Even the biggest Steps fans probably couldn’t have predicted the band would be the biggest comeback story of 2017.
After a sold-out UK arena tour, glowing reviews for their comeback album, ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’, and huge media interest in their return to the pop scene, the band is getting ready to do it all again with their upcoming ‘Summer Of Steps’ tour, which kicks off next month.
Ahead of the tour, HuffPost caught up with band member Lisa Scott-Lee about her “whirlwind” year, Steps’ plans for a follow-up to ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’ and getting ready to unleash her inner “dance diva” on the road...
It’s been just over a year since ‘Scared Of The Dark’ was released, can you sum up what the past 12 months have been like?
Oh, I can’t believe it’s been a year! It’s been an absolute whirlwind, to be honest. It’s been incredible, and to come back after having a break, and obviously not knowing how things are going to go for us - because you can’t take anything for granted, you know? - it’s amazing that we’ve got these opportunities again.
We were a little bit nervous coming back, thinking, you know, “did people still want Steps?”, “did they want new music?”, there were quite a lot of questions.
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Fortunately, it was number one iTunes, so it seemed they did want us back, which is wonderful!
Did you anticipate when you were recording ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’ what it would eventually lead to?
Do you know, when we started talking about the anniversary, we literally started discussing possibly something like a one-off gig at the Albert Hall - the Royal Albert Hall, I should say. And then, it kind of snowballed, because we started talking about new music and, as I said, where would we sit now in today’s market, and was that what people wanted?
So, we started recording because we thought, “let’s give people what they want” - all the fans have been asking for new music, so we explored it, and I’m so pleased with the album. I think it came together really well and it’s definitely my favourite album we’ve ever done.
What’s been your high point of the last year?
I think the tour selling out so quickly, and just being embraced again by the British public. We couldn’t believe how quickly it sold out, and I think Steps were always known for touring, it’s something we all really enjoy.
Did you have a favourite moment from the tour?
Mmm, yes, I call it my snowglobe moment, which is when we performed our finale and we did ‘Tragedy’, and me and the girls got to play dress-up in our wedding dresses, which is every girl’s dream, to have a wedding dress on again. And the confetti came down and it was a big, big finishing moment for the show, and I just felt like we were inside a snowglobe. And I tried to just capture that memory forever in my mind, and it’s stayed with me.
That finale scene also featured a same-sex couple, which was something featured a few times during the show. Was that something you all said from the beginning it was important to include?
Yeah definitely. It’s been 20 years since Steps were launched, since we burst onto the music scene, and so much has happened in that time and so much has evolved.
[We wanted] just to raise more awareness, really. And I know from talking to our fans that they feel very accepted into Steps world, and that’s what we always wanted, regardless of people’s sexuality, or whichever walk of life they’re from, we wanted to just appeal to everybody, and I do think that’s what’s part of our success.
It’s important to us, we have so much support from so many different communities and societies, and we want to support people back just the same.
You shared your best moments earlier, but has there been anything you’ve found especially difficult or struggled with since you came back?
To be honest, I can’t really say that I have. We thought maybe we wouldn’t dance much, because obviously we’re all older now, but actually, when we looked at it, if we took away some of the dance elements, I think the audience would feel cheated, because, you know, that’s why we’re called Steps, because we do our dance routines to our songs, and we’ve got all the hooks, and the audience love being a part of that and joining in with us. So, we’ve done well, we’re all in good shape, all in good nick, we’ve stayed fit.
The only thing for me personally is because I live in Dubai, where my husband and my two children are, so the travel - yes - that’s been really tricky, because I’m back and forth on an airplane, which is nice, because you get a bit of peace and quiet, but it puts quite a strain on your day-to-day life when you’re having to commute to London. And that’s definitely been the most challenging thing for me - and leaving my family, having to leave them for periods of time, ah, it’s just really painful.
How do you deal with that side of things, both the exhaustion and missing your family?
Well, I’ve got a very supportive husband, Johnny. He was one of our original Steps dancers, so he’s been with us from the start, and he knows exactly what it entails, because he’s in the music business himself. So, it’s not been an issue from that point of view, he’s been amazing, because he’s enabled me to go off and do all these great things, touring, traveling, and he understands.
