Since their debut single Nashville Grey Skies in 2014 The Shires have become the face of UK country music, the champions. Since then UK country music has grown and The Shires popularity has gone way beyond country music fans.
The duo have released four exceptional albums and are growing with every album.
We caught up with Ben and Crissie to discuss the album and much more!
Hi guys – how are you?
Both – We are great thank you!
Congratulations Ben to you having a third child on the way
Ben – Thank you – May 27th I think it’s like the day we come off tour or something.
Ben – Just looking at the calendar, yes it’s literally four days after we finish the tour. It’s exciting times.
It is. Going back to your last tour, we saw you in Stroud and had such an amazing time so thank you for coming! Why Stroud? Is it because of Hugh Philimore (Man behind Cornbury Festival ) taking over the venue (Subscription Rooms) or because I have been nagging you for years and you wanted to finally shut me up?
Ben – Hahaha
Crissie – Haha yes it was Hugh! He said that he thought we would go down a treat in Stroud and off the back of the first show we did there that sold out, he was straight on to booking another show. What a great crowd! I was surprised at the amount of people that came back again as well. It was quite a lot of people who had just seen us literally a couple of months before and came back again. That was really nice.
Yes we are a very music loving town so I hope you make it a regular stop.
Crissie – Yes.
Did you get to explore Stroud at all?
Ben – we did, we explored the Weatherspoons
Ben- hahaha that was a bit interesting. But there was a great Japenese place opposite the Sub Rooms which was really nice. We didn’t get much time in the day.
Crissie – Last time we got the full day there and we went to that little market there (Five Valleys). They had loads of different food stalls there which was very nice. I liked all of the hippy styled shops they had too. It seems like an artsy place.
It is. Congratulations on album 5, I can’t believe it! How does it feel?
Ben – We can’t believe it actually and that is why the album is called ’10 Year Plan’ because we had no plan basically. We have released an album every two years on average and now we are here. It feels almost like a rebirth a refresh for us. It feels like we have gone back to Brave in a way – The energy in the album, the excitement in the songs. Obviously the pandemic was quite defining in the sense that lots of songs were written during it, well all the songs were written during it but I think having that time (and we have said it before when we have had time off ) but we really did have time off this time as we couldn’t do anything and I think that made us appreciate how lucky we are to be able to do it. So there is a lot of excitement in those songs.
We are mega excited and it feels weird being back here still doing it again but we are so excited!
What kind of goals do you set yourself per album because I know Ben you in particular get very focused and in the zone.
Yeah it’s tricky isn’t it Crissie? It’s tricky because the goal posts have moved massively. When we first started with Brave and My Universe it was all about album sales and streaming was a small thing then. It was like “yeah a few streams will make up the record sales” . A lot of fans do still buy our albums but album sales are just less in general and streams are going up. Our big goal is the US, that’s still our big goal. US country radio, we want to have a song on their radio. We are very realistic, getting a hit out there is very tricky but we want to have a shot at having our songs on the radio out there. A song like Bar Without You which I wrote with Eric Paslay and Jennifer Wayne I think is the one that is really exciting for that market.
Here (UK) in terms of goals we just genuinely want to get our music heard as much as possible and maybe cross over to a bunch of new fans too. There wasn’t much of a goal with this album, we just made an album we love and people seem to be loving it because of that reason I think.
I don’t think America is unachievable at all. Your music is so suited for the market out there and I truly hope it gets its chance. It’s better than many chart toppers out there.
Crissie – Thank you. We have interviewed a fair amount of artists out there and we obviously know a few people out there now artists wise and they all know our stuff . The last album they were really excited and that was the plan, we had plans to go out there and then obviously everything shut down so we didn’t get that option and it was like pulling it from us again. We will get there sometime.
Do you critique yourself when you are writing your songs? Especially when you have recorded them and you play them back to yourself. Are you happy pretty much with the first cut or do you tend to go back and tweak songs here and there?
Ben – Yeah I am quite detailed, particularly with the sound of songs. When we first started I was very much “C’mon lets just have fun doing it” and with album three and four I would be more try and do this and try and do that, try and make it like this song. But with this album it was just fun as there was no time pressure so I just wrote and wrote and sometimes I was writing three songs a day. Peggy, I’m Sorry on the album I had already written a song that day I was quite sad about it and I said “I don’t like that song, I’m going to write another one” and I just wrote it (Peggy, I’m Sorry). I try to trust my instincts a bit more now and not listen to that inner critic too much. It is important to have that still because it can make you better but you’re just trusting that voice that if you yourself likes it, then it is probably good. There were a lot of songs. There were probably about 40 or 50 songs that we wrote for this record. Skydive for example, I just wrote it and I loved it! Maybe it’s not country maybe it is, I don’t know but I just loved it and if I love it I think other people will. There has been a lot more self belief with this record I think.
Peggy, I’m Sorry is one of my favourites.
Ben and Crissie – Aww Thank you!
It is so different and in a great way. I love the diversity on this album in general. I think it is your best album yet!
Ben- aww thank you! That song is so me. Cut Me Loose Crissie has been campaigning for to have on the record for years. That song is very Crissie and was actually written around the time of album two. That was for album two wasn’t it Crissie?
