Video: Tan Shi Qi
Best known for his No. 1 hit single ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, English singer-songwriter Rick Astley sold approximately 40 million albums worldwide before he retired from showbiz in 1993 at the age of 27.
A decade later, Rick returned to the music industry with new singles, albums and concert tours. The 49-year-old also took on the new role of a radio DJ which saw him gain a growing legion of listeners. These days, the singer mostly travels around the world to perform at multi-artiste gigs.
Last week, Rick took part in the recording of Channel 5’s music variety show Rollin’ Good Times debuting this Sunday night. Hosted by Tabitha Nauser and Dick Lee, each episode will feature the pop culture of a particular era (from 1960s to 90s). Local singers and international artistes would also perform “live” with an eight-piece band and back-up vocalists on the show.
When asked if it bothers him to be invited to nostalgic shows all the time, Rick replied with a chuckle: “Everything I do is nostalgic, c’mon. I am also part of the audience. I still go and see bands that perhaps didn’t have any hits for the past 20 years. But I want to watch them play because they wrote some amazing songs. When I was a kid, those songs meant a lot to me.”
Although Rick describes himself a “tiny little thing” as compared to music giants such as The Rolling Stones and Elton John, the affable singer believes that people attend these gigs because they could relate to the music that they grew up with.
“If Elvis and Frank Sinatra were alive, people would still want to see them because they are the foundation of what we know as modern music. Even when I do shows with other bands from my period, I tend to watch them from the side of the stage because I love music and I like going to concerts. Be it in a hotel bar or a proper venue, ‘live’ music is such a great thing,” he added.
Rick may have lost count of the times he has been asked to perform ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, but he has not gotten sick of it. “That song gave me the life that I’ve had for the past 30 years. I’ve had an amazing life because of it. I got to travel, and I also had the time and money to be able to do a lot of fantastic things because of that period in the 80s. So I don’t have any hang-ups about singing those songs at all,” the crooner explained.
Read on for more insights on Rick Astley’s family life.
Toggle: How would you define a “rolling good time”?
Rick: It changes a little with age. I’m 49 now. Those things that I used to consider make up a “rolling good time”, I’ll probably sleep through most of them these days. Now it’s more about getting together with friends, having a nice dinner and a few drinks. My wife and I still like to dance, especially if there’s a party and there’s some dancing going on. I turn 50 next year and we will be throwing a big party. Then we’ll have a rolling good time.
How do you feel about reaching the 50-year-old milestone?
I’m okay with it, really. When I was in my early 20s and getting my records out, people asked if I would still be singing these songs when I turn 50. I said: not a chance (laughs).
After I retired, I didn’t have anything to do with music professionally for years. I started [performing] again 10 years ago, mainly because I was invited to go to Japan. My daughter (Emilie) was 14 years old at the time and she really, really wanted to go there. I thought it was great because I wouldn’t have to pay for it (laugh). We had a fantastic time. I did gigs there and I have been doing gigs ever since. It struck me that I can do this just to enjoy it. It’s strange, in a way, to turn 50, but on the other hand, it’s pretty good.
Have you ever regretted retiring at such a young age?
No, I don’t think so. That was the best thing I could have done. It was because I stopped that I can do this now. Retiring was for my own sanity as well. I had four or five years of fame, but if you want to stay at that level, you gotta have Madonna’s determination. And I didn’t have that desire. [Fame] is like a sacred thing; people want to hang on to that but it was the opposite for me. I just wanted a normal life again. I’m really happy that I had a relatively private life. My daughter is 23 and she didn’t really grow up with me being famous.
How big of a family man are you?
I’m not superdad but I was really lucky to be able to retire at 27. I could be send her to school and pick her up, and I could do things that many dads and mums would miss these days. In Modern Family, there’s a question on the most important thing about being a father. It took the whole series to come to this conclusion: “Just showing up.”
To me, that encapsulates an awful lot about being a parent. Today, children are allowed to be themselves more than ever, but you still gotta be there as a parent. You can be in the background but you gotta be there.
Does your daughter see you as a celebrity?
No. I mean, she’s aware that I had all those hits in the 80s and that I do gigs all over the world, and she has been to a few of them. When we are out together, someone might recognise me every now and then, but it’s not that often. [My status as a singer] doesn’t affect our lives in any shape or form.
Has Emilie taken after your musical talents?
She can sing really well, actually. She’s got a good and pure voice. Her tuning is amazing. She sings harmony and I’m not very good at that. She wants to be an artist and is involved with modern art, but I don’t really understand a lot of what she does (laugh).
So how long do you foresee yourself continuing to perform?
I have been thinking about that recently. Ever since I started performing again, time seemed to have passed really quickly. I don’t do many interviews nowadays; it is mainly about the performances, so I have a lot more free time when I travel.
When I go to different places now, I truly get to see them. I don’t really feel like it is work. The only “work” is hanging around the dressing room. I don’t know if I can continue doing this for another 10 years or if anybody wants me to, but at the moment, I still really enjoy [doing what I do].
Starting from May 17, catch Rollin’ Good Times every Sunday night at 9.30pm on Ch5!