Singer Rick Astley rolls with the punches

The British singer – who performs at Saint Andrew’s Hall Saturday – is laid back about his past success, Rickrolling and being a source of nostalgia for fans

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Rick Astley is just here to have fun.

The British singer is best known for his 1987 mega-hit “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which reached No. 1 in more than two dozen countries. That single, along with another chart-topper, “Together Forever,” was from Astley’s debut album “Whenever You Need Somebody.”

Singer Rick Astley had hits in the ’80s with “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “Together Forever.”

When you start off at the top, he knows, there’s only one place to go from there, so the singer and musician is realistic about this stage in his career and he says he just wants to enjoy it.

“I didn’t have anything to compare it to,” he said of being an international success at age 21. “Don’t get me wrong, I would never ever moan about having a worldwide No. 1 record, but it’s kind of weird because you do it and then you’re like ‘right ... it’s all downhill from here.’ It literally is.”

Astley — who hits Saint Andrew’s Hall on Saturday and last week performed two sold out shows in Canada — took a break from recording after 2005’s “Portrait,” but he returned in 2016 to release “50,” a collection of pop and soul tunes that he’s supported by touring.

He said he made the record “for fun” and has zero expectations about it. Astley, 52, says he had some success touring to promote the record in the United Kingdom, which he said came out of the blue, and as for the States, he’s “a realist.”

“I think the idea is we’re just going to keep coming back and see if we can get a little fire started because it’s been such a long time since I’ve done anything in America ... I’m not expecting anything from it, I’m just here to enjoy myself,” he said.

Besides his hit singles in the late 1980s, Astley was fortunate enough to permeate pop culture again in the 2000s with the phenomenon called “Rickrolling.” This is when someone tricks another person into listening to “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

A more priggish recording artist may have turned their nose up at such silliness, but Astley embraces Rickrolling.

“It keeps doing good things for me,” he said.

He seems amused at the different and creative ways his song has been used in Rickrolling.

“People have way too much time on their hands ... some of the things people have done have been incredible.”

He credits the joke with making him more recognizable in today’s world. He talked about performing at a festival in Japan with the Foo Fighters and watching the rock band from side stage because he’s a fan. Lead singer Dave Grohl invited Astley on stage to perform a grunged-up version of “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

“They are the coolest, nicest people in the world and they have every right, on the one end, to be proper rock stars,” he said of Foo Fighters. “They are so chilled-out it is unbelievable.”

“I also find that the people with real, real talent are the ones who are chilled-out and just taking it in stride because they’re OK with it.”

In spite of being exposed to a younger audience thanks to the internet, it doesn’t really translate to ticket sales — at least not on this side of the pond. His audience is largely fans from way back, and he’s cool with that.

“Nostalgia is something that is really, really comfortable and cozy,” he said. “When U2 plays one of their really early tunes it releases a chemical in you, I think. A bit like your mother’s homecooking or whatever. Something happens. So I don’t ever poo-poo or belittle that.”

Twitter: @melodybaetens

Rick Astley

7 p.m. Saturday

Saint Andrew’s Hall

431 E. Congress, Detroit

(313) 961-8961