By Mark Savage

BBC music reporter

Published

picture copyrightBMG

picture captionSteps (L-R): Claire Richards, Lee Latchford-Evans, Lisa Scott-Lee, Ian “H” Watkins and Faye Tozer

Steps had been as soon as described by producer Pete Waterman as “Abba on speed”, however would they ever observe within the Swedish group’s footsteps and compete in Eurovision? Claire, Lee, Lisa, H and Faye focus on the professionals and cons.

Very few folks learn album credit today.

Fewer nonetheless know the names of the composers who write for the Eurovision Song Contest.

But within the microscopic portion of the Venn diagram the place these two teams overlap, there shall be feverish pleasure in regards to the new album by Steps.

The file options contributions from no fewer than seven Eurovision alumni, together with Robin Stjernberg, who represented Sweden in 2013, and Thomas G:son, who truly gained the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest as composer of Loreen’s Euphoria.

His contribution to the Steps album, Something In Your Eyes, was itself a contender for Sweden’s Eurovision entry in 2011 – though it did not make it to the ultimate.

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So would Steps ever take into account competing in Eurovision themselves?

“We have a split camp, I’m afraid,” says Faye Tozer, immediately dashing our hopes. “Although there’s one person that would really like to do it.”

“That’s me!” declares H – aka Ian Watkins, the band’s self-appointed cheerleader.

“But to actually do it as a band,” Tozer continues, “is not something that I personally want to take on.”

picture captionSteps offered thousands and thousands of information within the Nineties with hits like Tragedy, One For Sorrow and 5,6,7,8

The quintet proceed to debate the deserves – or in any other case – of showing at Eurovision for a number of minutes. Here are the highlights.

H: “It’s just a huge joyous, celebration of all things pop and I adore it. You shouldn’t take it too seriously – but now it’s more of a political contest than a song contest.”

Faye Tozer: “And for that reason, I’m out.”

Claire Richards: “The thing is, I can see exactly why people would want us to do it. But I think, because of the legacy that we have in the band, I wouldn’t want anything to bring us down from there.”

Faye Tozer: “In an ideal world, everybody has this vision of Steps, going to Eurovision and being the perfect act, with the perfect song, and we turn it around for the UK. But I think in reality, it’s just never, ever going to happen so it’s weighing up whether it’s worth that risk to us or not.”

Lee Latchford-Evans: “I thought we weren’t even in the EU anyway?”

Claire Richards: “We’re still in Europe. Just because we’re not in the EU, doesn’t mean we’re not in Europe!”

Lee Latchford-Evans: “I suppose Australia do it, don’t they, and they’re hardly in Europe.”

H [to the BBC]: “What do you think? Should we do it?”

BBC: “Actually, I do think the right song and the right band could turn it around.”

Claire Richards: “There’s also an argument to be had that, even if you don’t come anywhere near winning, it is a massive platform to promote new music.”

H: “Doing the act in the middle would be much more fun for me.”

BBC: “And you can only do better than Madonna did two years ago.”

picture copyrightBMG

picture captionThe band cut up in 2001 however reformed 10 years later after a warts-and-all documentary on Sky One

Interviewing Steps throughout Covid-19 is, as you might have gathered, a chaotic delight.

“My dog is snoring, sorry,” declares H at one level. “And mine is constantly barking,” provides Lee, as his pooch drowns out Lisa, who’s becoming a member of us from Dubai, the place she runs a dance faculty. Later on, there is a two-minute interruption from a washer restore man… though that one’s my fault.

You do not get this on Graham Norton, that is for positive.

Despite the pandemonium, Steps are massively entertaining {and professional} – as befits a band who managed to rework a line-dancing cash-in act into an arena-filling pop juggernaut.

Along the way in which, they’ve turned out some classics (Tragedy, Deeper Shade Of Blue, One For Sorrow) and a good few duds (Words Are Not Enough, You’ll Be Sorry). They toured continually, typically taking part in matinees alongside night exhibits to maintain their youthful followers pleased, and offered 20 million information worldwide.

