“We wanted to somehow fit in 2017, but not take away from the essence of what Steps is” - hmv.com talks to Steps
The late 1990’s were a great time to be in a pop group and there was no better example of that than Steps. Together initially for only four years, in that time they managed to sell over five million albums, 14 top five hits, including two Number One singles and sold out arenas all over Europe.
After first splitting on Boxing Day in 2001, the fivesome tried solo ventures before coming back together in 2011 for a short-lived reunion that fizzled out by the following year. Now though, they’re back together once again and come with a brand new album.
Tears On The Dancefloor is the band’s first album of original music since 2000’s Buzz and sees the group teaming up with One Direction / Olly Murs writer Steve Mac and regular Emeli Sande / Jess Glynne collaborator TMS as well as taking on 'Story Of A Heart', a track written by former ABBA men Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson.
As the album drops onto shelves we spoke to the group’s Claire Richards about how the comeback came together and their plans for a mammoth 22-date UK arena tour later this year...
How’s the comeback trail been?
“It’s been a complete whirlwind! I don’t think any of us were expecting there to be this much interest, it’s been very exciting.”
When did the idea to come back together for a new album start? It’s been two years in the planning, hasn’t it?
“It has. We all started talking about doing something, most likely another tour, then it developed over two years and we wanted to find the right time. Once we could tie things in with the band’s 20th anniversary it all got fitted around that, but it started as a much smaller idea than it has ended up being.”
Are you in constant contact as a five?
“We do talk all the time. We’ve got our Whatsapp group which we’re always on, but we do live very far apart and it’s very difficult to get us all in a room. We have tried to be better over the last couple of years and to meet up and talk about things properly, but it does tend to be text and email these days.”
Pop music has changed quite a lot in the last 20 years, were you worried about finding your place in 2017?
“We were worried about that. Steps were very much of our time and we were worried about how we could transpose that into 2017. We started talking seriously about an album a year ago and then we started getting songs in and really deciding what worked for us. We wanted to somehow fit in 2017, but not take away from the essence of what Steps is.”
Was it difficult to find the right songs? The tastes in music of the five of you can’t be the same as they were?
“Not really. At the start we were definitely wary, there were a few songs we all really liked, but plenty didn’t work. I remember being adamant about recording a couple of tracks and how much I liked them and then trying to record them and it not working at all. Once you put our voices on anything you can tell in an instant.”
In the years where the band was inactive did you hear songs on the radio and wonder if they could have been Steps songs?
“Friends are always texting me with songs they think could be a Steps song. That Little Mix track with Jason Derulo (‘Secret Love Song’) in particular, more than one of my friends text me and said that should be a Steps record. But we got really lucky with the writers we got, we’re a pop band and we went after the best pop writers, we’re best when we’re just a pure pop band.”
You’ve covered 'Story Of A Heart’, which is a song from Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson, why did you decide to take on that track?
“We’ve got new management on this album and our manager Peter (Loraine, Fascination Management) really wanted to do that song and said it would be perfect for us. The original is very theatrical, very musical theatre, we all could hear what he was thinking, it is very catchy, but the theatricality did put us off. But when we went in the studio it really worked, our voices fit perfectly.”
When did you decide on the title of Tears On The Dancefloor?
“It came after everything was recorded. The working title was always Glitter and Gold, but we had already had Gold as the title for our Greatest Hits. But then Peter, again, pop genius that he is, sent us a message saying it should be called Tears On The Dancefloor and I loved it. People call us cheesy and we are this colourful, fun, happy-smiley pop band, but if you actually listen to our lyrics, they’re quite sad and bittersweet, so a title like that really fits.”
You’ve got a massive UK tour coming up in November, you’re doing 22 nights, that must be really exciting...
“It is. Touring is our thing, it’s what we love the most, it always was. We’ve got 22 shows on the arena run, which is incredible as we’ve not done anything for five years. It’s really humbling, but it’s because people know that we put on a good show and they’ll have an absolute blast. I cannot wait for November, it can’t come fast enough, I’m not trying to wish this year away, but I’m itching to get on that stage.”
How much of the new album will be in the set do you think?
“I’m not sure. We tried to put together a working set list the other day and it’s really tough. I hope four or five, at least four. I know though that when I go to see an artist that I love in concert I want all the nostalgia and the stuff that I know. We know people are coming to see us because of our history and we’re very mindful of that, but the new stuff will fit into that.”
Is there a plan for the band beyond the tour? Or will it be a case of taking it as it comes?
“I don’t know. I can’t think more than one week at a time, it’s gone a bit mad. We have got plans beyond the tour and there are commitments next year, but whether that will include new music I don’t know. We’ll just have to see how the album does. We’re all of an age where we’re up for anything, but we do need to take our time and not plan too far ahead.”