The Shires

You only get one life. Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes are the IT thing in country music in the UK right now despite their duo, The Shires, having been together less than four years. Now two albums down, motivated by the joy of spreading their buoyant pop infused music has already taken them on major tours.

Their first visit to Australia late last year left them on Cloud Nine.

Sydney really turned it on for The Shires. Whale sightings, beautiful weather, a visit to the local bowls club, and the quintessential sarcasm thrown into conversation; they loved it all, I am assured by Ben as we caught up to chat about the duo’s success. Ben was able to bring his fiancé, Vicky back home (she’s from Linfield, Sydney) and introduce their toddler son, River to his Aussie roots.  “It was his first flight. A 24 hour flight and he was actually perfect!” Ben says.

Just to prove that hometowns always play some part in shaping us, the name The Shires is a mix of Ben and Crissie’s old stomping yards – Hartfordshire and Bedfordshire, close to London. “When we got together to form the duo we spoke about what country means to us and it really is three chords and the truth. We wanted that honesty and to keep that piece of England, so for us the word ‘Shire’ sums up the countryside – rolling hills.”

From quaint towns to bright lights, the two sat through three weeks of manic writing in Nashville, to produce 24 songs for their first albums.

“We’re excited by Nashville. Everyone there is positive about country music and in writing sessions. It’s infectious. And then you go back to England and people complain about the weather,” Ben laughs. “But it is nice to go home and reflect on all the music we’ve made.”

Some of that music was made with US country star, Kip Moore.

“We met Kip in the UK and we sat in Crissie’s flat and wrote ‘Drive’ for this second album. This big Southern guy looked really out of place in this little English village!” ‘Drive’, is decidedly upbeat, like many of the tracks on My Universe. Although there are a few more sombre confessionals, for the most part it sounds like Ben, Crissie and their co-writers were slap-bang in their happy place.

…read the rest in Issue 84