After exploding onto the pop scene in 1997 with their record-breaking debut ’5, 6, 7, 8’, the Steps back catalogue became the soundtrack of a generation. The group notched up seven sold-out arena tours and sold 20 million records worldwide before taking a break in 2001.
10 years later the group reformed for a comeback tour, supporting their greatest hits album The Ultimate Collection. Then, in 2017, to mark their 20th anniversary, Steps brought out a highly anticipated album of new material Tears on the Dancefloor.
Speaking to SoGlos ahead of their Cheltenham performance, which kicks off the Summer of Steps Tour, Steps’ Claire Richards tells us how she switches from pop star to school-run Mum, and why she hopes she’ll never embarrass her son!
We’re very excited that you’re kicking off your tour here in Gloucestershire. Tell us more about what you’ve got planned?
This Summer we’re going to be travelling up and down the country, doing lots of outdoor shows. Our first one is in Cheltenham, and it’s going to be an extension of the tour we did last year. It’s going to be a big old pop extravaganza and a bit of something for everybody, hopefully just a really good night.
You had huge success with your new album last year which went silver in three weeks and your last comeback tour was a sell-out. What is it about Steps that makes you so successful every time you return?
I don’t think any of us ever expected, even from the very start, that we’d be such a success. You take every day as it comes and I think every single time you do something new, or you put on another tour, you’re never quite sure what the reaction is going to be. Certainly last year with the new album, it was something we wanted to do to give something back to the fans. They’d been waiting a long time for new material, it took us a long time to decide whether that was something we wanted to do, because we weren’t sure where Steps fit in today’s market really. It’s moved on and changed so much.
It was a big risk for us, but thankfully we got it right and it worked. The tour was incredible, but I don’t think anybody could have predicted any of it. I think we’ve been very, very lucky.
We know by now what a Steps audience wants from us, so we always try and keep that in mind. We don’t pretend to be something we’re not, we don’t apologise for being pop and we’re not trying to be cool anymore… not that we ever were! (laughs)
You were very candid on your documentary series a few years ago about the struggles of fitting Steps around family life. As your children have got older, how do they react to their Mum being in Steps… Are you embarrassing yet?
I don’t think we’re quite at the embarrassing stage yet, thankfully! Out of all the Steps kids, my Son is the eldest. He’s 11 in May, but he’s not embarrassed by it yet. He’s embarrassed by other things though… I keep threatening to say ‘I love you, Charlie’ on stage and he said ‘please don’t do that, Mummy!’
But it’s interesting watching them this time, compared to last time when they were both still quite young. They really love it now, they love coming to the shows and coming to watch. Because the Summer of Steps tour is mostly happening on weekends, my Son said he’d rather come and watch Steps than come to his football presentation!
I felt quite smug about that, but I can’t stop him missing things like that. They can come and see Steps whenever they want really, but it’s lovely to see them embracing it, and enjoying it so much. I don’t want them to be embarrassed by me, but I’m sure at some point they will be!
You mentioned that most of your tour dates are happening at the weekend. Does that give you a sense of normality, being a pop star at the weekend and Mum during the week?
When I’m at home, I’m just Mum on the school run. We do try and keep things as normal as possible. Even when I am on the road, my husband will be here doing everything instead. If we need to, we sometimes get family to look after them, but we try and keep things consistent for them.
It’s a massive juggling act, but it’s no different from all working parents really, it’s just more surreal I suppose. I just go to work on stage, in front of loads of people. I’m hoping it can only get easier the older they get, eventually they’ll be able to look after themselves! (laughs).
Cheltenham’s the first date in the tour. What can we expect?
Well, you’ll be the first to see the new summer tour. We have changed it a little bit from the arena tour we did last year. It’s going to be much of the same, but we’ve tweaked the set list a little bit, and adapted it for an outside venue. It’s going to be a big old pop extravaganza so it’ll be a good fun night for everybody.
By Melissa Hamblett