Music fans can enjoy some country sounds in Doncaster – thanks to a history-making Home Counties duo.
The Shires – Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes – have become the first UK country act to be signed to a major Nashville label after agreeing a deal with Universal Music Group Nashville, something Ben calls ‘the dream’.
Their songs have been gaining major radio airplay and they have just started a UK tour – which includes a show at Doncaster’s Diamond Live Lounge on St George’s Day.
Ben says: “When we first started The Shires I think a lot of people thought we were slightly crazy for wanting to do country music.
“To be, as they say, ‘the first’, it’s just great and then the fact we got to make the album out there in Nashville as well – it’s all been a bit of a dream.”
The duo flew to Nashville, the homeland of country music, to immerse themselves in their sound.
“We signed our record deal in February and literally went out to Nashville two weeks later to do some writing which was just crazy and amazing,” says Ben. “We were there for seven days and had six sessions, so pretty much a session a day,
“We got to hang out with a couple of the cast from the TV show Nashville as well, with Sam Palladio who plays Gunner and is actually English, and Chaley Rose who plays Zoe.
“We got to see Grand Ole Opry which is a great venue out there which features in the TV show quite a bit.”
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The Shires made the most of the Nashville experience, writing in the daytime and enjoying the social scene at night.
Ben says: “There’s a place called the Whisky Kitchen. They’ve a really famous drink out there called the Fireball, which is whiskey and cinnamon, so doing that all night was great fun.”
A month later and they were back in Tennessee to record the album.
Ben says: “The interesting thing is I only discovered country music about three years ago and at that point I’d really had enough of music
“I wasn’t getting anywhere with my songs – I wasn’t writing great songs and was frustrated and discovering country just gave me a new lease of life as a songwriter.
“I met Crissie after that and everything from that moment two years ago has just been really easy.
“Writing and making music and being with Crissie is really liberating. She’s such a great singer and really inspires me and in many ways she’s a lot more ‘country’ than I am, she’s been doing country for years. So it just feels great.”
However, despite the time in Tennessee, the pair are British Home Counties through and through and are looking forward to celebrating England’s patron saint in Doncaster.
“I live in Bedfordshire and travelling is amazing obviously, but it’s always nice to come home,” says Ben.
“The band name is really important for us, we were trying to think of a word that sums up ‘UK country’ and that was the countryside.
“When Chrissy was at university and she’d be going home she’d say ‘I’m going back to the Shires’, that kind of thing, and that’s why we chose the name.”
A song on their new album, Brave, is dedicated to home.
“It’s called Made in England and is about all the things we love about being English and British,” Ben says.
“We talk about fish and chips and pints and grey skies and stuff and we’re very proud to be from here.
“To be in America when you see how proud they are to be American, that’s something we feel we don’t do as much over here generally, we don’t appear proud to be British all the time when we think we should be.”
As well as playing Doncaster’s Diamond Live Lounge on Thursday, April 23, The Shires are touring the UK. For tour dates, please visit www.theshiresmusic.com/tour. For tickets to see them in Doncaster, visit diamondlive.co.uk
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