
“When I go to see a band I really like and I’ve liked for 25 years, it moves me when they do a certain song because it makes me almost feel like I’m 25 again, and I can relate to that when I’m on stage kind of fulfilling that for someone else. Even if it’s just for an hour or whatever, it just transports you to a different point in your life, and I think that’s what music can sometimes do. Movies can do that as well.
“I have a bit of respect for that now, and I think, as a kid, I just took it for granted because I didn’t know any better. I had nothing to compare it to. It was just what I did. But now I think I can relate to how lucky I was to have those songs and to have the moments I have now replaying those songs because a lot of people who have been in my position don’t get the chance to do that because of whatever reason.
“I look at athletes sometimes and think how unfair it is that in music or movies, you can keep going until you can’t do it anymore, but with athletes they’re pretty much stopped after a very short time. Whether they want to do it or not, there’s no choice. They’re done.”
Though Rick is enjoying his very own Second Coming, he has no regrets about spending so much time away from the music industry. He was glad to have years in the wilderness where he was able to decompress and devote himself to family life.
“Definitely because, if I’m brutally honest, if I’d been singing Never Gonna Give You Up and a few others for 30 years, I think I’d have driven myself mad. I think that having a 15-year breakaway from it was really good.”