KICKING off her first solo tour in Scotland will be a very special moment for Claire Richards.
The Steps star is thrilled to have the confidence to go out on her own after a crippling crisis of confidence.
She is on the crest of a wave with the band’s recent hit arena tour, popular revival and now her own tour and forthcoming album.
And she says she’s savouring following her musical dream after hitting a devastating low point.
“Growing up, singing was all I ever wanted to do, but then I spent such a long time not doing it,” Claire, 41, said.
“After the initial success with the band I lost all my confidence. Singing became something that wasn’t really me and I lost my passion for it.
“It was partly because of the way the band came to an end. Then H and I did an album together which didn’t do very well and only charted at 50-something.
“That was the moment I said, ‘Right, I’m not doing this anymore’. I took a massive step back and when you haven’t done it for a long time you’re not sure if you’ve still got it.”
Doing ITV’s Popstar to Operastar gave Claire a boost and set her on the path to a reunion with Steps and the sell-out tours and new music.
“I realised I’d been wasting my time and the talent I had,” said Claire, who has two kids, Charlie, 11, and Daisy, eight, with husband Reece.
“Being back on stage with the band and singing those songs every night is a joy.”
The tour starts at St Luke’s in Glasgow in December and Claire insists there’s no better place to begin her solo career. “I’ll probably be the most nervous ever but I know the audience in Glasgow will be kind to me as they always are,” says Claire. “Being out there on my own is very new, but I think the music from the album lends itself to smaller venues where you can connect with the audience.”
Although Claire is spreading her wings, she’s not turning her back on the band that shifted 15 million records and won a BRIT award before their acrimonious split in 2001.
“We’ll start to record the new album next summer and it’ll be out in 2020.
“And there will be a tour then as well. We’re back together properly, which is great.
“I’ve never felt as comfortable as when we’re on stage now. We’re not sweating the small stuff anymore, which we did for such a long time. We’re stronger than we’ve ever been.”
That was evident when Claire was filmed in the training room and the front row of the studio audience giving her full support to Faye Tozer, who is one of the favourites for this year’s Strictly glitterball.
“I want everybody to know that Faye is working her backside off,” said Claire. “She struggles just as much as anybody else but she won’t let it show and she won’t give up.
“She beats herself up but I know she’s wanted to do it for a very long time and she’s the perfect one of us to be doing it.
“When I went along I clapped so hard I squished one of the rings on my finger and I shed a few tears so I looked a bit of a mess. I don’t want to jinx it, but if she’s not in the final I’ll be very surprised.”
Claire is looking in fine shape and having had weight problems in the past – at one stage she gained five stone – she says she’s happy .
“When you’ve had issues it never entirely goes away but how you deal with it and how much you care changes,” she adds. “My husband loves me, my kids love me and that’s the most important thing.”
Claire’s My Wildest Dreams tour starts at St Luke’s in Glasgow on December 2.