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Interview: Steps

16 min read

Its been a whirlwind year for pop icons Steps! Not only have the band released a spectacular new album in the shape of What The Future Holds in 2020 which added another handful of hits to their already massive repertoire including the Sia-written title track, Something In Your Eyes and To The Beat Of My Heart but they have only gone and released a Part 2 of the record with an additional 11 new tracks for fans.

Ahead of the release of the album we caught up with Steps’ members Claire Richards, Faye Tozer and Lee Latchford-Evans to talk about the groups phenomenal 23 years long pop career, the new collection and the bands upcoming arena tour of the UK which starts in November and will see the band take to the stage of some of the UK’s most iconic musical stomping grounds including two dates at the world famous O2 Arena. Here’s what they had to tell us…

Brendon Veevers: Hey Faye, Hey Claire, Hey Lee. Great to see you all again!

All: Hey Brendon!

Brendon: So, I bet its another busy day for Steps today with all of the promotional activities like interviews around the release of the new album?

Faye Tozer: Yes, its about to go absolutely bonkers!

Brendon: So, this is the second time we have met and that I have interviewed you all. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve gone ahead and updated my Facebook relationship status to ‘in a relationship with Steps’.

All: (laughs)

Faye Tozer: We should have all done that already really shouldn’t we (laughs)

Brendon: First of all, happy belated birthday Claire. It was your birthday a couple of weeks ago – what did you get up to?

Claire Richards: Oh thank you Brendon. Ummm, oh what did I do? I mean, mid-40’s and COVID so it was quite quiet really.

Brendon: So, congratulations on having yet another amazing and successful year with What the Future Holds Part 1. The album got to number two on the charts and you’ve added another handful of classics to your long list of hits including the title track, Something In Your Eyes and To The Beat Of My Heart. Did you ever expect the record to do as well as it has?

Faye: I think we were super lucky with the title track, What the Future Holds, so I think that we knew that we have something going on because of that amazing track which started the ball rolling and really made this album, so, I think that was sort of the good gut feeling but you never know how things are gonna be or how successful you’re gonna be but we have the most incredible, hardcore and loyal fanbase that keep buying tickets and keep buying our albums and its so amazing to have social media these days and get that immediate feedback and hear the drive of people wanting more and more and more so we’re trying to keep up with demand but just do our best and just play everything by ear, really.

Brendon: Being the famously hard-working group that you are, you are about to release Part II which I want to ask you about in just a moment. During the promotion of Part 1 you released your first collaboration with Heartbreak In This City with Michele Visage and that version features on this upcoming release. How did that collaboration come about?

Faye: We’ve actually been asked who we would collaborate with throughout our careers but because ether are 5 of us already we’ve kind of never really thought about, you know, it would have to be a DJ combination or something like that to make it make sense for us but I came across Michelle – actually Claire had bumped into Michelle before I had – but I got in contact with Michelle because of Strictly Come Dancing because she partnered with Giovanni the year after me so I kind of just handed over the baton and said ‘I’m rooting for you’ and the next thing I knew she was Facetiming me and I was like “oh ok, this is exciting” and then we became great friends. She helped us with one of our Instagram live events for the album (What The Future Holds Part 1) and we ended up having a conversation like “oh yeah, you’ve gotta come and work with us and have some fun”. We always say this sort of thing but…

Claire: It was like “We must go out” and you go “yeah yeah yeah yeah” (laughs)

Faye: Yeah, and then our management were like “do you think she would?” and because I know she is a gorgeous pop person from before and she loves the stage and she really enjoys performing, you know, it was a genuine question – “would you really fancy it?” and she did and it was so much fun. It was a really lovely chapter for us all I think.

Brendon: I love it how you describe it as such a casual thing. You know “come out for a drink and be on a Steps single”. I love that.

Claire: You know what though Brendon, it does sound like we’ve made that up but that really is how it happened. At the end of the Insta-live we were backstage at the Royal Variety Show and our manager Adam, he genuinely said “she’s be great on Heartbreak in this City. I’m should ask her. I’m just gonna ask her” and she texted straight back and it was that organic. It wasn’t like a big contrived thing. It was perfect and I don’t think anyone more perfect would have fit in with us as a group really.

