“This summer has been absolutely amazing, it’s been a crazy few months.”
Over lunch at a restaurant near his Surrey home, Rick Astley recalls how his recent performances at Electric Picnic, Hampton Court and Glastonbury made him this year’s festival favorite.
The affable singer made it to this year’s Glasto after opening the Pyramid Stage with his own set at lunchtime, before appearing in the Woodsies tent with Blossoms, performing covers of The Smiths for only the third time.
“Damn, Rick Astley is killing it at Glastonbury,” one viewer wrote on social media, while another proclaimed: “Who would have thought Rick Astley would win Glastonbury 35 years later?”
The singer, whose new album Are We There Yet is released on October 13, said: “The amount of people who came up to me and said, ‘I saw you at Glastonbury – it was incredible’ was really special.”
“I never expected it to go down like this and I still find it a bit strange.
“It’s not false modesty, it’s just reality.”
“I’ve always been very realistic and when someone suggested I play Glastonbury I thought: ‘Are you kidding?’
“It’s better to be like that than to say ‘I want to play Glastonbury and you should have me there after whatever band’.”
“Then you dig yourself a hole and are upset when it doesn’t happen. ‘The tour opened my eyes in many ways’
“When things come to me, it’s twice as big because I don’t expect it to happen anyway.
“That was certainly the case at Glastonbury.”
Astley has enjoyed a revival since returning to music in 2016 following internet sensation Rickrolling, playing with the Foo Fighters, enjoying a No. 1 album and sold-out live shows.
Glastonbury is as popular as ever and has brought the former Eighties star even more plaudits in the cool stakes.
He admits: “There were a lot of nerves at Glastonbury – it was stressful. We had been there since 9am.
“I looked at the audience in front of my slot and there was no one there.
“I said to my wife Lene, ‘This is going to be the most embarrassing thing we’ve ever done!’
“Our daughter Emelie steamed up my suit and had to calm me down. She’s been to Glastonbury many times.
“She just sees me as a dad and jokes about my pop career. She torments me like a daughter does to her father.”
Astley says recording Jägermeister with his band helped calm his nerves and the field quickly filled up for his first performance of the day.
He remembers: “The adrenaline and chemicals rushed through you quickly – it was a pleasure.”
Astley’s afternoon slot, which saw Blossoms perform The Smiths’ greatest hits, is considered one of the festival’s legendary sets.
He says: “When I was young I was a very, very big Smiths fan.
“But people remember me as the singer for Stock Aitken Waterman (production trio Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman).
“I love Highway To Hell by AC/DC. I also learned to play drums, but people can’t handle it.
“But singing Smith’s songs came naturally to me. And I met Morrissey, but only very briefly.
“I didn’t meet Johnny Marr, but I met Morrissey when he was doing his solo stuff.
“He wanted to take a photo with me on Top Of The Pops. I found it a bit strange.
“I thought he was kidding himself, but he wanted to take pictures with everyone.”
Unfortunately, the collaboration could be short-lived as Astley doesn’t believe there will be any further performances with Blossoms.
He says: “It was great meeting her. But it’s time for Blossoms to continue being Blossoms.
“I am 57 and have had a career, a different one, so to speak. They are a really good band and continue to grow.
“When you see them live, they are huge.
“Maybe I’m Uncle Rick when I say this, but I feel like I have to protect her.
“They’re young guys and they’re still forming themselves.”
Astley is also focusing on the present and the release of the ninth studio album Are We There Yet?
He says: “I wrote some of these songs during Covid.
“It wasn’t that bad for me because I have a studio at home that I could just jump into whenever I wanted.
“After that we went to America.”
In 2022, Astley toured for three months with New Kids On The Block, Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue, which he said was both fun and a learning experience.
He says: “The tour opened my eyes in many ways.
“It’s a lot different than going out and doing your own gig and being the headliner.
“I did it alone, was the only solo act and everyone else had choreography.
“At the end I felt my age, I was at the end”
“It was tight – you can’t mess around – well, I did. I played around a lot, but in a fun way.