Crissie – I literally fell in love with that song. We recorded that song for the My Universe album and at the time we both had our dad songs on there (Daddy’s Little Girl and Everything You Never Gave) that we individually sang but that was a song (Cut Me Loose) that was me, just me completely singing and it wasn’t quite right for that album at the time but I think it fits really nicely on this one.
It does. As I said we love the whole album and one song that you have been playing on live shows is Side by Side. I love how theatrical that song is, very Greatest Showman. I have said for years that you need to write a musical for country music.
Ben – Do you know what I have genuinely been trying. I have a little idea going.
Ben – That is a great idea
How do you both train your voices for live shows and the studio?
Crissie – See that was the interesting thing going back into the studio (since covid) because Ben never really stopped singing and I sort of sang around the house but my voice really gets a good work out when I am on the road. Obviously the songs are hardcore all the time but actually during the pandemic when I wasn’t singing so much, I sort of discovered this much lighter side of my voice and even when we came to recording the album and there was no pressure, but then all of a sudden we had 8 weeks to finish it out of the blue and I initially thought how on earth am I going to sing all of these songs? But I guess because it’s not the same as being on the road you don’t have to put in as much effort as you do in the shows. The mic does a lot of that work for you. I did kind of rediscover this side of my voice that I had not known about. Again when we did the acoustic shows, we were back on wedges on stage and hearing my voice I feel like it has changed quite a bit for having the amount of rest that I had even though I was advised taking that amount of time off was not a good idea. I have enjoyed giving it a good old rest.
Going back to album tracks. Forever Tonight is another favourite. I don’t know if this was intended or I am completely barmy here. But I felt it had a sort of Christmas(ey) feel to it.
Ben – Hahahah you are the first person to say that but I will take it. Between Greatest Showman and Christmas songs is not a bad place to be.
With that song, I just wanted to say “how can I say that I want to spend the rest of my life with you without saying will you marry me”.
I think it’s not as an important thing to think about these days. I also think it’s romantic to say “hey, what are you doing for the rest of your life?” It’s such a lovely sentiment. I wrote that over zoom with a girl called Shells and we started at about 6pm and we just kept on going. It was very much a vibe kind of song but we were there on zoom till about 11/11.30 and I kept saying to her “do you need to go?” And she was like “no let’s keep going, let’s finish the song”.
I love those big vocals at the end. You can imagine it at a wedding, the first dance, all the family singing along and it’s Christmas of course hahahahaha.
Well that’s what I mean haha Christmas can be so romantic. I can picture a snow scened video, big fluffy coats haha. I hope you do a video like that now haha!
Ben – let’s do it haha!
What is usually on your rider?
Ben – haha
Crissie – Ooooh. It changes over the years but we had a lot beer this time around. A bottle of red wine, haribo, percy pig equivalent. Nothing too crazy. There is something that always gets left over. The grapes, the oranges, all the healthy stuff that we think we are going to eat whilst out on the road and then we get there and are like “nah, just give us the crisps”.
Ben – Hahahaha
How do you determine who is going to sing which part in a song? And how easy do your harmonies flow now? Is it just natural now?
Ben – Harmonies is pretty easy now and so is choosing the lead thing. Forever Tonight was fairly easy to know who would sing what but we just kind of do it now and we don’t think about it so much. We have been together so long that it’s just natural now.
What is Vicky (Ben’s partner’s) favourite all time song of yours?
Ben – hahaha. Gosh! She loves the new record and she loves I See Stars a lot actually. With each child we have, the level of interest of detail has gone down as she is so busy.
Crissie – The kids love them though don’t they? They love Wild Farts.
Ben – Yep haha. Wild Farts they call it. I See Farts. Haha
My son would do that too haha
Crissie – to be fair they picked up the lyrics quicker than I did. They were listening to the demos and I would come in with some lyrics and they would have it down already. They are a good tester .
Ben – Yeah River is great with lyrics he is really good. Better than Crissie haha.
Who in the celebrity world is a fan of yours that you were surprised about?
Ben – Oooh! Lewis Capaldi!
Crissie – Yeah Lewis Capaldi. I bumped into him at a Niall Horan gig. We were just stood at the back. He wasn’t performing at that show but I just happened to see him and this was before he blew up! I went up to him and said “are you Lewis Capaldi?” Nobody knew him and he was just stood there. I told him I was in a band called The Shires and he said “oh I love The Shires.” I should have at that moment said “let’s write” and we could have had a song collab. Now he is too busy probably.
Ben – Fran Kirby. She plays for England and Chelsea, she is a huge fan of ours. She is gonna bring the whole Chelsea team to a show one day hahah
Thanks so much for today guys, speak to you soon!
Both – definitely and thank you!
Pre order 10 Year Plan here
Since becoming the UK’s most successful country duo so many other artists are leading successful careers because country fans are finally giving UK country music the chance that it has long deserved. Take Kezia Gill for example who was on tour with The Shires during their last tour and will be joining them again alongside US artist Eric Paslay in April/May. Kezia is an exceptional artist and having these support slots with artists such as The Shires is incredibly important and their fans have had nothing but praise for her. Buy tickets for the tour here