Brendon: I agree. It came through as a perfect collaboration and sounds amazing as a Steps single.

Claire: Thanks. And she is so amazing and she is so generous as a person anyway and as a performer it was just such a perfect match.

Lee Latchford-Evans: She tells it exactly how it is.

Claire: (laughs) she really does.

Faye: Love her!

Brendon: What the Future Holds Part 2 is out on Friday. Was there always a plan to release a double album in two parts or did things come together for this record at a later point?

Lee: I think really we just had a lot of songs that we sort of recorded and obviously too much for one album but we didn’t plan on doing a Part 2 or anything like that at the time. We were just trying to pick out the best songs that we thought were right for What The Future Holds Part 1. I think it was a mix of ourselves, our management and our record label listening to the songs that we had to let go of thinking “you know what, there’s probably enough here for another album. Why don’t we give it a go and see what happens and just throw in maybe one or two more that we can record”. So, yeah, and obviously the surprise on the album was track 11 which is the Fivestar cover (The Slightest Touch) which has gone down really, really well but it was never a plan to release a Part 2 as such but the title of Part 2 – me and Claire laughed about this the other day. We must have come up with so many suggestions between everybody, and how the hell we came back to Part 2 is beyond me, but there you go. It’s simplistic butit works.

Claire: There is actually a Whatsapp chat where we discuss the ideas but we ended up settling on Part 2 (laughs). And that really did take ages.

Faye: (laughs)

Brendon: I received a copy of Part 2 yesterday and I’ve had it on repeat ever since and can say its one of the best records you have released so far. And I’ve been a Steps fan from day one, since the days of 5, 6, 7, 8.

Lee: Wow. I don’t even have a copy of the album yet.

Faye: I’m intrigued then because you are one of our long-time fans. You’ve listened to all of our records going right back to Step One. I’m interested, what are your standout tracks on this album Brendon?

Brendon: My favourites so far are definitely Take Me For a Ride. I’m a huge Roxette fan and this track has many sounds and elements of a catchy Roxette song. And Living In A Lie has really grabbed my attention. That one is very ABBA-esque. What would be your standout tracks – I’m gonna ask you Faye, then Lee then Claire.

Lee: I don’t have the album so I don’t know (laughs)

Faye: Oh what did we put on there. Ummm, for me I think this is a really, really varied album. I think there are quite a few tracks on there that I wouldn’t have usually said were a typical Steps tracks but I kind of like that, you know. I know that when I have listened to other pop bands and I go “oh is that Take That” or something like that. I have played the album to a lot of my friends, just to see the ones that they picked out and they are all completely different. Quite interestingly a lot of the males liked Take Me For A Rode and a Hundred Years Of Winter and those sorts of songs and for me, my favourite is actually The Slightest Touch because I’m the biggest Fivestar fan ever and we’ve been waiting to cover a Fivestar thing for a reason and it was just so lovely to be able to do this and it was just such fun to be able to jump around backstage as we were doing the Radio 2 live performance just to have this moment. It was just a silly come together camaraderie moment so that one for me is the standout. Just for my own personal pleasure, ego, whatever (laughs).

Brendon: And what about you Lee?

Lee: I think for me the first album, What The Future Holds was like, we’ve always said in our past interviews that that song was the first single that launched the album because we heard the song and we were just like “this is the new direction. This is where we need to go” and it just tick all the boxes and I think that that was the standout for me on that album and I think this one it’s the same with Take Me For A Ride. I think it’s the initial song that stands out really well on this new album and does the job that that first one did. But then saying that, something very, very different that kind of for me a greatest showman type of feel to it is High. I absolutely love High for some strange reason. Its not something you would think would be on our album. You know, its not Victorious for example. Victorious is really out there and should be in Eurovision.

Faye: I love that we put Victorious on there because I think its kind of gone back to our past again and trying to go for that sort of Euro sound.

Lee: Yeah, I think Victorious will be a fan favourite. It does stand out quite a lot but I like High for many reasons. It’s a nice track.

