Steps have operated in their own sparkly pop bubble for more than 20 years, so when the group announced last week that they’d lined up their first ever collaboration for their next single, the reaction was a mix of excitement and trepidation. Who, in all honestly, could step into their world?
The addition of Michelle Visage to Heartbreak In This City – a standout from the group's latest album What The Future Holds – is a brilliant curveball moment that also makes complete sense. As a member of former girl group Seduction, a judge on RuPaul's Drag Race and a longtime Stepper, few people are better qualified. We caught up with Michelle and Faye Tozer to find out how it all came together.
We’re going to be completely honest with you both: the concept of a Steps collaboration has been a lot to get our heads around.
Faye: “I don’t think we ever really seriously considered a collaboration with anyone. When you have a band with five members already, it’s like, where do you go with that? But this was just so much fun, it was literally just a matter of asking each other, ‘Shall we do this?!’
Michelle: “As a big Steps fan, I was like, ‘Could this happen? Will this happen?’. When I got the email I was like, ‘Do you think I even need to answer that? Of course, this is a no brainer.”
Faye: “For Steps, we need something for us to have fun with as well. We’re all big fans of Michelle and we’ve all crossed paths in different ways. It feels like a proper collaboration as well. It’s nice to get somebody coming straight in at the beginning with us, and then there’s the diva of Michelle coming in at the end and like just like, come on! It’s like Michelle is the sixth member.”
Michelle: “Hey, I’m a Stepper!”
Michelle, we know you’re a singer, but how did it feel hearing yourself back on this kind of mainstream pop record?
Michelle: “I’ve done plenty of mainstream Top 40 records, but it’s been a long time. For me, it was more about how I was going going to fit in with an iconic-sounding group. My voice is very different to their sweet voices. I remember recording my vocals and making sure I wasn’t too loud and show-tuney – I had to remember the pop-ness in my voice and cultivating that. I just decided to let go and trust that the producers knew what they were doing. I can hear when I come in and out of the track, but I feel like I blend in really well with them – I definitely feel like Michelle from Steps now.”
Could this persuade you to embark on making your own record?
Michelle: “It’s something I’ve been asked over the years and I’ve always been that person who has never worked without producers giving me songs. I’ve written a few lyrics over the years, but I’m not a songwriter. If the song doesn’t move me to sing it, I can’t be arsed. But with this song, I felt like I had to sing on it, so I thought, maybe I can do this? So, maybe! It’s a strong maybe.”
Faye: “I would love to hear an album of Michelle Visage. I think there’s a massive calling, I think you should seriously consider it, Michelle.
Michelle: “I guess in my mind I’m my own demise, where inner saboteurs happen and all that stuff. Who needs a fifty-year-old pop star? Maybe I should just do it – what do I have to lose?"
Important question: Is there a dance routine to Heartbreak In This City, and has Michelle been taught it yet?
Faye: “I can’t tell you anything! There’s a lots of people working on things at the moment.”
Oh come on, Faye!
Faye: “Every song that we do has choreography, and this song won’t be any different.”
Michelle: “I am ready for it baby, I was born to be the sixth member of Steps.”
Michelle, what is your favourite Steps song?
Michelle: “There are so many, but 5,6,7,8 makes everybody feel a certain way.”
A controversial choice.
Michelle: “Let me tell you, coming from a band, you have a love and hate relationship with all your songs. In Seduction, our biggest song was Two To Make It Right, and when I tell you the hackles on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear it… It’s not that I didn’t love what it was, just some of the songs you don’t love to perform.”
Faye: “Sometimes it’s difficult when you’ve thrashed out so many performances of it over the years, it’s difficult to breathe new life into them. We have to get really creative heads on when we go into the tour because we know people want to hear it, but we need to take it to another level so we can get some enjoyment out of it too.”
5,6,7,8 on the last Steps tour was all kinds of bonkers, Faye.
Faye: “Wasn’t it? We got very literal with the whole occasion. Hay bales, swinging saloon doors, Claire was wearing denim hot pants! Our next tour in November is probably going to be the most incredible thing we’ve ever done because we’ll all be so grateful to be on stage, so grateful that people are there to share it with us, and damn, we all need a good night out, don’t we?”
Speaking of which, Michelle is going to join you on stage at some point in the tour, yes?
Faye: “We’re going to get our dates together and hound her until she agrees to join us in stage.”
Michelle Visage at the O2 arena, it’s happening.
Michelle: “[Screams] Okay, count me in! I would love to get on stage with them so much. I’m not sure I could survive that; I’d be so excited.”