Steps

INTERVIEW: Claire Richards & Lee Latchford-Evans Celebrate 25 Years of Steps!

With the release of their brand new album, ‘The Platinum Collection‘ British pop legends Steps celebrate 25 years in music!

Packed full of their greatest hits from 1997 to 2022, the record will also feature two brand new tracks along with a selection of some previously-unreleased remixes, and will be available for purchase in various formats including Standard CD, Deluxe 2CD, Vinyl, Cassette and Digital. There will also be 5 very special solo editions, each with unique bonus tracks of the band’s favourite songs from across their career.

In a joint statement the group (made up of Lee Latchford-Evans, Claire Richards, Lisa Scott-Lee, Faye Tozer and Ian ‘H’ Watkins) say of the album: “This anniversary marks the perfect moment to take a look back at everything we’ve achieved as a band. We realised that we’ve released a full 3 new studio albums since our last Greatest Hits so it felt like time to combine all our hits on one package. We’ve recorded two brand-new tracks for the album and presto, the ‘Platinum Collection’ was born!”

To celebrate this monumental moment in their career, we caught with band members Claire and Lee to talk humble beginnings, tuning out negativity and the emotive reason behind Steps enduring appeal… 


Steps

“We’ve definitely all been feeling a little bit nostalgic of late.” Claire admits as we ask how she and her fellow bandmates are finding the process of revisiting their past, and reflecting upon their career so far. “For me, it’s a little bit like having your life flash before your eyes – it’s surreal and it’s a lot to take in! The years just feel to have flown by, and everything seems to have happened so quickly, that I can’t quite get my head around the fact that it’s been 25 years; I mean that’s a really long time isn’t it?”

Almost at a loss for words as to how to verbalise just what a trip it’s been to take this sentimental walk down memory lane in the build up to the groups silver anniversary, Richards adds: “It’s just incredible to me, I don’t think any of us thought we’d still be here 25 years later, and I know a lot of people in the industry didn’t think we would either but… here we are (laughs).”

Echoing similar sentiments, Lee continues: “It’s been so nice to look back and remind ourselves of everything we’ve achieved, because it’s not something we ever really do. Watching some of our old music videos and performances has brought back so many memories for me personally – though I can’t lie, I do look at some of them, and I think to myself ‘I have zero recollection of ever doing this!’ but there I am singing and dancing away – it’s mad, and like Claire says it’s a lot take in!”

Indeed there is (a lot to take in), for Steps aren’t like most other typical pop bands of their era who enjoyed an impressive, yet limited run of chart success in the late 90’s, before disappearing off into the pop wilderness, only to return 25 years later to talk about the ‘glory days’ of their recording career. For minus a little break in the early 00’s, Steps reign and musical output truly does span the course of the last two and a half decades. In fact it’s worth pointing out to any of the groups detractors still shamefully lurking in the shadows of their unparalleled success, that the current era of Steps has now outlasted their original 1997 to 2001 run, with the 5-piece having toured and recorded together consistently now since 2017.

“Do you know what, it’s really hard for us to be self-analytical about Steps, in the sense that it’s us, we are Steps, it’s our lives, we’ve lived it and we know what it took for us to get to where we are today.” Claire admits when discussing the bands longevity. “So it’s nice in a way to hear other peoples perspectives and points of view as to why they think we’ve lasted as long as we have, because the truth is we don’t really know ourselves (laughs). We feel it’s because of our fans but maybe people have other ideas, I don’t know…”

Exploring her thoughts further the War of The Worlds actress adds:  “Is it luck? Is it about knowing the right people? Or is it simply just a case of being in the right place at the right time, the stars aligning and boom you’re a pop star? I’m not sure. I often think about the fact that there are millions of people out there, with a real, genuine talent for singing, performing and writing songs, and for whatever reason they never quite get that initial break into the industry that they need – it must be so frustrating for them. It makes me sad to think about actually, but also reminds me of how lucky we have been throughout the course of our career, to not only have achieved what we did back in the 90’s, but to still be around and working today.”

We suggest it’s the bands authenticity, and genuine love for what they do that has afforded them the staying power to withstand the test of time…

“It’s funny though, because if you really think about it, Steps didn’t exactly start out in a very authentic way did they?” Claire says matter of factly. “We were five individuals that auditioned to be in a pop band, who were then put together by a team of people, so we were totally manufactured, as manufactured was in those days. But through all of these years of us working together, we’ve made it authentic because like I said before, we are Steps, and Steps is us. What we’re doing now is way more authentic than it was back in 1997.”


Steps
As they were… Faye, H, Lisa, Lee and Claire on the day of the final Steps audition having been told they were officially in the band.

As the story goes, Steps were formed by songwriters Steve Crosby and Barry Upton, along with talent manager Tim Byrne, after auditioning thousands of hopefuls who had responded to an ad posted in The Stage Newspaper. After several rounds of auditions, and a number of line-up changes, Richards and Latchford-Evans along with Faye, Lisa and ‘H’ were chosen as the definitive five to form the final lineup of the band.

