Having come to fame in 1987 with Never Gonna Give You Up, Rick Astley is still going strong more than three decades later. Now 52, he releases his eighth studio album Beautiful Life this week
RD: Your last album 50 came out a couple of years ago and was a huge hit. Does that mean the pressure's on?
Nobody was expecting anything two years ago and now they kind of are. It's a funny situation to find myself in, to be honest. [Laughs] I'm not getting above myself and saying the world's waiting for the new album, but there is more of an expectation this time round. But I'm really proud of it. It's a bit more relaxed, a bit more chilled and the first single, the title track, is more of a tune you can dance to than anything I've done in quite a while. The last one was a bit more heartfelt whereas with this it's more like “The gloves are off, let's have some fun.”
RD: Do you have a beautiful life?
I do, yes. It feels a bit stressful at times but when I stop for a second and think about it, my life is pretty idyllic and pretty amazing. I work hard and I played everything on these last two albums but in a way it's not real work; it's a pleasure and something I really love doing. It's not a chore.
RD: Your wife Lene is also your manager. Does that mean she's the boss?
I wouldn't say she's the boss. We just respect each other. We've known each other since 1980—whatever, and I think that respect is really important, not just because of what she's done for my career but also the fact she's a film producer. I've been to sets and seen her working and I've seen what it takes—management of situations, management of people and management of emotions. She gets involved in every part of it and she's kind of involved in every part of what I do too.
OK, she doesn't come in and play the acoustic guitar on a track but if she says, “I really love that song” it makes me work harder on it. We do have to remind ourselves sometimes, Hey, we're married—we need to go have a romantic dinner, but we're very lucky that my music has taken us to amazing places like South America, Australia, Japan... We'll be having dinner in Montreal before a gig and we'll pinch ourselves and say, “This is crazy because we never thought this would be happening again.”
RD: What do you most like about being in your fifties?
I think it's the fact I don't feel like I'm in my fifties. When I used to hear people say, “I don't feel like I'm 50,” I'd go, “Come on, you do really,” but when you get there you understand what they mean.
Don't get me wrong, I don't feel 25 but I don't feel 52 either. In this industry there are a lot of people I come across who are way younger than I am and I think that makes you think differently to when you're just hanging out with people your own age.
It used to be you got to 50 and it was, “Right, you're done—get your slippers out” but I just don't think people feel that way anymore. [Laughs] Having said that, I was playing tennis the other morning with my neighbour, who's a bit older than me, and he was running rings round me. That made me think, Get your act together because there are people older than you who are wiping the floor with you.
RD: Did you really hate being famous in your twenties or has that been exaggerated?
It wasn't that I hated it. A lot of it was amazing—things like, “You don't have to sit there, come right to the waters' edge and we'll bring lobster to you!” There were loads of those instant-gratification things.
The problem was those moments when you were with a couple of friends you'd known for donkey's years or with your family, then people would come over, sit down and start talking to you as if they knew you and expected you to have a conversation when you're just trying to have a pint with your two brothers and your sister.
When our daughter [Emilie] was born it really used to get to me because it was like, “Can you not see I'm pushing my daughter on a swing? Can't you just wait until we're leaving the park, then come over?” I know it's part of the job but I sometimes wished I had a cloak of invisibility for an hour or two.
RD: How was it having women screaming for you at gigs?
I think that's always been overplayed. I'm not saying nobody's ever fancied me, but that's the weird thing about fame—when I walked down the King's Road before I was famous no-one batted an eyelid, nobody went, “Look at that hunky guy with the red quiff,” then you have a hit record and all of a sudden you become a bit more attractive to certain people.
If you look at the global statistics and go, “How many people are there in the world and how many of them fancy blokes with red quiffs?” there are bound to be a few, but there have always been hunky guys and beautiful women who make music and I don't think I'm one of them.
RD: You wife might disagree...
Yeah, but it was charm that won her over, not my devilish good looks.
RD: Away from work, what are your pleasures in life?
Not a day goes by when I'm at home that I don't end up popping into my studio to pick up a guitar, jump on the piano and get on my drums. That might sound odd to some people but music is something I genuinely love, although it also probably sounds unbelievably boring.
As a family we enjoy food. Emilie lives in Copenhagen, which is an amazing place for restaurants, and when Lene and I are travelling we always try to suss out a nice restaurant just so we don't end up eating some rubbish around the corner from a gig. Good food is always high on our list and I have a little boat that I like to tootle down to the pub on.
Rick Astley's new album Beautiful Life is out on July 13. For tour dates and tickets visit rickastley.co.uk