29 years after his last hit single in the US, Rick Astley is suddenly on the biggest US tour of his career. By July, the British pop crooner will play more than 50 dates, almost all of them in arenas.
He is the special guest of New Kid On The Block’s “Mixtape Tour”, alongside other 80s/90s hitmakers Salt N Pepa and En Vogue.
When The Tennessean arrived in Astley this week, it was the day after the opening night of the Cincinnati tour, which ended with him and the rest of the artists singing his hit 1987 hit ‘Never Gonna Give You Up”.
“I like the fact that last night I sang in front of 15,000 people,” he says. “…And then today I’m in Bed Bath and Beyond looking for a coffee machine for the bus. I could whistle ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, and there’s no way that someone recognize me.”
We doubt it. Thanks to the power of “Give You Up” — which reignited Astley’s career in 2008 via “Rickrolling,” the internet joke that refuses to die — we bet more people on this side of the pond know the 56-year-old than ever before.
Ahead of the tour’s stop at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Friday, Astley shared some stories and insights with us – why he joined the tour, his favorite country songs and why it’s natural for music to make you nostalgic.
An easy decision: “When that offer came, I spoke to my wife and said, ‘This tour will go to states where I can never play, and we’ll never see unless we do a crazy road trip. One of our favorite things to do is toast the sunset with half a glass of Chardonnay before I have to go on and say, “How lucky are we?”
A concert in shuffle: The “Mixtape Tour” takes a non-linear approach. NKOTB are the first to take the stage, and their guests perform mini-sets throughout the evening.
“They know what their fans want. And I think they wanted to feel a little more like a party. It’s like your friends made you a mixtape.”
“There are a lot of artists who hate to use the term nostalgia… I’m sorry, if you’ve got 30 years behind you in music or whatever, there’s nostalgia for the most important moments. I don’t think that’s a dirty word.”
Facing the Foos: “Rickrolling” has led to Astley being asked to surprise audiences in all sorts of places, from televised weather reports to the Macy’s parade.
But the best also came as a surprise to Astley. While watching Foo Fighters from the side of the stage at a festival in Tokyo in 2017, Dave Grohl came over and invited him to sing his signature hit with them — immediately. Astley called it a “crazy, wonderful, beautiful experience”.
“Obviously these guys are just amazing,” Astley said of the band, whose drummer Taylor Hawkins died at age 50 in March. “And heaven knows what’s going on in their house right now.”
His country : Ahead of his final trip to Music City, Astley picked Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (a pop hit written by great country songwriters) and Chris Stapleton’s “Either Way” as personal favorites.
Do not live in the past: In 2016, Astley released his first album in 10 years: “50” was a bit of a musical “bucket list” moment, inspired by his 50th birthday.
“Instead of buying a boat or a Ferrari or crossing America in a Harley Davidson, I wanted to make a record,” he says. “And the craziest thing is that we had the No. 1 album in the UK, which is just insane.”
Since then, he’s released another hit feature film, a greatest hits collection and a 35th anniversary edition of his debut album, “Whenever You Need Somebody.”
If you are going to: The Mixtape Tour featuring New Kids On The Block, Rick Astley, Salt N Pepa and En Vogue arrives Friday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $25.