The Shires, made up of Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle, are the biggest country act to come out of the UK in a long time and boy, are they taking the UK by storm! From major success on Radio 2 to their own headline tour this year, this group cannot be underestimated. In March of this year, they were the first UK country act to make it into the mainstream UK album charts’ Top 10 with their debut album Brave.
With their next single, All Over Again, propelling them even further into the realms of success, Danielle Smith caught up with Crissie to discuss The Shires’ journey so far and where they are headed next.
Country music, as a genre, is changing so much; how would you describe your musical style?
Well, the two of us would say we are very much country-pop. We absolutely love the storytelling and the honesty behind country music. But we were quite conscious not to go too overboard on the country side so we found a middle ground which we feel is really working at the moment.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
My gran taught me all the old songs so I was brought up listening to Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Lynn Anderson, Willie Nelson and I still sing all of those songs with her. And then as I was growing up, the 90’s was more LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain, Martina McBride and Faith Hill; I was into the big vocalist singers, the female singers within country music. The two of us are really inspired by Brad Paisley and his lyrics; we love Tim McGraw’s songs. The Civil Wars are a massive influence for us, as well as Lady Antebellum.
What has been the best moment of your journey so far?
There have been so many incredible moments! Country2Country this year was just off the scale, there was just so much buzz and so many more people. That was a massive moment for us, we couldn’t believe there were so many fans out there that wanted to consume this music.
And, of course, Country2Country this year was the weekend you found out you’d made the Top 10 as well…
Yeah, that was just absolutely crazy, to be on that stage and find out that we’d just gone Top 10 and we had just shy of 20,000 fans in the audience, everybody that had helped us to achieve that; we feel like it was just all of us in it together. It was just a weekend that we couldn’t really get over.
You recorded your album, Brave, in Nashville. What was it that drew you to record it there rather than in the UK?
Obviously country music is massive over in Nashville and that is the home of country; we just found, at the time, we were so new that we didn’t really know anybody in the UK that could play country music. For us, we just felt that the obvious choice was to go to Nashville and get the players that play this music every single day; they really are in a league of their own over there.
Your song Nashville Grey Skies describes your hope for a big UK country scene; how do you see the future of country music in the UK progressing?
There’s still a stereotype of country music over here that we really need to hammer out. Yes, when you go to Nashville there are still the rhinestones, there’s still the cowboy boots and there’s still the Stetsons, which is absolutely amazing and they do it so well over there but, over here, we need to make sure people aren’t thinking that that’s the only thing country music’s about. For us, its just all about the songs, we just want to hear great songs.
Your new single, All Over Again, is the 5th single from the album; what was behind the choice for this as the next single?
We’ve gone with three up-tempo songs with Nashville Grey Skies, Friday Night and Tonight and then we took a risk putting State Lines out which was the first ballad that we sent to radio. But, with All Over Again, it just feels like a real Summer song, it’s really good fun and we just wanted something up-beat that keeps people’s spirits up and it’s such a great festival number as well.
You have recently played a set at Glastonbury and you have Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza this weekend; how are you feeling ahead of that?
Really excited! We’ve really enjoyed all the festivals and Glastonbury was one of those ones where I know Ben had been a few times and every single year he’d say ‘next year I’ll be up on that stage’ and so finally it was an amazing achievement to be able to get up on that stage.
You’ve had such great support from Radio 2 since the start of your career but also with the new single; do you think it is a sign that UK audiences are much more ready to embrace country music with open arms?
Yeah, I think so. Radio 2 have really been a champion for us from before we even signed our deal with Decca; Bob Harris jumped on board really early on. And there’s so much reaction on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram of people saying ‘so pleased to hear this song on Radio 2’ so a lot of people are listening and they’re sharing the love. I think for so long we’ve been having to hide how much we love country music that, finally, we can all be proud to say ‘finally, it’s on the radio’!
It is genuinely so exciting to see a young UK country act having so much success and breaking boundaries; it holds great hopes for the future of UK country music. Catch Ben and Crissie this weekend as The Shires take the stage for Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza or catch them on the rest of their UK tour throughout the year. Brave, including current single, All Over Again, is available to buy or download now. Bring on the UK country revolution!