Interview: Talking to Shane Richie about his album ‘A Country Soul’ , his favourite country artists and more

For many people, Shane Richie is best known for his role as Alfie Moon on Eastenders, for me, I always knew him as being the presenter on 90’s tv show Caught In The Act.  A man that always made me laugh as a child, I was quite intrigued when I heard that he was releasing a country music album.

Shane is not a newcomer to music as he has starred in various shows including Grease as well as releasing albums and playing in bands for years. Now I say that I was intrigued by Shane ‘s country album but I wasn’t surprised that he was making one. Regular country music concert goers in the UK would have often seen Shane out and about at various gigs especially Darius Rucker ones. Like us UK fans, Shane has a passion for country music and would love nothing more than to share his love of the genre with pretty much everyone. I am sure many can relate when I say that I have tried to convert pretty much everyone I have ever met into country music but how many people actually take it on board and go and look for that music that was recommended to them?

Shane is taking that passion and those recommendations and putting them into his own voice that he knows will be heard by his fans and not via conversation but by covering some of his favourite country stars and putting it in an album. Shane, much like us fans wants to get these songs and artists recognised by those unfamiliar with country music or those who have misconceptions about what the genre sounds like. A Country Soul is more than just a covers album though as is more of an introduction to where Shane is at musically right now and an area he wishes to pursue further with his own material. A Country Soul has three original tracks as well as covers but I will save discussing that on the album review.

I caught up with Shane to discuss his album, his love for the country genre and his original material. I have interviewed many artists but I must say that Shane has become one of my favourites. Shane was so lovely, funny and generous with his time that I could have honestly spoken with him for hours about country music as he was so knowledgeable. We all love it when we find someone to talk to about our crazed obsession right? This is what chatting to Shane was like – bumping into someone and finding a mutual passion for country music and then not shutting up for hours about it and happily so.

I hope you enjoy!

Hannah Compton

Pre order A Country Soul by Shane Richie here

Hi Shane, how are you?

Hello sweetheart, you ok?

I am great thanks. How has your week been?

Yeah, it’s been good. It’s been a strange week but it’s been alright. It’s like the calm before the storm.

So you are about to release your Country album –A Country Soul. What made you decide to release a Country album – and why now?

I have been playing with bands for years. When I was in EastEnders, at the weekends -if I wasn’t filming – I would go out and play. I was always writing in my dressing room, and driving some of the cast mental, because I had a keyboard and a guitar in my room so any chance I got, I was constantly writing. Then I got a group of musicians together, about two or three years ago – different from the band that I had had for a while – and then I started funding an album. I have always loved Country music – not so much the older stuff – but I grew up in clubs in London, as my dad used to run Irish clubs, so I used to listen to a lot of traditional Irish country. Then I kind of got hooked on writing and I became pals with Darius Rucker.

We love Darius!

Yeah, from Hootie and the Blowfish – and I was a big fan of them back in the nineties. We became friends, so I have kind of followed his career and about three years ago, I started funding my own album. I was kind of taking what I was doing with with my live band with songs like Love The One You’re With and Drift Away – but putting in a steel pedal to give it a new feel. The record company kind of said two years ago, when I was playing with my band, maybe I should do an album.
I think Bradley Walsh opened up the hornets’ nest if I am honest, but their idea of Country was very different to mine; they had this idea of me doing Islands In The Stream.

I said that’s not what I want to do, so I played them some of the stuff that I did want to do: Jon Pardi, Rascal Flatts, Pat Green, that kind of stuff. Bless them, they had not really heard much of that because you have to go and find that stuff over here. Unless you listen to Bob Harris or Chris Country, I don’t know where else you’re going to find it.

Well, exactly!

Then I sat and played them some of the stuff I was writing and they really liked it. It was kind of like three years in the making; ideally I would have liked to have done a whole album of originals, but we did a great version of Nik Kershaw’s I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.

Yes, I have heard it, it’s really good!

Oh, have you heard it?

Yes, I have heard the whole album, and I am really enjoying it.

Have you heard the whole album?

Yeah!

Oh, wow! Thank you.

I really liked the Rascal Flatts cover – and I’ll tell you why; because it was nice to hear the song in a different tone, a lower tone.

Oh, that’s really kind of you, thank you. I’ll tell you what’s interesting – my son is the lead singer of Rixton, who are managed by Scooter Braun – who is now looking after Rascal Flatts.

Oh, wow!

