Talking Music: Ian H Watkins & Lisa Scott-Lee Discuss New Steps Album – What The Future Holds

Enduring British pop legends Steps aka H, Claire, Faye, Lee and Lisa return this week with their sixth album, What the Future Holds. Following up 2017’s Tears on the Dancefloor album featuring  Scared of the Dark and a sold-out arena tour, the new album boasts a title track written by pop queen Sia.

Steps broke the charts in 1997 with their line-dancing classic 5,6,7,8, and set about re-turfing the music landscape with 14 UK top 10 singles and three multi-platinum albums in three years including the hits Tragedy and Stomp.

Steps return with their new album What The Future Holds released on November 27

Two decades later, the band returned with Tears On The Dancefloor, which was only held off the top of the charts by Ed Sheeran, before becoming the second biggest-selling independent album of 2017 behind Stormzy.

A few years later, Steps have returned with a positive album to lift us through the darker times we’ve all recently been experiencing. What the Future Holds was recorded before the pandemic, but as ever with Steps the tracks are relevant, uplifting and feelgood in tone and delivery.

Last week, Andy Howells chatted with the bands two Wales-born stars Ian H Watkins and Lisa Scott-Lee via Zoom to find out about the bands new album.

What does the future hold for Steps, because obviously What The Future Holds is quite a poignant title bearing in mind we are all trying to focus on our future beyond the pandemic?

H: We’ve been sitting on this album, our tour news and our singles for about three years now. So the whole idea for What The Future Holds came about when the song landed on our managements desk while we were on tour in 2017. We knew this was going to be our campaign, but obviously because of the situation we’re in we’ve had to delay everything almost a year.

We’re really excited to finally release this album because its been a long time coming.  I want everyone to enjoy this album as much as we do because collectively as a group, we think it’s one of our best. The feedback we’ve had already is up there with all our classic tunes.

Lisa: Absolutely! So far, the feedback has been great. It’s a very special time for us.

H: The lead track from the album was written by Sia, which is incredible as she actually wrote it for herself and then decided it wasn’t the direction she wanted to go in  and specifically said “Its not right for me, but I want Steps to have first dibs on this.” We said, “Yes please! We’ll have that! It’s a perfect song to start the new chapter of Steps!”

Was the album all prepared prior to the pandemic?

H: Luckily, everything was in the bag ready to go! The album, the tour dates and then the whole country locked down!

In some ways, yes, we were disappointed but there was literally no official news out there at all. So we were able to keep our powder dry and everything a secret until the time was right. It kind of feels it was meant to be. People had a rough time over the summer, during lockdown and I guess we wanted to come back and give everybody a bit of positivity and take everybody’s troubles away, so hopefully we’ve done that.

Lisa: We wanted everyone to know and make them aware that the title track and single, What The Future Holds hadn’t been released because of the pandemic and what had happened. We recorded that single over a year ago (Summer 2019) and as H says we had everything in the bag but wanted to be sensitive and wait until the right time.

Health and safety are paramount to us with regards to our fans and everyone in the world. The timing is right and because we are in the second lockdown in the UK I think this album is going to be perfect timing, because it will give people hope and we do spread our “Steps happiness” as well.

We really like to keep people on the positive. I think people take a lot from our songs, I know we’ve helped people a lot through a few hard times whether its regards to personally or publicly work with their sexuality or whatever it might be. We do like to feel we are there with everybody all of the time.

I’ve always seen Steps as a very positive band with a feelgood factor and you brought a lot of fun into the 90s.

Lisa: Yeah! I think your right and its important. These are difficult times currently in the world and throughout peoples lives. It means a lot to us that we can help people and put a smile on their faces and just give people hope when there are in dark times. We are known for that now, which is a lovely thing to give people.

I really love your new track Hold My Heart and feel the lyrics are very poignant for the moment.

H: We love this track and are heavily involved in choosing every album track. When we know we are going to release an album of new music, we put a brief out there and are very selective with all our songs. This song really stood out to us lyrically and vocally, we knew we could split this up vocally and make it an equal band sound. It reminds me of Lady Antebellum and would sit well on one of their albums. For me, it’s the perfect way to end a chapter in Steps.

Something in Your Eyes has an Abba vibe to it as well…

Lisa: Yes it has, even from the early days when we met Pete Waterman he did say (and I’m not a fan of this) we were “Abba on Speed” (laughs) What I took from it was he saw a boy/girl group that were young, had loads of energy and he saw so much potential in us.  

I feel we’ve had a longstanding love affair with Abba. We’re all massive fans and their music is incredible. People do see similarities between us, because when you look at it you can’t really name another boy/girl group that’s out there at the minute. There are very few bands you can compare Steps to. Fortunately, Abba is one of them, which is very flattering for us. They’ve stood the test of time with their music and we are enjoying longevity as well, which is lovely.

Is there a particular favourite track from the new album which you think shows where you’re at presently?

H: For me, I adore the title track What The Future Holds. There’s a lyric in the song that says “One foot In the past, one foot in the future.” We’ve completely embraced that phrase when you listen to the album. It nods right back to our back-catalogue. Something In Your Eyes stands up there with After The Love Has Gone and Loves Got a Hold of My Heart, all those classics.

There are a few tracks which are a little more unusual for Steps, a bit more experimental, but I think they sit up there with our previous tracks. There’s one on there, Under My Skin, which I adore, really unexpected song! But What The Future Holds is my favourite, a huge return to pop for Steps!

Lisa: I agree with What the Future Holds. Someone said they thought it was one of the strongest first singles off one of our albums that was ever released. I loved that quote from one of our fans and they said it was even stronger than… (Lisa gestures dance moves with her hands, then laughs)  Loves Got a Hold of My Heart, I have to do the dance! (laughs). It’s a great quote because its difficult to try and better each album and single and I’m really proud of where we are musically.

I think the fans really appreciate that we did not come back just as a nostalgia band and just do a greatest hits album and tour. We have given them something new and fresh. It means a lot to the fans and to us as artists and individuals.

Steps will appear on the 2020 Royal Variety Performance

Finally, I hear Steps are shortly to appear on the Royal Variety Performance?

Lisa: We are! But I’m not sure what we are allowed to say! We’re pleased to be performing on it and very honoured as we’ve been on a few Royal Variety shows. I know we have got a virtual audience; we are very excited about it. We’re not releasing the song we are to do on the show yet as we have to keep that as a surprise! Please tune in everybody as it’s going to be a great show and its all for charity as well.

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