After the U.K. chart-topping success 2016's 50, his first new album in 11 years, it certainly is a Beautiful Life for Rick Astley. And that's what he's singing about on its follow-up, which comes out July 13.
“The last one surprised us all and kind was a bit freaky, really,” Astley tells Billboard. “After all the touring we got home and I went into my little room and was just in there playing around with music, just for fun. I wasn't thinking about another record, necessarily, and I think because I hadn't been in that room for a while and I had a bit confidence because 50 I banged out a few songs I really liked and I thought, 'Right, I'm gonna just start a record again.' It just sort came, really, and I got on a roll and decided to go for it.”
Given Astley's positive position, Beautiful Life's 12 tracks are, not surprisingly, uptempo and lyrically upbeat. But he says the tone had as much to do with seeing his audience on the road as it did with seeing the sales figures for 50.
“We played that record quite a bit live and it kind reinstilled in me this thing about people a certain age,” he explains. “They come to a gig and they still want to get up and dance and have a shuffle about. I don't think I would've done the song 'Beautiful Life' on the last record 'cause I would’ve been too conscious being a 50-year-old man trying to do something that you could dance to. But after being on the road a bit and seeing people want to dance to songs from (50) it felt comfortable to notch it up a little bit, tempo-wise and groove-wise. They can handle it, you know?”
Astley has already released Beautiful Life's title track and an accompanying video, and he's hoping to have more singles on the runway. He's particularly fond the closing track “The Good Old Days,” a sentimental look at being the youngest four children and getting a musical education courtesy his older siblings. “I didn't ever get to choose what I got to listen to,” he recalls with a laugh, “so I was raised on a lot progressive rock records — Rick Wakeman and a bit early Genesis and God knows what. But I'm really thankful for it because without my (siblings) I've got no idea whether I would've gone into music. It was kind force-fed to me.” And Astley is still adjusting to the idea having a second chapter in music following a retirement in 1993.
“I still shake my head over it, to be honest,” he says. “I think just seeing my name on a chart alongside people like Coldplay, Adele, whoever you want to mention, and you're in the Top 10 with them, that's pretty weird. I never would have dreamt that was ever going to happen again. It's pretty great.”
Astley will be touring in Europe this year and other territories during 2019, and while there will be new music to promote he promises that his audiences will always be able to Rick-roll to 1987's career-establishing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” “I fully embrace that song,” he says. “It's my biggest one, and what happened on the Internet obviously changed the dynamic that. But it's been really good to me, that song; Wherever I got in the world — literally wherever I go in the world — people know that song. It's just part my DNA. It's kind strange that it's an old song now, but if I don't embrace it and enjoy it for what it is, I'm fooling myself. It's kind special, really.”