“I think the plan in the beginning was… to just see what happens!” Lee says in a fit of laughter when we ask what the initial vision for Steps was ahead of their launch in the autumn of 1997.

“We were supposed to be a line dancing act, and all we were meant to do was make and release line dancing songs.” Claire chips in. “Thank God for Pete Waterman because if it weren’t for him seeing something in us, and steering us off into a completely different direction, I don’t think we’d still be here 25 years later (laughs).” Keen to show her respect to the track that launched their career, Richards quickly adds: “‘5, 6, 7, 8’ opened the door for us, and did exactly what it was supposed to do, and we’ll be forever grateful for that song and the start it gave us. But I think we all knew deep down that we were going to need to evolve past that style and sound, if we were to have a real shot at becoming a legitimate pop act in our own right.”

Released Monday, November 10th 1997, Steps debut single became the bands first major hit both in the U.K. and internationally. Despite only peaking at number 14, the single achieved considerable longevity in the fast-paced singles climate of 1997–1998, racking up over four months on the U.K. chart. To this day, the track remains one of the highest-selling singles never to reach the top 10 on the U.K. singles chart.

“Our journey in the early years was very organic.” Lee says of the bands humble beginnings. “In a funny way, it was a bit like we were doing an apprenticeship in pop, and learning our craft as we went along. We started with nothing, we weren’t handed a 5 album deal by a major record label, we didn’t have loads of money thrown at us, and it wasn’t all champagne, limousines and red carpets, believe me (laughs). It was more a case of: this is the new single, it’s going to be released on this date, go out there, perform it, promote it, do the best you can, here’s £50 for the week, now go get on with it!”


‘5, 6, 7, 8’ (Live from Top of the Pops, 1998)


Whilst other new bands launched around the same time as them, were constantly hailed as being the ‘next big thing’, and seemed keen to adopt a sort of ‘anti-pop’ attitude, Steps quietly got on with their job, churning out catchy pop song after catchy pop song – each complete with an easy-to-follow, synchronised dance routine, and colour co-ordinated costume. We wonder, did the groups gradual rise up the ranks of pops premier league set them in good stead in terms of them being able to build more of a diverse, loyal following compared to some of their contemporaries, who unfortunately seemed to crash and burn once the number 1 hit singles dried up…

Pausing to reflect on this thought for a moment, Lee says: “I’ve always felt like our third single ‘One For Sorrow’ was the real turning point for us, in terms of changing peoples perceptions of who we were. Whether you loved us or hates us, by then I don’t think many people could deny the fact that the five of us together had something that nobody else had. Like you said, our success had been pretty gradual up to that point, but after we put that song out, and then the album (‘Step One’) things just seemed to get bigger and bigger from there.”

Perhaps Steps greatest achievement however, has been their ability to always remain true to the essence of who they were both as a band, and as individuals, despite the pressures imposed upon them by an industry seemingly obsessed with being perceived as ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’

“We’ve always been whole-heartedly, unapologetic about who we are and what we do.” A humble Lee says with a sense of optimism. “And maybe that’s the reason why people have embraced us in the way they have over all these years, because they’ve seen time and time again how we don’t change who we are to fit in with everybody else. I like to think that that gives others the confidence to do the same, and allows them to believe that they too can go out into the world and be whoever they want to be, regardless of what anybody else has to say about them.”

Adding to her bandmates point, Claire continues: “I’ve always felt like anything that’s considered ‘cool’ or to be ‘on trend’ at a specific moment in time has a limited shelf life because it will always, eventually go out of style and go out of fashion.”

“I’ve said this before as a joke, and it sounds like I’m dissing Steps and I promise you I’m not but… but we have never, ever had to worry about that, because we were never considered cool, trendy or fashionable by anyone in the first place (laughs). We are what we are, and I think we appeal to a large portion of our audience because we don’t apologise for that! I can say hand on heart I don’t care what anybody thinks about me, or what anybody in the industry thinks about Steps! In the  beginning of our career I did – back in the day I used to sit and watch All Saints and think ‘why can’t I be in their band?’ but that’s just not who I am.”

“Staying true to who we are, and to what we do, has allowed us to evolve and cross each new decade without any hassle because people know what their going to get from us… don’t get me wrong, we like to switch things up and throw a couple of surprises into the mix every now and then, but ultimately we know why we’re here, and our ‘job’ if you like, is to make great pop music and entertain the people.”


Steps x Platinum Megamix


Talking of great pop music, it’s at this point in our chat with Claire and Lee that we are shown the music video for the bands new ‘Platinum Megamix’ – a seven minute trip down memory lane that serves as both a musical, and visual reminder, of all the glorious music the group have created over the course of the last 25 years. 

“It’s crazy to think the music featured in that clip spans over two and a half decades!” Claire says almost in disbelief when discussing the bands back catalogue. “I love how the megamix has been put together, and how each song just flows from one to the other, regardless of when it was recorded or when it was released. I don’t think we could have hoped for anything better.”