And technology has evolved so much, so we can Facetime and I set my little children up with email accounts so they email me and it’s all very sweet. We have many forms of communication, and they do come over and support me in the UK as well. We just try our best to see each other as much as we can.
You completed the ‘Party On The Dancefloor’ tour at the end of last year. How different was it this time around, compared to the old days?
I think the only difference is that we all have families now, and businesses. So that brings more challenges, and the logistics need extra planning. But once you get on that stage, it just feels like it could be 20 years ago. We’re back to the 1990s, dancing away, singing our hearts out, the audience are loving it, it’s like going back in a time machine, nothing’s really changed.
Obviously you first got back together in 2012, alongside the reunion documentary, when you all had quite a bit to get off your chests…
Is all of that behind you now?
Yeah, completely. And that’s why we felt the need to do that, and to actually discuss the split… we had some questions that we needed to know the answers to before we could put it all behind us and move on. As you said, we did that through the means of a television documentary series, we aired everything and it was all very honest and raw and painful.
But at the same time, it was like therapy, and it enabled us to put the break-up in the past, and move forward as a band and have a future.
You mentioned earlier that when you get back together, it’s like no time has passed. As you see it, what are all five of your roles within Steps, and how does that differ to back then?
Good question - and again, what’s interesting is that these roles have not altered over the 20 years. So if you’d asked me this question 20 years ago, my answer would still be the following…
I would say Lee is the very sensible [one], he is the oldest of the group, and that kind of shows because he’s so caring, he’s always looking out for us and he is known to be more sensible, because I think he felt a sense of responsibility when we’re out and about to look after us all, because he’s slightly older.
H, completely the other end of the spectrum. *laughs* He’s, as you know, ‘H’ stands for ‘hyperactive’, he’s very, very bubbly, very cheeky, very naughty, me and him are very much like the brother and sister of the group, and we giggle and get told off a lot by the others, and they have to separate us if we’re doing photo-shoots if we’re stood next to each other. Yeah, we get a bit mischievous, so often Claire, then, will step in and go, ‘right, that’s it, you go over there’, and she’s very much like the mother figure. Again, she’s very caring, and she’s always looking out for us and the band.
And Faye, Faye’s like my sister. We share the same sociable personality, and we like to make the most of whichever city we’re in, we’ll do a show, and we’ll go out, go clubbing and we’ll normally find a gay club and find the dancefloor, and be dancing away. And that’s very much [the same as ever], we’ve always loved to let our hair down. And that’s how it all fits.
Is it surprising that after 20 years you all fit into those same roles?
It’s funny isn’t it? That’s why it feels like nothing’s changed, because we do just digress to that family situation. So it’s always fun.
Have you found that you’re being recognised more since the reunion?
Do you know, it never really went away. There’s never been a day where I could go round the supermarket or go to a local restaurant, and not have someone whisper - whisper loudly, I might add - “Steps”, “it’s that girl from Steps” or “it’s Lisa from Steps”.
I just think there’s so much love for Steps that it’s always been present, and on social media, the fans have always been very vocal about the fact they wanted us back together, they wanted new music, they wanted a tour... and yeah, we listened.
There can be a dark side to social media when you’re in the public eye, is that something you’ve had any experiences of?
I don’t really like to answer this, because I think I’ve been quite lucky… I’m not on [social media] enough to have [negativity]… I’ll only go on when I have something that I want to say or share. I’m not on there everyday constantly, because I’m running a business in Dubai, and I’ve got my family, so I’m busy doing my day-to-day stuff.
But of course, everybody has had the odd comment. And the way I look at it is, I don’t know this person, they’re a stranger to me, and what I really care about is what my family think of me, and fortunately, I feel very loved and supported.
And also, what you do find is that you then get a hundred positive [messages], because then all the fans rally round and they say, ‘don’t you say that’, ‘don’t say that about our Lisa’ or, you know, whichever band member it is. So yeah, you know, there’s more support than there are [negative comments].
