“We wanted the new album to be bigger and poppier” - hmv.com talks to The Shires
Things have gone pretty swimmingly for country-pop duo The Shires over the last couple of years.
Both of their albums have gone Gold in the UK and they’ve moved from tiny rooms and into venues with capacities in the thousands, but the novelty of simply being a British country act has gone.
Today Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle return with their third album Accidentally On Purpose. Recorded out in country hotbed Nashville with Kelsea Ballerini/Thomas Rhett producer Lindsay Rimes, the album sees the band embracing good time pop and even snagging a track from Ed Sheeran.
We spoke to the pair about the making of the new album and their enduring love for Nashville...
How did you want this new album to move on from what you did on My Universe?
Ben: “Our ambition when we started was just for the new album to be bigger and poppier. Country music has changed so much over the last few years. Nashville has become such a melting pot, there are so many different styles going on and people come from all over the world. We toured with Little Big Town and they’re huge across the world. We were really inspired by them, but being at their shows, it doesn’t feel like a country show, they feel like big pop and rock concerts. We liked that and we just wanted to move our sound on.”
How did you go about doing that?
Ben: “The first two albums were recorded in the same way, very much a band in a room. This one was made more like a pop record. We got one producer, who played a lot of the instruments, but also brought different players in as and when we needed them. Lindsay Rimes, the producer, had been working with a lot of the big country acts and we feel this record sits alongside them very well. We love listening to this. We play it all the time.”
When it came to recording, was there ever a possibility you would go somewhere that wasn’t Nashville?
Crissie: “No! We love being there, we don’t need any excuse to go there! We went there in October to write the album, at that point we hadn’t picked a producer, and we got put into a writing session with Lindsay. He did this amazing demo and we asked him to work with us. That was it really.”
You’ve worked with some big country hitmakers on this album, like Chris DeStefano, who has written for Carrie Underwood, Jimmy Robbins, who has credits for Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum, and the one and only Ed Sheeran. Did you end up with a lot of songs to choose from?
Ben: “We had about 40. That included some of the tracks that didn’t make the last album and some from the first one. We didn’t argue much about which tracks would make it on, the cream of the crop really stood out.”
How did you end up getting a track off Ed Sheeran?
Ben: “Our friend Sam Palladio, who you might know from the TV show Nashville, he got us tickets for Ed’s show in Nashville. We went to the show and then to the aftershow party. I was surprised Ed actually knew who we were, I introduced myself to him and he said ‘Yeah I know who you are, I’ve just pre-ordered your album’ and I had to say ‘I’m sorry Ed, I haven’t pre-ordered yours yet’!”
But you still got the song?
Ben: “Actually, an hour or two later, I looked around and I saw this girl doing a headstand over a keg of beer, drinking from the spout, being held up by Ed, and I thought ‘That looks a lot like Crissie?’. And it was!”
That’s what sealed the deal…
Ben: “He sent us a couple of songs and we loved ‘Stay The Night’. It just spoke to us."
Crissie: “It’s the only song on the album that we haven’t written. It had to be something special.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? You’ve described it as a bit more uptempo?
Crissie: “Definitely. Every single song is a lot more positive. It’s very much how we’re feeling at the moment, we’re really happy and enjoying life. Every time we speak to fans they always tell us they love the uplifting songs, a few of them have even become wedding songs!”
Ben: “There’s been a lot of going out. ‘Guilty’ and ‘Echo’ are about that, just having a great time. We were hanging out with a much younger crowd in Nashville and that really inspired us.”
Crissie: “There’s also a special song for me. I’d known this guy for about two weeks and I liked him so much that I wrote a whole song about him. What a lucky guy!”
Ben: “The song’s almost as long as your relationship with him!”
When did you settle on the title?
Ben: “It was over Christmas. I was on holiday in Australia and we were talking about titles when we could make the time difference work, it just came up in talking about it. For us, it really sums up the last five years. We had a dream of going full-time with music, but this is so, so far beyond any expectations we had. We’ve worked against the odds and it all feels like an accident, but on purpose!”
Finally, you’ve got a big UK tour coming up, but you’ve hit that moment in your career where you can’t play everything...
Crissie: “That’s how it is now.”
Ben: “We’re even considering a mini-medley for this tour.”
Crissie: “It’s really not been easy this time and I’m sure we’ll end up missing out people’s favourite songs. Sorry. But there is YouTube for that…”