Brendon: And how about you Claire?

Claire: I think I would agree with Faye because like her I was a massive Fivestar fan and The Slightest Touch for me is just, I think its sums up Steps really well. In a bit of a nutshell. There are a few songs that we’ve had over the years that makes us all just really want to jump around and dance and that’s one of them. I think John Dickson from Seventh Heaven did an amazing job on that and I think for a Fivestar cover that is Steps, I think it really works so well and I cant wait to do that on tour. I think its gonna be amazing. And I also really like High and I really like A Million Years as well. I remember being in the studio recording them and they were just really nice songs to sing and to get your teeth into and it felt comfortable and that’s always a really good sign when you’re recording. If it feels comfortable then its good.

Brendon: When it comes to the singles you release from an album, do you know what these will be at the point of releasing an album or are these things decided as each single is released and you see how its received?

Claire: I think for the first of these records, well, certainly since Tears on the Dancefloor, we knew, for example, as soon as we heard Scared of the Dark that that was gonna be the first single. It was the same with Part 1 of What The Future Holds, even before we’ve recorded it we kind of knew in our minds that they were going to be the singles. I think for this new album its been a bit different because Take Me For A Ride is quite different for us and I think it was very much influenced – or rather we took a lot of influence from the record company and from management – in terms of where we steered the ship, really, going on from What The Future Holds Part 1, how we kind of take it in a slightly different direction. That’s why Take Me For A Ride was decided as the first single. So yeah, we’ve got a good idea before we start what they are going to be. Sometimes even before we record them, but sometimes our vocals on a track changes the whole game so it sort of brings a song to life that perhaps we weren’t expecting it to in the way that it does. If that makes sense.

Brendon: You really seem to take notice of what your fans want. Whether that be in the direction of your recordings, your videos, the tours or activities around Steptember. Even your merchandise screams nostalgia with a collection of solo covers for the record and cassette tapes as well as your album signings which is a very 90’s promotional thing to be doing. Is it a conscious decision to retain that nostalgia for fans like myself who have been with you for the last 23 years?

Faye: Yeah I think it is. Partially because I mean, everyone loves a bit of retro at the moment and its great to be able to put things on vinyl and revisit that sort of thing as well bit I think a lot of our fans, obviously initially form the 90’s like yourself Brendon, like hard copy. They aren’t really people who stream – they are people who collect things. So for us it’s really important that we can maintain that and its really lovely for us as well to have that in our collection and to not just have everything digitally so yeah, I think its definitely a conscious effort.

Brendon: What can you tell us about the tour now that things have really started to take shape? You did a show last month. How was that with being back on stage?

Lee: Oh it was amazing. It’s so nice to see a live audience and to get a live reaction and to just see their faces and hear them singing along. Sure, they weren’t all up standing and dancing because of COVID rules – they were singing all two metres spaced on these little tables. It was really nice. To be honest with you, it was nice to be back as the band as well because that’s what were about; yes we go into the studio and we record and we do all the interviews like this but I think what we all truly love is the touring, the travelling, the performing, the getting on stage, the meeting the fans, the singing and the dancing. that’s what we all auditioned for and that’s what we’re about so to be back together as 5 and to go onto a stage and perform just felt really, really great. It was a short performance, it’s nothing like the tour in any way, shape or form but I think it was just a nice warm up for the fans and us really, in a way, because its been so long since we’ve been able to do it. And we definitely cant wait to get back into the arenas and do what I think we do best.

Brendon: What can you tell us about the upcoming tour in terms of rehearsals and set list. Any special appearances like perhaps Michelle Visage?

Claire: We haven’t actually started rehearsals yet. We start in October so its quite intense, the rehearsal period. We are currently putting the set list together. Fans can definitely expect a mix but they won’t be disappointed. We are trying to fit as many of the hits in as we possibly can. Its been quite a difficult job actually deciding which song gets a full regalia and which might have to go into a medley but its definitely going to pack a punch, that’s for sure. As for what else is in the show, I not gonna give anything away (laughs).

