“When we first started out we got laughed at for wanting to do this, but we really believed in it” - hmv.com talks to The Shires
It’s fair to say that not a lot was expected from country pop duo The Shires when they released their debut album Brave in March of 2015, especially as the UK has never been the friendliest market for country music. But, as the band toured relentlessly, both here and across the pond, the album continued to sell and wound up shifting over 200,000 copies in the UK alone.
Keen to waste no time, the pair, who consist of Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes, return with new album My Universe today (you can preview and purchase it on the right-hand side of the page). We sat down with them to find out how it came together and their ambition to headline Glastonbury one day...
How did make this album compare to recording Brave?
Crissie: “It was a much shorter process, Brave took about five years to get right and this was much quicker. We didn’t write with any urgency while we toured until we went to Nashville and that’s completely different, it’s so intense. We’ve toured with Little Big Town and The Corrs in these big arenas and that really gave us a taste for those big rooms and wanting to write songs that could come to life in those places.”
What did you differently from making your debut?
Ben: “Not much really. It was the same producers and mostly the same band, in the same studio with the same engineer, so it was very continuous. We walked in feeling far more confident, we felt overwhelmed last time, but this time we were able to be more critical and ask more questions because we’ve got our own pedigree and we’ve really honed our sound. Having the same team just made the process easier. It’s still so special to record in Nashville.”
What’s it like to work in Nashville? Lots of artists seem to fall in love with the place..
Crissie: “It’s a theme park for country music, music just pours out of every door, you can go out every single night and see such great musicians. It’s such an inspiring place to be, you work with such amazing people and all these wonderful session musicians with so much experience and history. They pick things up so quickly.”
Did you get out much at night?
Ben: “There’s a lot going on, but we’ve been out there quite a few times. This was a work trip, there was no staying up all night drinking, not this time anyway!”
What kind of album is this lyrically?
Ben: “There’s a lot of really honest songs, Brave was honest, but this album goes way, way deeper. In particular the songs ‘Everything You Never Gave’ and ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ which we’ve both written about our dads and the influence they’ve had on our lives. I wrote my song for what I’d like to give to my son, well I thought it was a girl at the time, but it turned out to be a boy!”
“There are some bigger songs. We wanted there to be big moments, the title track is a really uptempo Coldplay type track, we just want to be ambitious and to keep on growing. We want to be headlining Glastonbury one day and we’ll need big songs for those kind of shows.”
Was the album always to be titled My Universe?
Crissie: “It was between two songs, it was either going to be My Universe or Common Language. We felt like My Universe summed it up, it’s a bold statement, we took a look at our lives and what our universe was made up of, we want the people who hear it to do the same.”
It really feels like country music is growing rapidly in the UK, do you feel like you’ve been a big part of that?
Crissie: “Absolutely. We’ve been totally taken aback by how well Brave did. When we first started out we got laughed at for wanting to do this, but we really believed in it. We’ve worked hard and played everywhere we could, we’ve been lucky enough to build up a great loyal fanbase and a lot of our fans have delved more into the genre of the back of it.”
What are your plans to take the record out live? You toured relentlessly for two years, will you go as hard again?
Ben: “I want to put on a great show. You can’t just sing your songs and think that’s enough. Those tours with Little Big Town and The Corrs showed me that you need to take the audience on a journey. We’re a much bigger and bolder band now and I can’t wait to get these songs out to be people, I think some of them will really move people.”
Crissie: “We’ve got a big tour in November and December and then the plan is very much to head off to America and Australia and through Europe. Festival season is always huge for us, we seem to cross a lot of age groups and bring crowds together. It’s a great feeling.”