2020 has been one of those years where you never quite know what the future would, but thankfully Steps have stepped in to tell us exactly that with their sixth studio album.
Ahead of the release of ‘What The Future Holds’ today, I had the chance to catch up with Lee from the band to chat about how things have come together and what about the new LP excites him most.
Rewinding back to earlier this year and Steps were due to visit Australia to take part in the ‘So Pop’ concerts; their first ever tour of Australia and first visit since a promotional tour for their debut album ‘Step One’ way back in 1998. Local fans were excited, but then the coronavirus hit and it soon became clear concerts were off the table.
Lee told me that the band was “absolutely gutted not to be able to come”. After all, Australia was the first territory to give the band a No.1 hit (their breakout ‘5,6,7,8’ in 1997). He did, however, express how much they want to come back and that they fully intend to do so when they’re able to travel again.
With the pause button pressed, all plans for the album’s initial release were put on hold. Considering work on ‘What The Future Holds’ started three years ago, it was frustrating for the band to have to delay its release, but they understood the need to wait.
As fans, however, we’ve been lucky; Steps have been regularly feeding us new music since the lead single (and Sia-penned title track) dropped earlier this year.
“The song ‘What The Future Holds’ was the catalyst for the album,” Lee told me. The song was presented to Lee, Faye, H, Lisa and Claire at the end of their ‘Party On The Dancefloor’ tour in late 2017 and was instantly loved by everyone in the band.
Lee spoke about the fact that the song encapsulates how they want to move ahead with their music – “one foot in the past and one foot in the future”. It was that lead single that started the search for the other songs that now make up the rest of ‘What The Future Holds’.
Agreeing on the songs that make the final cut is always a balancing act.
“We might individually get a chance to hear songs and form an opinion on them or collectively review them together,” Lee revealed. 70-80% of the songs presented have been written specifically with Steps in mind; the rest are songs that might fit the sound and feel of the album or cover versions (like recent single ‘Something In Your Eyes’) that are a bit more obscure, but complement the rest of the tunes.
From there it’s group and label discussions to land on what’s in and what’s out.
Two of the songs Lee really loved throughout the decision making process have made it onto the final release. Besides the title track, he’s a big fan of both ‘Clouds’ and the recently released ‘Hold Your Heart’, which he described as “more of a classic Steps ballad” than the upbeat pop singles that preceded it.
Lee and I also chatted a bit about the dynamics of the album and how it’s so well-balanced. He even described ‘What The Future Holds’ as his “favourite album yet from the group”.
So what does the future hold for one of Britain’s most beloved pop groups (well, besides the desire to return to Australia and their upcoming 2021 UK tour)?
Lee revealed how much both he and Lisa would love to have the chance to write for the group again. All members of the band tried their hand at songwriting on their third album ‘Buzz’ (he co-write ‘Turn Around’ on the LP).
“It would be amazing to hear from the group more,”, he said, all the while acknowledging that the band, their team and label have done such a great job curating music for their two most recent releases.
So who knows what the next album might bring!
I know Australians will be excited when we can see our favourite bands like Steps again in conceert and it’s only a matter of time.
For now, however, they’re focused on providing us all with the pop music that’s surely going to brighten our days in the days, weeks and months ahead.
It was great to chat with Lee to get his insights into the way the album has come together and discover what the future holds for him and the rest of Steps as they dance their way proudly into another decade.
Steps’ new album ‘What The Future Holds’ is out on CD, vinyl and all digital platforms in Australia from today.
You can also pick up limited edition versions (including cassette tapes) from their official UK store.