Looking ahead to the summer tour, what stage are you all at now?
So, we have now decided upon the setlist, and to be honest, that’s a feat in itself, because we’re in a very fortunate position, we’ve got a really big back catalogue now, and obviously since the new album we’ve got more hits. So we’ve got old and new, and trying to find the perfect balance between the old and the new hits is quite difficult, because you want to give everybody what they want, and you want to have a few surprises in there… and you know, as a band, we want to play the new songs as well, because we’ve been doing the old ones for 20 years! It’s nice as an artist to mix it up.
It’s quite a long drawn-out process discussing the setlist and the costumes. And I think because we recently did our [‘Party On The Dancefloor’] tour, we’ve got loads of ideas and some elements that we want to keep, and some elements we want to change.
How do you go about deciding things like setlists, because presumably as a group, you’re five different people with five different opinions?
Normally, we do all have different opinions, but when it comes down to Steps, more often than not we are of the same opinion, because we all love Steps, and we care for what we’re doing, and we’re very protective over Steps and our brand. So I think the five of us know, hopefully by now, what the fans want and also we listen to feedback on social media, so we take all that on board as well.
During the last show, you did old album cuts like ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Love U More’, and it was clear then that you’d really been listening to what the fans had been asking for…
Yes! Before the tour, we actually asked people, ‘what would you like to hear?’. And we worked with some fantastic people, we’ve got our management, Fascination, who are amazing, and then we’ve got Steve Anderson, our MD, who we share with Kylie, which is rather exciting… so we all sit down and we brainstorm, and we just talk about how the show will flow, having light and shade, and it just really is a big discussion, making sure that everybody’s happy, including the band and the creative team.
The nice thing is [on the summer tour], that out of the new stuff, we’re doing ‘Happy’. I absolutely love that, I looove that track, and it’s a lot more dancey, and I’m definitely a dance diva at heart, so I’m looking forward to doing that one.
The inevitable question is, will there be any new material from Steps in the future?
Yes, yes there will. We’ve all talked about it as a band, and it’s not the end of the road for Steps.
We’re back together, we’ve had an absolute blast, and we want to continue with this while people want us. And why not? As I said earlier, we’re in a very fortunate position to have had this opportunity again, it’s the third time now that Steps have come back onto the scene, and we’ve had lots of exciting offers. So yes, we’re making plans.
Is there anything new you’d be keen to try your hand at in the studio this time around?
Oh gosh. As I said, this album is the album that I have always wanted us to make. So, for me… oh, I’d just love songs along the same lines.
But then, at the same time, it is nice to experience different tracks and just experiment with different sounds in the studio. Our management, Fascination, are really hands-on, and they were great last time with the whole album process, they presented songs to us, and we all sat down and said, “is this Steps?”, ”could this be Steps?”.
So, we’ve definitely got a sound, but for me, what I would love to do is be involved in songwriting. I’ve always loved songwriting and you don’t always get the opportunity to do that when you’re recording an album. A lot of it is down to just the timescale, but because we’ve got a bit more time to plan the next one, I have said to management that I would love to do some songwriting.
There are so many great writers out there, and I have someone that I wrote my solo stuff, ‘Lately’, ‘Too Far Gone’ and songs like that with, so I would definitely love that opportunity again.
And finally… be honest, how pissed off with Ed Sheeran were you when ‘Divide’ kept the number one over ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’?
To be honest, I don’t really see it like that, because we were number one on the iTunes chart, and that’s good enough for me. The UK music charts have changed so much since the last time we were releasing music, so for me, it’s not about how many times something’s been downloaded, because all of that comes into it now.
I think we did really well to get number one on iTunes, and that’s what people are listening to now. It’s still a number one in my eyes!
So no hard feelings towards Ed Sheeran, then?
No, I love Ed Sheeran. I mean god, he’s such a talented songwriter, and I’m actually a big fan. I could never be upset with Ed.
The ‘Summer Of Steps’ tour kicks off in Cheltenham on 26 May, before hitting venues around the UK all summer.