He also looks after Dan + Shay. It’s interesting now how Country music is once again evolving, with people like Sam Hunt – and I went to see Drake White at The Borderline.

Yes, I was there too.

Were you there? He was fantastic, wasn’t he?

I love him, he is amazing.

I’ve kept in touch with him; we’ve swapped details and I said when we get a chance we can maybe do some writing together, so who knows, who knows?

That would be great. As you said, Country is evolving and here in the UK it’s finally getting a bit more recognition. I think I’m finally getting past people saying to me ‘Oh so you like Cotton Eye Joe?’

Hahahahaha, yeah! As soon as I said I was doing a Country album they said ‘Oh, are you going to do Achy Breaky Heart?’

Hahaha, typical Britain! We are getting there, though.

I still think when I said to people that I am going to do a Country album, they have also said are you going to do Kenny Rogers? I’m constantly explaining myself and then when I sit down, someone says ‘Oh, you know Jon Pardi?’ and I said ‘Let me play you my version.’ Then they have gone and listened to a Jon Pardi album, and from that they have then gone on to listen to Midland, and then to Old Dominion, and so on. So even if people don’t like my album but go, ‘Well I like the song, but I am not a fan of the bloke who played Alfie Moon’ it has kind of slightly opened the door for people to go ‘You know what, I actually quite like this style of music.’, so who knows? Who knows, Hannah?

So this is what I’ve been saying. Your audience might not necessarily be Country fans but maybe if they like the song they may look up the original artist.

Exactly!

And actually that’s great for Country music, as it’s a niche market over here still.

As well as covers, you’ve also got some self-penned tracks on the album. Tell us a bit about them – and were you nervous about putting them out there, or just excited?

No, I’m really excited. I love Shut Up, (‘Cause All I Want Is You). A friend of mine is out in Nashville next week and he is a DJ and will hopefully try and get a push to play it out there. That’s the one that I wrote with my son Jake who is in Rixton. Also I co-wrote one called That Bottle Ain’t Your Friend, which of course is like I want to tip a hat to the old ‘cheers and beers’ kind of song – but also wanted to make it personal to me. Also with 22 Gardens – that one I wrote whilst I was on tour earlier this year. It was all about a guy who is in his mid fifties who is reminiscing about what would happen if you bumped into your first love; someone you met when you were like ten or twelve and left a big impression on you. It’s all about seeing them again after like, forty years. That sort of stuff is where my head is when I am writing but I can only write that kind of stuff now because I am at an age where I can look back and go “ Oh, I remember when all of this happened. “

Well, that’s what Country music is all about; the story telling, the honesty.

And that’s why I love it – and as an actor, I think it’s wonderful storytelling.

Oh, it is. Have you ever been to a Songwriter’s Showcase?

No – and you know I just missed out on going to the one at Country 2 Country. I got invited down – and I know Drake White was at that one – but I was filming in Southampton and was gutted that I couldn’t make it.

Ahh, well – hopefully you can make the next one at C2C next March.

That’s right, yeah!

I have a feeling we may have Shane McAnally and Natalie Hemby, but it hasn’t been announced so that is just a guess.

Wow, that would be good.

Well, Midland will be over and Old Dominion as well as Kelsea Ballerini, so I am guessing Shane will, as he works with them and others on the bill.

Yeah. I am going to see Cadillac Three do a show with Brothers Osborne.

That will be amazing – Brothers Osborne alone could sell the same venues.

I absolutely love Brothers Osborne. Midland are also over in March and then Old Dominion with Thomas Rhett.

Yeah!

How would you describe yourself as a songwriter? You said earlier, the story telling and about being at an age to look back – but did you want to add anything to that?

With my band, when we were backstage in pubs and clubs, we would always sit down and try and write together, so I love collaborating.

I love the idea of sitting and writing a song of my own, but then again I’m not confident enough to go like ‘There you go.’ and put that out to the world. I’m always looking for someone else to collaborate with and therefore I was working with my brother, and my son – also Nick Southwood.

It is a bit of a tickle, but I would love to be able to go to Nashville and do a bit of work with some writers there.

Well most of the Country artists, if not all of them, co-write

They do, don’t they? Do you know what is interesting as well? They are happy to write for someone else – no one is precious about it.

Exactly.

I didn’t realise that Taylor Swift had written for Little Big Town with Better Man.

She seems to be the Queen of songwriting.

Not a lot of people realise she writes her own stuff – and she is a phenomenal writer.

