Rick Astley laughs. “I’m a Southern softie now but at heart I am still a Northerner.”
Astley, who hails from Newton-le-Willows, has been living in London near Hampton Court for more than 20 years, insists that even though he has now lived down south longer than he did ‘Oop North’, if someone asks him where he is from, he always proudly reveals his Northern roots.
And the thought of playing a gig in Preston fills the 49-year-old with excitement as he knows he will be near home turf and that family members will come to see him perform.
Speaking ahead of his recent gig in Preston, Rick, who does gigs up and down the country as well as abroad, says: “Preston is not too far away from where I grew up so I am really looking forward to it.
“I haven’t played in Preston before so that in itself will be great. I have been to Preston before, but not for 20 odd years so I bet it has completely changed.
“I know I live in London now and there are some lovely people down south too, but when you are born somewhere, it is your special place.
I had got to the point where I just wanted to be home in my slippersRick Astley
“I do think that on the whole, people are friendlier and warmer up north.
“There is a different humour and banter that you just can’t describe.
“Even when you’re out shopping, you notice the difference. It doesn’t matter if you’re going into Harvey Nicks or wherever, the bloke who opens the door says, ‘Hello love!’”
Rick, best known for his 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up, hung up his microphone and disappeared from the music industry in 1993 taking an early retirement from the music business at the age of just 27.
He says this was because he developed a crippling fear of flying meaning he could no longer tour the world for gigs.
However, Rick confesses the reasons for his self enforced retirement went deeper than that and he believes the apprehension of flying was a symptom of him not wanting to be a part of the music world any more.
Rick, who is married to Dane Lene Bausager with whom he has 23-year-old daughter Emilie, explains: “About 20 odd years ago, I had reached the point where I did not want to do this any more.
“I wanted to be at home and I developed a fear of flying so I could not get to gigs. Before that, I was on a plane every day sometimes.
“I don’t really think it was just about the flying.
“I think it was triggered by me not wanting to do the music career any more.
“I think these things are psychosomatic sometimes.
“I had got to the point where I just wanted to be at home in my slippers.
“I think too much happened too quickly for me. Even in my day, the music business was a very high pressured thing world.
“I became very famous very quickly and it was like an explosion.
“It is full-on and it does not ever stop.
“When you get that famous, you can’t even go out of your front door. You can’t enjoy being famous.
“Becoming famous gives you an awful lot but it robs you of things too.”
However, Rick has now come full circle and after 12 years off, he returned to the music world and says he realises how lucky he is and feels that now he is not recognised everywhere he goes, he has the best of both worlds.
He explains: “Every artist or performer gets sick of what they do in life at some point.
“But then you look back and appreciate what it has done for your life.
“It is a weird business. It has its ups and downs.
“Today, I do a variety of gigs including solo ones and eighties shows such as Here And Now tours.
“Sometimes you are playing in a great big field and it is a bit like a festival and sometimes you are playing in a proper theatre.
“I love the variety and mixing things up.
“I have played in front of 25,000 people at Rewind. But then I can be driving home and stop to put petrol in and no one has noticed me or batted an eyelid.
“I don’t get recognised. I love that about my life.
“Having that time away from it all has brought me some freedom.”
Although Rick says he has never felt comfortable in the limelight, he is at pains to say he does not want to come across as ungrateful for all the fame has given him.
He says: “Some people like being photographed but I was never like that.
“I would rather have been coming in the back door and no one seeing me. I have never been one to seek out the limelight even though it is fantastic to be recognised for your musical abilities.
“People talk about winning the lottery and what the money buys you is the freedom to make choices.
“I have been gifted this because of the music.
“I get paid huge amounts of money to sing songs which I find unbelievable.
“I do it for the love of it and I am getting paid for it!
“It became a bit suffocating at its most famous.
“When you are doing it every other day, it is a chore.
“But now I have the best of both worlds.”
Rick still doesn’t like flying so usually drives to where he needs to go. But when he is there, he loves every moment of being on stage as he says “the performance is the best bit”.
And he says he knows he was very lucky to get his big break.
“I was immensely lucky. You have to have that
moment when you get that break.
“You can be the most talented person but if you don’t get your big break, you don’t make it.
“I have seen people in studios who are so talented but never get there.
“You have to be in the right place at the right time.”
Rick, who will turn 50 next year, says the age milestone does not bother him at all.
He explains: “When we were kids, being 50 sounded proper old.
“But when I was a kid, people who were 50 WERE old.
“But now most of the guys I know who are 50 are wearing Nike trainers and skinny jeans and still going to clubs occasionally.
“I think life has changed.
“People used to say, ‘I will retire at 50’.
“But now people are now doing wild and wonderful things at 50 and beyond.”
Rick, who is also famous for hits Whenever You Need Somebody, Together Forever, Cry For Help and his cover of Nat King Cole’s When I Fall In Love, says he treats all gigs with the same professional pride in wanting to give fans his all.
He says: “Whether you are playing in front of 2,500 people or 250 people, people have paid to see you so you have to give them your best.
“I don’t get nervous. I just get that tingle before performing.
“I am doing it for the joy of it.
“When that music starts, I feel that buzz and tingle.
“I hope that feeling continues for a long time.”