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Interview: Claire Richards talks about her BST performance and the return of Steps

Claire Richards released her long-awaited debut solo album this year during a hiatus from Steps.

My Wildest Dreams smashed into the UK Top 10 and we named the album our top pop album of the year so far recently. Richards was invited to perform as a special guest for Canadian superstar Celine Dion at her British Summer Time Hyde Park show earlier this month.

I spoke to Claire following her fantastic performance to find out how the experience was for her, discuss the success of her solo album, and to talk about the impending return of Steps.

You absolutely smashed it out there today. Are you pleased with how it went?

Yeah I am. I worked myself up into such a state and I don’t really know why but I totally convinced myself that I wasn’t going to be able to hit those big notes and I wasn’t going to remember any of the lyrics. I don’t really know why. The minute I stepped on that stage, it just felt okay. It is really bizarre because honestly if you had seen me before you, I wouldn’t have blamed anyone for putting a bet on me not actually getting on there (laughs).

If I’ve learned anything about you over the years, it’s that you put a lot of pressure on yourself and you’re your own worst critic…

I really, really do care, probably a little bit too much, about what other people think I really want to make sure that everything is good quality. I think I’m probably a bit too much of a perfectionist, not just in music. If I’ve got do a school project with my kids, it’s got to be the best one… it’s got to be perfect and they have to look like a genius. It’s not real and it’s not realistic so I should realise that in situations like this. I just need to calm down and it’s all going to be all right.

The crowd loved the set. Everyone was up and dancing and I saw afterwards Josh Groban came over to tell you you were amazing…

I know! He wanted to say hello to me and we had a photo and everything. He was waiting to speak to me. How amazing is that? He said I had a really great voice, which coming from him is pretty incredible.

You should have got in there and got him to agree to a duet…

Yeah! ‘Do you need me to come on with you? Do you want me to sing a song with you? It’s fine, I can I’m here’ (laughs)

Your debut solo album My Wildest Dreams went into the Top 10. It’s been getting strong reviews and your fans are loving it. How are you feeling about it now?

I’m really good actually. It is always really nerve wracking. I think because I have been in a position before where H and I released our album – I still think to this day that that it was a good album, it just maybe wasn’t the right time or maybe the Steps audience wasn’t particularly right for what we did – but I’ve been in a position where something that you release that people aren’t used to is not such a great success so I was very nervous about it. The fact that it was and it was Top 10… that’s all I can ask for really. I did say in the beginning if the people that buy it and the people that listen to it like it then that’s good enough for me. (They didn’t) know what to expect I suppose. I think everybody probably would have thought I would just do a whole album full of power ballads, and there are some on there but we did mix it up a little bit.

I remember saying to you at the time, the variety is what I love about it. It feels like the soundtrack not only to your life but your fans as well because it’s so relatable…

I think so. I hope so anyway. I wanted to make an album that I would like to listen to. I don’t know if it sounds a little bit conceited but I do enjoy listening to it and the kids enjoy listening to it. My husband’s got three albums on his iTunes and mine is one of them, that’s a little bit sad (laughs). One is Carrie Underwood and I don’t actually know who the third one is… it was probably Steps actually!

You’re involved in two of them then so that’s a very good sign….

I’ve asked this before but is there any chance of a vinyl release for My Wildest Dreams?
I don’t know. I don’t think so. You’ll have to ask Sony. I don’t think it will. It’s a shame because it would’ve been nice to have it on vinyl.

I feel like the perfect opportunity is coming up with Christmas around the corner. A limited run or something…

Hmm. There is somebody from Sony here somewhere….

Do you have any more live dates coming up?

I’ve got a few coming up over summer, a few Prides and a couple of outdoor festivals like this over the summer. Hopefully in the future there’ll be more but I’m going back into Steps world. It’s been a gradual little drip but very soon I’m sure it will be full on.

Are you looking forward to going back into Steps world?

Yeah I am. The good thing about Steps is, especially doing shows like this, that you know the people there are going to know the material. That always makes me feel better and always makes me feel a bit more confident in the fact that we’ve been established for such a long time that it’s not going to be a case of people going, ‘who are they?’ That’s my worst nightmare.

People really, really love Steps. There’s so much love out there for you…

We’ve been really, really lucky. We really have been very lucky and there’s plenty of reasons for them not to stick with us because we did nothing for such a long time. People that were fans first time round have got really fond memories of why they were Steps fans and why they liked us and why they enjoyed our music and what it did for them. Even if it was just the nights out that they had or getting ready to Steps for a night out. A lot people say it helped them through coming out or even being just a little bit different. We hear that story a lot. We didn’t necessarily fit in with the crowd when we first started. People did turn their noses up at us a little bit because we weren’t cool but we didn’t apologise for not being cool… we were what we were. I think a lot of people really related to that in terms of their journey and their stories thinking, ‘well if they can just go out there and be proud to wear bright yellow on a TV show then I’m proud to not quite fit in with the in-crowd, that’s fine’. That always makes me feel proud of what we’ve done as a band when people say that to use, it’s always really nice and we hear it quite a lot.

Well all these years on you’re still selling out arenas so who’s having the last laugh now?

Exactly! When people hear the stats… I think that people just don’t realise what we did, the tickets we sold, the albums and the records that we sold. It was a very different era, I know that, but there’s not many people that can say they sold over 22 million records especially a British act. We did that in a very short period of time. I’m very happy with our journey and what we did and I’m a very strong believer of everything happens for a reason. I’m glad we split when we did because I don’t think we would still be here doing it now. It’s better now than it ever was.

Claire Richards’ debut solo album My Wildest Dreams is available now. Watch the video for Shame On You below:

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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