“Listen, if I wanted a bank raid, I’d have done tunes from the musicals…” - hmv.com talks to Shane Richie as he unveils A Country Soul
The unexpected success of TV presenter Bradley Walsh’s debut album Chasing Dreams, which wound up being the most successful British debut album of 2016, has opened the doors for a few more TV favourites this year.
Former One Show presenter Jason Manford has already unveiled his debut album, the first effort from DIY SOS’s Nick Knowles is also out today and Walsh’s follow-up LP is on shelves a week today.
But unlike Manford, Walsh and Knowles, who’ve stuck to the musicals and the crooners, Ex-Eastenders star Shane Richie has taken his inspiration from the dirt roads of the Deep South and delivered a country record for his debut album, featuring covers by Rascal Flatts, Pat Green and Jon Pardi as well as a handful of originals.
We spoke to Richie about putting together this album and why a duet with his old co-star Jessie Wallace would have been a step too far...
How did this all come about?
“The last thing I did before I went into Eastenders in 2002 was a tour with my band. It was a covers band with the odd little original, but I loved doing it. Then all the time I was in the show at weekends I’d go out with the band, we’d play pubs, birthday parties, car parks, anywhere who’d have us. Then, after Eastenders, I moved and put together a new outfit called Shane Richie and The Prelude and we went back out on the circuit.”
“I wanted to do a bit of Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley, but the guys I was with were quite young and they didn’t want to play that stuff really. Then I started changing the musicians and I ended up with guys who were really into country, they loved Cadillac Three and Zac Brown Band and I got really into it.”
Were you recording any of this stuff?
"I tried to self-fund an album about three years ago. I wasn’t really interested in taking classics, I was more into changing things up. I’d take a song, like Paul Weller’s ‘Wild Wood’ and we’d put a fiddle underneath it, give it this Irish trad feel. It kicked on from there, we’d take anything and rearrange it, give it a country feel. Then a record company heard about that and asked if we wanted to give a load of songs from musicals that treatment…”
“Yeah. I said no to that, but I told them the kind of thing I was doing and they seemed into it. I played them the stuff I was interested in, Rascal Flatts, Pat Green, and they went along with it. Listen, if I wanted a bank raid, I’d have done tunes from the musicals, but it’s not what I want. It’s more of an acquired taste, but it’s what I do live.”
It does feel a bit like country music is on the up in the UK, though it’s not the same scale as it is in the US…
“People really underestimate it. I did this thing for the BBC and we went through Nashville and Memphis and you cannot underestimate how huge country music is. Not just in the US, around the world, the UK feels a bit like it’s dragging its heels. We’re a bit behind in the UK, the first thing people say to me when they hear I’m doing country music is ‘Oh yeah, bit of Kenny Rogers?’ and I’m like ‘F**k sake!’. You do have to go and seek out country music over here, it’s not handed to you.”
When you got the opportunity to make the album were you not ever tempted to go with the big karaoke numbers? ‘Jolene’, ‘Islands In The Stream’, that sort of thing?
“Funnily enough, a label did ask if me and Jessie Wallace, who plays Kat with me on Eastenders, would do ‘Islands In The Stream’, I won’t say which record label it was, but I walked out of that meeting.”
Do you see this record as pointing people in the right direction of the people who’ve done the originals? An introduction to modern country?
“I don’t know. I know a lot of people might be buying it for their mum rather than themselves. But, that said, if a 19-year-old hears it and picks something up, I’d love to have that. I’m not naive though, I know who my audience are, but if you’re going to bring down City Hall, you’ve got to do it from the inside.”
There’s a couple of tracks you’ve written yourself on here too…
“Yeah, there’s one I’ve done with my son Jake, who you might know from Rixton, we did one together. I wanted to do a track about a man having a midlife-crisis, and we went for it. That’s the best thing about new country, whatever you want you can say it, you can be direct. The other, ‘The Bottle Ain’t Your Friend’, it’s pretty well documented that I had a drink problem and that’s all about that and the effect it has on you. You know, I’d love to have done 12 originals, but that’s not how it works, maybe a few albums down the line…”
When did you decide on the title?
“I wanted to call it 22 Gardens. The label wanted to call it Country Roads, but then you go straight to John Denver, I’m not interested in that. It came from my producer, we were chatting and I said how much soul there was in this album, and he said ‘Country Soul. There it is...'”
Finally, if this does well, would you like to do it again?
“Oh yeah, I’d love to keep the momentum going. Me and the band had so many ideas that we didn’t get to use on this album. I’ve been listening to some of the old Bruce Springsteen tunes and I know I could do plenty with them…”