But the beauty of it is, it’s so simple – but the hard part is making it simple. One of my favourite writers is Darius Rucker and I just love that he writes in a way that makes it look simple – and that is hard to do. But it isn’t as easy as you think; getting the right word under the right chord all underneath the right harmony. It is all just thought about beautifully, and that is what I love about it.

Well, often that is where the co-writers come in, to tidy it up. Taylor Swift for example, pretty much has the whole song and will call in someone like Liz Rose to just tweak it slightly.

Yeah.

Speaking of Darius, and the other covers that you selected on the album; with the process of recording a cover – is it hard to get permission, or is it quite simple?

It is so funny, because I have loved Wagon Wheel for a long time but it has not been covered as many times as people think. People kept saying “Oh, he is doing a Darius Rucker song.’ and I was like ‘No this is a Bob Dylan , Old Crow Medicine song, which two of them merged in for a movie many years ago’. I actually did a cover a couple of years ago of a Darius Rucker song called I Got Nothin’ which didn’t make it on this album. I would quite happily cover all his songs; anyway, I sent it to him and I had actually put a different slant on it and he absolutely loved it. He also sent me his new album about a month ago, which I have been playing to death. So I am going to send him a copy of mine for his approval.

Funnily enough, on I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, which is of course an eighties classic , which he had played at my wedding , I said ‘Hey Nik, do you want to get involved?’ He was a little bit reluctant, coz I think what we sent him was a very early version which kind of didn’t sound like it does now and I think he was concerned that we may be slightly taking the piss a bit. But since then he heard my version of Wave On Wave, which he liked, and in hindsight I think he may have liked to have got involved, but it was then too late. We did manage to get Bobby Valentino on the fiddle – who played the fiddle on The Bluebells’ Young At Heart – to play on I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, so there is a little tip on the hat to eighties music, too.

Good; well it’s a great selection of covers and I love Wave On Wave, although I am ashamed to admit, as a Country fan, that I was unfamiliar with the original, and at first assumed was your own song.

Thank you. The record company, when I sent them Wave On Wave, thought I had written it, too – because you know, you have got to go looking for that stuff. Unless you’re a big Country fan, you are never going to hear it. I do know my stuff and who knows, if and when I get to do my second album I would like to team up with some of these people.

Would you like to do more self-penned songs on a second album?

Definitely, if there is a second album! At the same time, there are still some great songs that I want to cover.

I think that this is the country to do it in too, because Country isn’t so big. It is a way to get this music out there and I am pleased that, because of you, these songs will be heard by other people, and perhaps other artists, too.

I hope so and even if they are not a fan of mine, like we said, they may just go ‘Well, I like this.’ and go listen to the original.

I saw you at a Darius Rucker show a few year ago; what do you think of his live shows?

Oh, he is incredible. You’re taking me back to Hootie and The Blowfish and I remember talking to Darius about this in Manchester. He’s a big Country fan and if you listen to some of Hootie’s stuff, there is a real Country feel to some of it.

Oh, I agree – and I was a huge fan as a teenager, as that was kind of my scene back then.

Let Her Cry is pretty much a Country song.

Yeah, he did that live at Country 2 Country.

Yes, he did.

Any plans to go on stage with him when he returns?

Oh, you know what? I heard he might be coming over in November – but just for a pleasure trip. But I think he will be over here next summer, who knows?

Who else are you listening to in Country Music?

Darius sent me an EP of a singer Adam Doleac; he has been writing for Darius and has a song called Shady and it’s brilliant. Jake Owen I have been listening to and have been playing Spark by Drake White to death; I just play that to death

Wasn’t his Borderline show out of this world?

Oh, it was brilliant, brilliant!

Any plans to go to Nashville?

I did a documentary for BBC for Children In Need with Josie Lawrence and we drive through Nashville. I would love to do a documentary and talk about how Country music has evolved into what it is today, but it won’t be till next year – if it happens.

You can call it ‘It’s not all Islands In The Stream’.

Hahaha, exactly (sings) “and my granny died on a railway track” hahahaha!

As I say, I love the album and I think it will do well and I think you will be responsible for bringing some new fans into Country music.

That’s very kind of you, Thanks, Hannah.

I also really enjoyed the self-penned ones and they fit in very well with the covers – it wasn’t obvious which ones were yours and which ones weren’t.

That’s very kind of you, thank you, Hannah.

Oh, you’re very welcome. Good luck with the release and thanks for talking to me today – and I hope to see you live soon.

Cheers, darling!

 

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