Faye: As we go through the set list its quite interesting to see on social media people saying “if this song isn’t in the set I’m gonna die”. Everyone is just so passionate about it. And we have the most incredible musical director with Steve Anderson. He comes in and he breathes a new breath of fresh air into our songs and we’ve got some really, really exciting moments with original songs that are going to be sounding slightly different and that for me really excites me because your getting the songs that you grew up with and your getting that nostalgia with a slightly different flavour and it just creates something really incredible. Steve Anderson is just such a pop genius when it comes to Steps and what he has done with our tours and Im just so excited about the music, let alone the fans.

Brendon: I recently rewatched some of your reunion documentaries and in these you previously described your time in the 90’s as being so busy and having hardly any time out and that can very quickly end a band. Do you all consciously take time out this time around to focus on things outside of music or is your schedule just as busy? COVID aside, are you getting that much needed downtime to absorb and enjoy things more?

Claire: Yeah, we deliberately take time out these days. I think its good for us to have that balance because we’ve obviously all got families and we have got a home life that we want to be a part of. Some of us have got very new babies (points out Lee’s nursery room background filled with stuffed animal toys) and some of us have got kids that are in secondary school…..

Brendon: Yes Lee, I love the giraffe

Claire: Yeah, we love that background Lee (laughs). So I think it works really well for us because it gives us that opportunity to step away from Steps where I think the first time around everything was so focussed on the band and the work that we did together that it made it really easy to burn out and get fed up with it I suppose . Now we get to have our own individual experiences outside of the band really does help us when we come back together. I think it really helps to focus on where we want to go and where we want to be as a band but also give us other experiences that we can then bring to Steps and just kind of make it bigger and better I guess. But obviously its important to make sure we have that balance of homelife as well because I think it keeps you sane.

Brendon: One last question for you all. What song from your catalogue would you most want fans to remember you for? This can be a single or an unreleased track or a B-side.

Faye: So Ive got a new favourite because I think its also become a fan favourite as well – Scared of the Dark is just one of my absolute favourite Steps songs now. I love the drama of it all and it is just so much fun. It’s a really great quality pop record so for me that would be my choice.

Lee: Tragedy is the obvious one, but I think for me the whole meaning behind the song and the lyrical content and especially what Steps are about and what we bring to a show I think Neon Blue. That just says it all to me. That just ticks every single Steps box for us and for the fans. I think it’s a really powerful song from us.

Claire: Yeah, as Lee said I think Tragedy is probably the obvious one but maybe not the one we would want be be remembered for (laughs) but I think I]m gonna go old-school because I think for me this song was the one that changed everything and the one that changed everyone’s perception of us and kind of launched us into what you see now and that is One For Sorrow. I think that after 5, 6, 7, 8 and Last Thing On My Mind it was our first kind of our first really proper original song that was written specifically for us and I think when people think of Steps that is probably one of the songs that they do think of primarily so I would say One For Sorrow.

Brendon: Amazing! Thanks you so much Claire, thank you Faye and thank you Lee for your time and I cant wait for the upcoming tour and best of luck with the release of What The Future Holds Part 2.

Steps new album What The Future Holds Part 2 is out now!

Steps hit the road for a mammoth new tour to support both Parts of What The Future Hold this November. Dates are below:

Nov 2 – Sheffield, Arena
Nov 3 – Nottingham, Motorpoint Arena
Nov 5 – Birmingham, Resorts World Arena
Nov 6 – Birmingham, Resorts World Arena
Nov 8 – Newcastle, Utilita Arena
Nov 11 – Manchester, AO Arena
Nov 12 – Manchester, AO Arena
Nov 13 – Aberdeen, P&J Live
Nov 15 – Belfast, SSE Arena
Nov 18 – Liverpool, M&S Bank Arena
Nov 19 – Leeds, First Direct Arena
Nov 22 – Glasgow, The SSE Hydro
Nov 23 – Glasgow, The SSE Hydro
Nov 25 – Brighton, Centre
Nov 26 – London, The O2
Nov 27 – London, The O2
Nov 29 – Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena
Dec 1 – Bournemouth, International Centre