In the new issue of Music Week, we catch up with record-breaking UK country stars The Shires as part of our Nashville special. Last year they cemented their reputation as the fastest-selling UK country act ever when both of their albums went gold in the space of 12 months, with 2015’s debut Brave selling 157,158 to date according to Official Charts Company data and 2016’s My Universe on 131,013. And with their new record, Accidentally On Purpose, Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes – with help from their manager Steve Morton and Decca’s Rebecca Allen – intend on taking UK country global.
In the interview, Earle and Rhodes outline how Accidentally... - which is set for release on April 20 via Decca - sees them collaborate with a cabal of Nashville’s most elite hitmakers including Chris DeStefano (Carrie Underwood), Jeff Cohen (Sugarland, Big & Rich and Jimmy Robbins (Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum). In particular, the duo say they’ll be taking their sound in a more uptempo direction.
“The first two albums, especially the last album, there were really introspective songs but we’re both just having fun, and we want our fans to have fun,” explained Earle of the album’s governing logic. “When we see people come to shows, we love being able to play the more uptempo numbers.”
We had the dream to say, 'We love country music!' That people are validating it is just amazing
Crissie Rhodes, The Shires
In opening their sound up to new influences, The Shires are well-poised to become the first UK country act to break in the States, yet are quick to stress that this will not be at the expense of losing sight of their home or other locations.
“Streaming has changed everything, markets have opened up that before were not an option for many acts,” said The Shires manager Steve Morton. “The US is always the dream ticket as it’s the home of country so it’s always key the band spend so much time over there. However, we made good inroads in Australia and Germany last time around so we’ll focus there first. And what about Asia? South America? The market is changing and we are looking to take them everywhere.”
“We don’t ever want to lose the UK,” added Earle. “History is littered with people who decide, ‘Let’s go and break America!’ and then forget about home.”
While The Shires aren’t exactly playing down their hopes for a No.1 album – something that has so far eluded them - they are more interested in other measurements of success.
“We had the dream to say, 'We love country music!',” said Rhodes. “To think that people are validating it is just amazing.”
“We focus on performing, going out to fans, and hearing their feedback, what they enjoy and what they’re not enjoying,” she continued. “Seeing more and more people show up, looking at the venues that we get to perform at. The tour is 21 dates, we’re on the road for about a month, that’s amazing to do the UK for that amount of time. That’s how we measure it.”
Our Shires feature is just part of our huge Nashville special. Elsewhere in the issue, ahead of her highly-anticipated headline performance at this year’s Country To Country Festival, we speak to Kacey Musgraves, her manager Jason Owen and Decca’s Rebecca Allen about her new album Golden Hour. Elsewhere, the promoters of C2C talk about the exponential growth of the genre in the UK and we give a detailed report on how Nashville become the songwriting capital of the world. There’s also a masterclass in songwriting from country legend Brett James, we also present 5 top country and Americana acts to keep an eye out for in 2018 and “whispering” Bob Harris takes on The Aftershow.
[Photo: Ryan McLemore]