Rick Astley, 54, on backing Unsung Covid Heroes, doing a cover of a Post Malone song and why he would love to go on The Masked Singer.
How did you get involved with the Unsung Hero Award?
A producer friend of mine was tasked with recording a song and video for it. He knew Every One Of Us as it’s the song I released last year.
He got a lot of the people who were nominated last year and a few sportspeople to form a choir to sing on it, and it sounds great. It’s for all the selfless people who have kept so many sports and activities going during this time.
You’ve also been doing some covers on YouTube…
I did a cover of Post Malone’s song Better Now just because he’s so massive and I love that song. You don’t always get that combination of being an amazing rapper and singer.
You did Gary Barlow’s crooner session. Do you get on well?
We’re not super close but I’ve supported Take That and I have a lot of respect for him. He’s from Frodsham, which is outside Warrington and not far from where I grew up. It’s weird how you can meet someone who’s from the same pocket as you and they’ve done something similar.
We’ve had a few dinners together. A lot of people forget what Gary went through at the end of Take That – it was miserable for him.
He made one of the best songs he’s ever written, Forever Love, and it did great but it didn’t do what Robbie Williams did. Robbie left everybody in the dust.
Can you relate to that?
Of course I can. But I didn’t have what was seen as an arch nemesis, a Robbie Williams. Gary was writing amazing records and I think he became somebody to pick on, and he decided he’d had enough and walked away from it and produced for other people and wrote musicals.
Then when Take That came back that must have been a bit of a f*** you because they came back with better songs than before.
The people I feel really sorry for are those who became mega-famous for five minutes and didn’t make any money out of it so they can’t insulate themselves.
Have you ever wanted to be an X Factor judge?
I’ve never pursued it and those shows have changed so much. Previously, if the audience liked somebody, they let them know.
Now it’s, ‘We’ve reached a chorus so we’ll press a button and everyone will stand up’. Some people who come out of it are pretty good.
Are you mates with Simon Cowell? Didn’t you know him in the 1980s?
I’ve only met him a few times but he definitely had something about him back then. He’s said he credits Pete Waterman for a lot of his nous and know-how and I admire him for saying that.
Pete’s had his moments where I’m sure he’s upset a lot of people but he was a maverick. People might have loathed his music but it was an achievement to do what he did.
Were you apprehensive when you came back with your album, 50?
I wasn’t because I wasn’t expecting anything. I made the record at home and the whole thing about it was just making it for me to satisfy my own curiosity of what sort of music I’d make if I did it myself.
It snowballed and became a platinum No.1 album, which sold more than 400,000 albums.
The video for Never Gonna Give You Up has been viewed nearly a billion times…
Yeah, but in kids’ standards that’s not a lot. For an old timer, it is.
Rick-rolling has helped…
Yes, there’s a younger generation who do clock me occasionally because of that video but I think it’s more people my age who were around at the time.
After all those years, and I’ve not had a hit record anywhere other than the UK, I’m not exaggerating to say we can go to a restaurant anywhere – Argentina, Canada, Australia, Japan – and someone will ask for a photo.
Would you do a reality show?
The only one I’d possibly consider is The Masked Singer and only the American one because my wife Lene and I would get to go to LA for a couple of months and nobody would know that we were there until I got voted off!
What were you supposed to be doing this year?
We were meant to come home from touring Australia, New Zealand and Japan and then do the biggest tour I’ve done since the ’80s in the UK, starting two weeks after the first lockdown – then we had gigs all summer at big festivals.
If I don’t work for a few years I’ll be fine but that’s not the same for everyone in our industry.
What are your hopes for 2021?
I’d love to get gigs back. We did a gig in Knebworth this summer and you could see people were going, thank f***!
Everyone Of Us is available to download on all streaming services and all net profits go to BBC Children In Need.
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