'Nicest man in pop' Rick Astley still rolling ahead of Glasgow performance

Scotland is never gonna give up on the 80s pop icon, who is enjoying a major revival and readying for his daughter to marry a Glaswegian.

Is Rick Astley the nicest man in pop? I really think he might be, you know.

On a cold, driech February evening in Glasgow, there was a great buzz around the STV newsroom from staff of all ages as the singer arrived, testament to his appeal across the generations.

Indeed, our producer Ali admitted it’s the first time she’s ever seen her 11-year-old nephew remotely impressed with her work when she mentioned she’d be meeting Rick.

For context, she produces What’s on Scotland, which has featured everyone from Harrison Ford to Lewis Capaldi, so that’s not bad going on Astley’s part!

Rick has a soft spot for Scotland for a few reasons, more of which we’ll come onto shortly, but looking ahead to his gig at Glasgow’s Hydro on February 27, he said: “It’s always a fun gig, there’s no doubt about it.”

Honest, as he is throughout the interview, he laughed: “I mean I would say that cause I’m chatting to you but there’s certain gigs that have something. I think you speak to other artists and they say ‘Scotland’s always good’ and it really is.” We’ll take that.

What instantly strikes me about the 58-year-old, aside from his magnificent head of hair, is how happy he is to still be performing, making music and enjoying his life in an industry where so many are jaded. It’s lovely to hear.

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“I just try to enjoy it to be honest. I’m too old not to enjoy it. I am in it for the money, of course I am, but I’m in it for the whole package. The joy of actually doing it.”

Rick grew up in Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire and started playing drums and singing from behind the kit in bands when he was at school.

“(Record producer) Pete Waterman came to a showcase at one point and he just really likes my voice and thought ‘I could do something with that voice’.

Although, we’re all well versed in who Waterman is nowadays, signing to his label was a leap of faith for a young Rick at the time, as he wasn’t the success he is now.

“Pete wasn’t a superstar. I didn’t know who he was. Stock Aitken and Waterman were in the building process at that time, it just so happens I got super, super lucky.

“I signed a little deal with them and six months later they were having number one after number one, so it was like ‘ok that was a good plan, good thing.’”

It really was as in 1987, Never Gonna Give You Give Up was released, topping the UK charts for five weeks and being number one in 24 other countries.

It’s the single that changed Rick’s life, catapulting him to global fame as part of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman machine, that also brought us hits from the likes of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Bananarama. The pop sound of the 80s.

Pete Still / Contributor via Getty Images

“It’s hard sometimes cause I was in the middle of it,” Rick admitted.

“I was one of those artists and it was called a hit factory but sometimes I call it a sausage factory! But they  (Stock, Aitken and Waterman) go ‘we know what we’re doing, w’re just going to crack on and do it’ and some people hated their stuff, I know they did, and a lot of music press did, but millions of people loved it and it’s the soundtrack to their life.

“I don’t regret anything. I don’t regret anything I ever signed, any deal I ever did, because I’m enjoying where I am a now and that’s the important thing.

“If I was miserable and penniless and I had turned to drink and drugs, like a lot of people have in the music industry, then that would be a different story but I’m not. I’m pretty chirpy about it and I’m grateful. Simple as that.”

Rick is also grateful to still be making new music that people love.

“I made a record when I was about to turn 50. I thought I am going to call it 50 cause Adele keeps calling her albums 18, 21, so I thought I’m going to get 50 before she does.”

And, just like Adele, Rick saw the release go to number one.

Getty Images

A new era for his music, after a few years of ‘just being dad’, a role he clearly loves, but the music was always in there and he’s been delighted with the response to his latest offerings.

Rick is also pleasantly bemused by the likes of the Rick-Rolling phenomenon on the internet, which saw people email links to videos, only for his music video for Never Gonna Give You Up to randomly appear halfway through.

Recalling one of the many bizarre ‘Rickrolling’ stories he’s been told, he said: “The White House emailed everyone on staff and Rickrolled them. I’m not saying Obama did it but it came from top staff so I’m like ‘yeah, that will do’. It’s amazing that’s it has found it’s little place in the internet.”

Another moment that added to Rick’s revival and his appeal to a new generation was his 2023 appearance at Glastonbury.

I said that he was the most talked about act of that weekend, to which he replied: “I think Elton was the top but I’ll take second from Elton every day of the week.

“Everything about that weekend was incredible. I don’t get that nervous at my own gigs but Glastonbury was different. That’s a big one.”

Now about to head out on his own “big” tour, Rick is also enjoying playing tracks from his new album, Are We There Yet?

It’s great and it’s amazing that I still get to release new music. I’ve still got a label that go ‘are you going to make a record this year?’ instead of ‘please don’t make a record this year!’

“That might seem like me being self-deprecating but it isn’t. It’s just reality,.

“I’m never afraid to talk about the fact I’ve had to make these hits to have a comfortable life. That’s a weird equation and to this day I never forget it. I brush my teeth in the morning and go ‘you lucky git.’”

And while Rick might be heading to Glasgow again at the end of the month, visits north of the border could be about to become a more regular thing, given that his daughter is marrying a Glaswegian.

“I have to be careful about that cause that’s their private life but obviously I want to shout about it!”

After discussing whether he should wear a kilt during previous interviews recently, I wondered if he had been persuaded?

“My wife likes a kilt. Like she really likes a kilt. I’ve been asking people recently if it’s ok to wear a kilt as a sassenach? I’m just so happy, I’ll wear a clown’s outfit if they want.”

He’s such a lovely guy, part of me thinks he would.

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