Jeremy Williams-Chalmers, Arts Correspondent
Believe it or not, Steps are one of the UK's most successful recording acts ever! Having steadily built a fanbase following their #14 charting 1997 single 5,6,7, 8 - the band finally conquered the charts with Tragedy one year (and 3 singles) later. While dancefloors are still fuelled by their irrepressible and irresistible bubblegum pop, the group return this year with a more mature, but still pop sound.
Celebrating their 20th anniversary with the aptly titled Tears On The Dancefloor and a rapidly selling arena tour, we caught up with band member Lisa Scott-Lee to find out how she is feeling...
Hi Lisa, you must be buzzing from the response to your return. Were you expecting such an outcry of love from your fans?
Honestly we weren't at all. We wanted to come back and celebrate our 20th anniversary and put plans in place. But as far as thinking about the reaction we'd get, we hadn't expected anything. Just to go to #1 in the album charts and sell out arenas is unbelievable.
Steps are 20 years old! Can you believe it has been so long since it all began?
I don't think anyone can believe it was 20 years ago. I was a 20 year old back then and I never thought I'd still be talking about Steps 20 years on. I'm just thankful that the fans still want us. There is a lot of love out there for Steps.
Lots of your contemporaries have tried and failed to come back. What is the secret to Steps' longevity?
It's a good question. I think maybe it's because it is a tough world out there and we've never taken ourselves too seriously. We just want to have fun and people want to just join in.
What exactly can we expect from your new album?
We had an interesting discussion when we all got back together. We just went around the table and everyone said what they wanted to do, whether it was more music or just a tour. We all had the opportunity to voice our thoughts.
We all felt it would be great to have more music. It's amazing to blast out the hits and to give something special to the fans. They are always asking for new music. So we quietly worked away and put all the tracks together in secret. It was quite an exciting time, so it's great to have comeback as a band and to have got the reaction we have got.
Music wise, we questioned what Steps would sound like in 2017. We all love dance-pop, so we decided to take it more down the dance route. It's actually a really cool album. It is something I would play myself while getting ready for a night out.
The other albums, we have had some great songs and I do like pop, but I do love dance-pop. The new album is very similar to Scared of the Dark, that is a good example of our sound.
You started out with a very pop-country song, at a time when the genre started to explode internationally. Did you ever think you would pre-empt a global sound?
I don't think we predicted, it was just good luck and good timing. What's interesting is that Steps have evolved. We were put together for a line-dancing track. We met with Pete Waterman, who said you are not a line-dancing act, you are a pop act. He was very positive and really supportive. He embraced us and did our first album, then a few more. To be honest we never wanted to be a line-dancing band, we wanted to be a pop group! When we did 5,6,7,8 we only had one single, we did the song but we moved forward with a great team and here we are now!
The title Tears On The Dancefloor is perfect! How did you settle on it?
The title comes from one of the album tracks, which is called No More Tears On The Dancefloor. It is written by Darren Hayes of Savage Garden. H is really good friends with Darren. He literally just sent him a message on Facebook and asked if he had any tracks. Darren sent back this one and we loved it, so recorded it.
We decided to use Tears On the Dancefloor for the album title as all our music is really upbeat. We like to do the dance routines. There is always an undercurrent lyrically of something bittersweet. We are singing about One For Sorrow while smiling and dancing away. So Tears On The Dancefloor just fits perfectly.
Have you ever had tears on a dancefloor?
Have I ever had tears on the dancefloor? Yes, I have. It was at my school disco when I had a ra-ra dress on and it fell down. It was a strapless one and I was dancing away, I looked down and it was gone. There were lots of tears on the dancefloor.
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Can I just say, that's a brilliant question. I love that!
So groups from today... It has to be Little Mix. We love Little Mix. They are doing a really great job. We are really proud of how well they are doing. They would definitely be in there. I would put Coldplay in as I am a massive Coldplay fan. Is it just bands? I would love to put Ed Sheeran in there...
You had Tina Cousins, so there is definitely room for Ed...
That's true! Clean Bandit as well, as I love all of their tracks! It would be quite an eclectic mix.
You have also had solo chart success, do you still have solo ambitions?
No. A very simple answer. I only went solo as there was no more Steps. I just love performing and music. I trained as a dancer, I went to stage school and I always wanted this to be my job. I feel very fulfilled as a performer. I am very very lucky that it was my ambition to be a professional dancer and singer, and that happened. If nothing else happened, I would feel very fulfilled and lucky. I do feel blessed to do another tour and album. I am lucky that people out there really want this and there is so much love for Steps. It is just
amazing. We are just pinching ourselves at the minute.
Do you think you will be returning to Steps in another 20 years time?
The thing is that when you are a performer, you are always a performer. It doesn't matter how old you are, that buzz never leaves you. I don't know if I will be doing 5,6,7,8 in 20 years time, but I will certainly be a part of the industry.
I have a performing arts school out in Dubai. Working there every day keeps me passionate and in the arts, I love passing on everything I have learnt to my students. It is so rewarding.
It is called Dubai Performing Arts and that's my day job. I run the business with my husband Johnny, who is also a professional singer and dancer. He's been on the West End stage and was one of Steps' original dancers.
We've been together for 18 years now. It is great that we both share the love of the arts. I love what we do there in Dubai and I love what I do with Steps here. I feel like I have a double life at the minute.
You have done your fair share of reality TV, but you haven't been approached by Simon Cowell yet. Do you think you'd like judge a reality show?
I think I would make a good judge in the way I am seeing singers and dancers every day in my Academy. I think there is another side of it though, I have done a lot of reality and I am not in a rush to do more reality. It is a hard graft doing a reality show. They are very trying. Last time round we did two series of a documentary and it is intrusive having cameras around all the time.
What's lovely this time is that we didn't have a TV show, which meant we were anxious about the impact without the platform, but we have a very loyal and supportive fanbase. It is great to do it without the cameras around.
Lastly, in 50 years time, Steps will be 70. What song will you all be best remembered for?
If you'd have asked me last year I would have said Tragedy. It is definitely our signature track. I think there are some absolute crackers on the album and I think they will compete with Tragedy, so it will be interesting to see the reaction from the fans. It is the album I have asked Steps to make for 20 years. We have a whole new team - management, choreographer - so it is all so fresh. We have really evolved.
Interview: Steps, 16th March 2017, 12:42 PM