“Claire’s right,” Lee concedes. “All of the tracks included in the megamix stand shoulder to shoulder with one another, and whilst they’re all from different time periods, they’re all quintessential Steps. Listening to all of those songs played together like that makes me even more excited to tour this summer!”

As the recipient of the BRIT Award for being the Best Selling Live Act of 1999, Steps truly broke the mould for what it meant to be a commercial pop group looking to take their music on the road in the 90’s. As part of their Next Step Tour In 1999 the band sold out a record breaking 33 U.K. arenas, playing to over 310, 000 people. The following year the group played a further 65 U.K. arena shows for what was to become, at the time, the biggest U.K. pop tour ever! And with their summer tour set to kick off this weekend with a headline show at the Mighty Hoopla Festival in London, both Claire and Lee admit they are super excited at the prospect of being back on stage and performing with their fellow bandmates. 

“I always say our shows are like being punched in the face with pop music for an hour and a half straight… and if that doesn’t make people want to come along to see us then I don’t know what will.” Claire says when we ask what fans can expect from their summer tour. “These upcoming shows are going to be very much a celebration of Steps and our music! We’ve got no dancers with us this time, so it’s just us on stage, in our mad, extravagant costumes entertaining our wonderfully loyal fans.” 

“The show doesn’t stop, it’s pretty relentless and full on.” Lee adds. “I think the only time I ever go off stage throughout the set is when I need to change my top! But we wouldn’t have it any other way, we love putting on a fun, bright, high energy show for people in the hopes that they can come along and forget about anything that’s worrying them, and just have a good time.”

To still be in a position whereby they are able to provide people with such a joy, and a real sense of pure escapism 25 years into their career must fill all of the members of Steps with immense pride. Reminiscing on the people they used to be before experiencing the bright lights of fame, it’s clear both Lee and Claire feel an eternal amount of gratitude for the life changing experiences and opportunities afforded to them by fate.

“I’m originally from Ellesmere Port in the North West of England. I come from a very working class background, I hadn’t experienced all that much of life and I didn’t know much about the world outside of my family, being in this band changed all of that for me!” Lee reflects. “To all of a sudden being living in London at 22, working in a pop band and traveling the globe was mind blowing! I was living out a dream and the kind of life that I never thought would be possible for someone like me. I mean the things we got to do…”

Listing through some of his personal highlights, the father of one continues: “It was incredible to tour across America with Britney Spears, it was great to go to Australia and it was mind blowing to be rushed off to Japan and to see people going crazy over ‘5, 6, 7, 8’ – it’s been an absolute whirlwind, and I’ve loved every minute. I feel very lucky to have been, and continue to be, a part of Steps.

Nodding in agreement, Claire adds: “I always say it’s like I’ve had this bucket list stored away somewhere in my mind that I didn’t know I’d written, and at each stage of our career I’ve been able to tick off all of these things I never knew, or ever believed I could do. What we’ve achieved in immense, and Lee’s right, we’re incredibly lucky! There aren’t many people who get to say they lived their dream, us five can and I think now is a really great time to celebrate that!”



Having started out as the underdogs of pop, often looked down upon by both the industry and their peers, you’d forgive the members of Steps for maybe feeling a slight sense of resentment or bitterness towards those who once tried to discredit their achievements and tear them down. We’re happy to report this is not the case… for having built upon the foundations of their initial chart reign back in the 90’s, the group now clearly relish in the wonderful career and legacy they’ve built for themselves, and are simply happy to bask in the glow of their continued success.

“We know more than anyone that when we first launch as Steps, we were like marmite – people either really liked it, or they really didn’t and that’s absolutely fine! You’re never going to appeal to everyone, and be to everyones liking so why try to be?” Lee says demonstrating great understanding of the bands position in the world of pop. “I’d say the one thing that we’ve always had on our side is the fact that we’ve always been unique. When we started out there were no mixed groups, it was all about boy bands and girls band, then we came along with our little line dancing song and offered pop fans something different. Like Claire said earlier, we are what we are, we do what we do and I think that’s a huge part of why we’re still here today. I’m proud of us.”

“What we do is very important to us, and we take all aspects of our work really seriously.” Claire says in the closing moments of our interview . “Sometimes I feel like people still don’t think we’re as professional or as serious about what we do as we we are, and for a long time that bothered us. But now, at this point in our career, we’ve realised that what others think of us, really doesn’t matter! The most important thing to us now, is to give the fans what they want, because they are the reason we are still here today… and it’s as simple as that really, we’re happy, you won’t be hearing any complaints from us! Now, let’s get on with organising a massive Steps themed party shall we?” 

‘The Platinum Collection’ is set to be released Friday, August 19th and is available for pre-order now.


Let us know your thoughts on Steps over on Twitter @CelebMix now!

Written by Philip Logan

Contact: logan_philip@hotmail.com
Twitter & IG: @philip_logan