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Steps’ Claire Richards: It’s taken time to feel this confident

In good
who made
her name
with Steps
(below), is
solo more
than ever

What can you tell us about your forthcoming album — is there a general theme?

No, I just wanted to record songs I’d enjoy listening to myself. It was important that lyrically it all made sense to me, as a 41-year-old wife and mother, that I’d be singing the songs. There are love songs, break-up songs, the single [On My Own, out now] is quite life-affirming. They’re all good songs with good lyrics and melodies.

You previously said your weight gain affected your confidence when it came to releasing solo material. How much of a part did that play?

I’m not an overly confident person anyway, whether it was to do with the weight or anything [Richards lost six stone last year]. I’d never felt strong enough to put myself in a position where I could fail at stuff and no one likes to be criticised. So it seemed daunting to go out and sing without Steps. It’s taken a long time to get to the point I’m at now. I’m happy in myself in all aspects of my life and I feel confident enough regardless of what I look like. And I feel I’m singing better than I have ever done. It’s a culmination of a lot of things, not just what I look like or my weight.

You’re touring. Will you include any numbers from the Popstar To Operastar show?

I don’t know about that but there will be surprises. That show is one of my favourite things I’ve done. It was the beginning of me wanting to get back into singing. I hadn’t sung for years. It sparked everything off again and taught me so much about my voice. Opera singers have to train for years just to get to the bottom rung of the ladder in their careers. Even learning a little bit of that helped me a massive amount. I loved it.

The album’s called My Wildest Dreams. What was your last dream about?

I tend not to remember them unless they’re a nightmare. Those are usually about the house falling down or being chased and hiding under a bed.

How do you think your old bandmate Faye Tozer will do on Strictly?

She’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to get down there and watch her.

Is being in Steps dancing good preparation for ballroom dancing?

For me, no. Whenever we’ve had to dance with partners, I can’t do it. My partner always had to pick me up and plonk me along to get me from A to B because I couldn’t do it properly. Faye has a dancing background and picks things up very quickly. I can’t wait.

But people moan if contestants have dance experience…

I know but in our business you’d be hard pushed to find people who don’t have any dance experience at all. Even actors will have had dance lessons at stage school. And it would make it boring if everyone on the show was rubbish. People need to chill out — it’s a TV show, at the end of the day.

You’ve done Celebrity MasterChef. Would you fancy doing Bake Off?

I do like to bake. I’ve been making these things that are a hybrid between a cookie, a brownie and a meringue which I’m very pleased with. I’d love to do Bake Off but if it’s anything like Celebrity MasterChef it’d be terrifying. I take my time when I cook and I struggled with the time limit on MasterChef. There’s a lot of pressure.

Is it helpful when Gregg Wallace sneaks up and asks what you’re doing?

No it isn’t. I made a cheesecake and put fresh raspberries on it. He asked why I’d washed the raspberries. I was left thinking, ‘What’s he asked that for?’ It puts you on edge. You always think you’ve done something wrong.

My Wildest Dreams is out on Nov 2. Richards tours the UK in December and is at the Union Chapel on Dec 6,