“It’s important to me to bring humor into the show.
“It’s not like laughing at yourself, it’s just acknowledging that I’m older and the audience is older, but we’re here to have a good time.
“I didn’t know any of them before and they all got along very well.
“Which is good because we played 56 gigs and often five shows in a row in a stupid amount of time. Traveling was hard.”
“It really was a New Kids tour and they were so welcoming.
“Donnie Wahlberg is like a force of nature. He is great.
“He’s married to (TV star) Jenny McCarthy. We went to her house in Chicago and had dinner.”
America is an influence on his upcoming album Are We There Yet? and the first single “Dippin My Feet” has an Americana feel.
He says: “There’s definitely a lot more twangy guitars on this record than before.
“I brought some of it back and it ended up on the record.
“I wrote a few songs on the road and as soon as I got home I wanted to get back in the studio. I was there all day, almost every day.
“Are we there yet? as a title also refers to my age. At the end of the tour I felt my age, I was completely exhausted.
“We covered a total of 22,000 miles and covered so many places. We even experienced a tornado in Wisconsin, which was pretty scary.
“When we got home we went on a skiing holiday with friends, our daughter and her boyfriend.”
Other standout songs from the new album include the catchy “Take Me Back To Your Place” and “Waterfall,” which Astley says is “about life – we’re always under a waterfall.”
“Life is either great and beautiful. Other times it literally goes down.”
The song also credits Bill Withers and Martha Reeves, while “Golden Hour” and new single “Never Gonna Stop” showcase Astley’s powerful pop-soul voice and were also influenced by his heroes.
He says: “I don’t shy away from the fact that many artists from my childhood remain stuck in my head and heart.
“Never Gonna Stop is influenced by Marvin Gaye.
“I’m nowhere near Marvin Gaye by the way – I’m just a lad from Newton-Le-Willows (in Merseyside) but he played a part.
“I can’t quite go down that path because it’s part of my DNA that I was contracted to Stock Aitken Waterman. I know what my audience wants.”
“When I met Stock, Aitken and Waterman I had no idea what I was doing or what I wanted to sound like. I’ve never really been in a studio before.
“I have absolutely loved the last few years”
“I also knew I wouldn’t be competing against Mike Stock. If Mike wanted me to sing like that, I would sing the same way.
“Don’t get me wrong, I have an ego. And I want to try to implement these new songs.
“But I also know that I’m 57 and I’m not a new artist today.
“And as far as new artists today go, I like how Harry Styles has found his way as a solo artist.
“He has great songs and has the whole thing down. And I think he’s underrated as a singer.”
Album closer “Blue Sky” is a special track stripped down to the essentials with a more vulnerable sound that we’ve heard from Astley.
He says: “The first time I sang with Blue Sky was very early on.
“I had just had a cup of tea, went into the studio and didn’t sing it in the normal octave that I normally do.
“I played it for Lene and she said she loved the lyrics and a friend told me not to change it because there was something in my voice.
“There’s lyrics in there about birds and that’s because everything sounded sweeter and greener during Covid.”
“It was a real appreciation of nature in the back garden.
“Everything smelled and looked better during that terrible, terrible time.”
Astley’s renaissance means he is enjoying every minute of his current popularity and success.
He says: “The rest of the year is pretty busy but I want it to be that way.
“There’s no point in making a record and saying, ‘I don’t want anyone to hear it.'”
“Maybe it’s someone’s bag, but it’s not mine.
“I have absolutely enjoyed playing gigs or playing new songs over the last few years.
“I make sure we play the old ones too and that it’s fun.
“I’m playing two nights at the Royal Albert Hall in November and there’s a big tour next year.
“We recently had a rehearsal for no other reason than I wanted to hear what the new songs sounded like live.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there and enjoying everything.
Read more at the Scottish Sun
“After doing the Glastonbury set and the Blossoms thing, I became a bit more famous because of that.”
- Album Are We There Yet? will be released on October 13th. Rick Astley plays London’s Royal Albert Hall on November 1st and 2nd.