‘Half a mattress’

It wasn’t all glitz and glamour, nevertheless. If you do not write your personal songs, royalties are skinny on the bottom – particularly when it’s a must to cut up the cash 5 methods.

After the band’s first album offered 1.2 million copies 1998, Steps had been residing off simply £50 every week every. Claire advised FHM probably the most lavish factor she’d been in a position to purchase from her earnings was “half a bed”. Her mother and father needed to pay for the opposite half.

“Oh God, I don’t remember that – but it’s probably true,” she says. “I don’t think I moved out of my parents’ until I was 23 or 24. But eventually we did make enough money for me to buy a house.”

By 2001, Steps had been positively within the black, because of a string of offered out excursions, and a powerful 13 prime 5 singles in a row. But behind the scenes, inter-group grievances had been simmering away.

picture copyrightPA Media

picture captionThe band have introduced a tour for November 2021, with Sophie Ellis Bextor within the assist slot

There was pressure over One For Sorrow after Claire was given all of the lead vocals, making the remainder of the group really feel undesirable. And after they toured North America with Britney Spears in 1999, H travelled between gigs on the star’s non-public jet, leaving his band-mates to slum it on in a single day bus journeys.

“I do suffer with insomnia,” he later provided by the use of rationalization.

Still, no-one anticipated the announcement, on Boxing Day 2001, that the band had cut up up. The official line was that it was a unanimous resolution, with the quintet desirous to bow out whereas they had been nonetheless on prime. In actuality, H and Claire had resigned two hours earlier than the ultimate date of Steps’ best hits tour by shoving a letter into their bandmates’ palms.

The remainder of the band had been blindsided. “I’ll never get over the way Steps ended,” Lisa mentioned within the Sky documentary Steps: Reunion, which introduced the band again collectively in 2011. “Did you really hate us?” Faye requested H and Claire, as they squirmed of their seats.

‘Finger on the button’

The TV present led to a reunion tour and a reasonably uninspired Christmas album, but it surely was solely after going unbiased in 2017 that the band actually rediscovered their groove. Freed from file label interference, they set about making the definitive Steps album, fastidiously deciding on all the fabric themselves.

“You’re looking for melancholy, a bit of drama, a ton of darkness, a cheeky key change and a banging beat – and then you’ve got a Steps song,” says H.

Figure captionWarning: Third celebration content material could include adverts

Taking management for the primary time gave the band a brand new lease of life, says Faye. “It’s a really amazing to have our fingers on the button – because I think we have more knowledge than anybody of what our fans want, and who we are.

“Often, when we’ve demos despatched to us, they’re actually not Steps songs,” she adds. “I believe folks have the improper concept of what Steps is as a result of they assume that we’re a twee pop band – however truly melodically and lyrically, it is by no means been like that.”

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThe band’s 2017 reunion was greeted with positive reviews and sold-out tour dates

Their new album doesn’t just feature contributions from the cream of Eurovision’s songwriters, but some of the biggest names in pop – including Sia, Gracey, Greg Kurstin (Adele, Paul McCartney), MNEK (Beyonce, Little Mix) and Fiona Bevan (Ed Sheeran, One Direction).

Many of those writers grew up listening to Steps; and it feels like the stigma that surrounded the band’s unashamedly feel-good pop in the post-Cool Britannia 1990s has ultimately been forgotten.

“We had been checked out a sure approach again then,” says Lee, “and possibly we’re not checked out in that approach any extra. Much more cool, credible individuals are approaching board and writing songs for us and getting concerned.

“We can only be proud, can’t we? We worked very hard for all these years. We stuck to our guns, we’ve never changed, we are who we are. And it’s doing really well.”

Steps’ album, What The Future Holds, is out now on BMG. The band current a particular present – Steps Into 2021 – for BBC Radio 2 on 30 December.

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