Think Country had an interview with duo The Shires. We talked about their debut album, ‘Brave’ which is set for release next month, the upcoming Country to Country festival, and also got their thoughts on how country music is perceived here in the UK.
How are you? It’s been ages
Crissie: Yeah, I’m good thank you
So you went to LA to film the video for ‘Friday Night’
Crissie: We did, literally before Christmas. We were so excited to go over there. Just the whole video was so much fun. It really felt like we having a great time on a Friday Night and it was a brilliant place to shoot it.
Ben: We also ended up at this party in the hills as well! Which was just crazy
Can you give a date for the video release?
Crissie: The video will be live on the 16th January. So not long.
That was the first video you did in the States wasn’t it?
Ben: Yeah, I mean ‘Nashville Grey Skies was sort of done in the States because we took the camera with us. But it was the first proper video we’d done with you know, American people and sunshine and stuff!
Has your music had any expose in the US yet? Or are you concentrating on the UK first?
Ben: We recorded the album out there and we met quite a few writers out there as well. But in terms of releasing it. It was always our plan, we wanted to establish ourselves here first before going out there. Our big dream as we’ve always said is for country music to be bigger over here and we want to be a part of that so it makes sense it do it over here first.
Of course. We have have C2C now where you played the pop up stages last year. Any plans to play C2C again or smaller festivals?
Crissie: We haven’t been told anything about C2C just yet but we’re hoping we will be there! They also have the stages now in the Netherlands, Ireland and up in Glasgow. Just to see the movement of country music over here, not only in the UK but Europe, is really exciting.
Ben: I think for us as well, last year we didn’t really know anyone when we played there in a country scene. Since then we’ve become really good friends with Ward Thomas and Dexeter.
Even if we’re not asked to play we’ll definitely be there hanging out with our friends. It’s such a great community and if we weren’t there we’d feel like we were missing out on the party!
Speaking of Ward Thomas, you went on tour with them at the back end of last year. And you’re supporting Little Big Town next month.
Are you looking forward to that? And how does it feel to be supporting an established US act?
Crissie: It’s absolutely amazing that we get to perform, well support Little Big Town. I remember watching them at the Country to Country festival the first year. They absolutely blew me away with their harmonies. They really were amazing and put on a big show. It’s a real honour to support them and go round the country with them. We’re very excited about it. There’s some pretty big venues – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, the O2 up in Glasgow – but they are also intimate at the same time which is always lovely to play.
The album is out next month, finally, it’s been a long time coming. Why did you choose the title ‘Brave’?
Ben: I think it was Crissie that said, why don’t we just call it brave.
Crissie: It was one of the first songs that Ben had sent to me and that song seems to connect with so many people. Those words that Ben had written in his bedroom or wherever not only relate to us but relate to every single one of our fans as well which kind of brings a community spirit.
Also on another side it’s quite a brave move, we feel as country musicians here in the UK, to be bringing out country music.
Ben: When we first started the amount of people, even our manager, couldn’t guarantee that we were going to get anywhere as it’s quite a big risk trying to do a country album in the UK.
It’s definitely a brave move for both of us because we weren’t young anymore should we say! We got to a point where we needed this to work otherwise I, myself would have had to try and do something else because I couldn’t get by. It felt like the last roll of the dice and I think it was quite a brave move to start The Shires. Like Crissie said it just sums up the last year and a half really. And hopefully everything going forward.
Hopefully you’ll be really successful and take your music over to the States. And worldwide really. I mean Australia for example has got a huge country base.
Crissie: Yeah we feel like the UK is possibly the hardest market of all territories in the world because Australia is massive on country, Europe are big country fans and so is America obviously. The UK don’t seem to latch on to it as well. but the response we have had has been absolutely amazing and not what we expected at all.
People bring their friends along to our gigs they say they don’t really like country music. I don’t know whether the price of the gig is accessible for them to come to not knowing if they like country music or not, then they get there and they love the sound. It’s not what they thought country was. It’s nice to be able to convert people to our genre!
I think there’s always been a misconception of country music here in the UK. A lot of people think cowboys, boots and honky tonks.
Crissie: We still appreciate all of that, but it’s definitely evolved since then as well.
How do you feel an artist, for example, like Taylor Swift has helped country’s reputation here in the UK? Do you think she’s helped make it cool and make young people listen?
Ben: Undoubtedly, she’s incredible. We went to see her at the O2, and I think when anyone gets that big, for some reason people will start to question whether they are good or not. It’s a really weird thing. We went and watched her and she was incredible. She played the piano, the guitar, the banjo, she danced, she sang. She did about 2 or 3 songs just by herself in the middle of the O2. I know a lot of people have made a big deal about her not being country anymore but a lot of those early songs, something like ‘Love Story’ is just genius. That whole song and the performance is just genius, and definitely got me more into country. And I’m sure it got loads of young people into it. I think she has made it cool because she is cool I think.
Crissie: Yeah she’s the one person when the UK try and relate us to somebody, for some reason she’s the obvious one. They’ll say an early Taylor Swift. They kind of know Lady Antebellum if you sing the song, but they don’t know their actual name. So it’s interesting to see that we were likened to Taylor Swift.
A lot of people will know ‘Need You Now’ by Lady Antebellum and I think that’s literally the only song they know.
Crissie: Yeah, but you have to sing it to them.
They are coming back to London to play this year’s Country to Country festival.
Crissie: I need to get my tickets to go and see every single day and I want to go to the songwriters session too!
The songwriters session sounds really cool.
Crissie: Yeah, we missed that one last year but so many people raved about how great it was to go and watch the Striking Matches and Martina McBride talk about how they write their songs. Even if you’re not a songwriter it’s just interesting to see how these big stars write.
Speaking of songwriting how many tracks have you wrote/co-wrote on the album?
Ben: I think all of the songs we’ve written or co-written, we covered ‘Islands In The Stream’ which made the deluxe version.
Crissie: And ‘Young Hearts’ as well.
Ben: Everything else has been a combination of Crissie and I writing, a couple of songs I’d written by myself. There’s a few that were co-writes. We have one song that we wrote in Nashville with a writer out there. So there’s quite a mixture.
It’s nice for us when we listen to it as each song has a real identity and a personality from where it was written. For example ‘Brave’ was written way before The Shires, like, years before. You can’t really tell as a listener but for us there’s definitely a big story behind every song. Whenever I listen to each of the songs it really takes me back to that place. The song ‘All Over Again’ for example was the first song we’d ever wrote together just by ourselves. You just remember every part of the album and we’re really proud of it.
Crissie: It’s exciting to bring the album out you know because we have got songs on there that we’ve never performed live. So if people have been to every single one of our gigs that we’ve done they still wouldn’t have heard these songs – There’s some cheeky little songs on there that you won’t already know!
I had a listen in the car yesterday and to hear the songs how they were recorded back when we were in Nashville, because obviously we were on tour for a month so got used to hearing them from tour. Then to hear the all little parts that were added in from the Nashville musicians, they just absolutely brought the songs to life they really did.
You recorded the vocals in Sweden is that correct?
Crissie: We did a couple of tracks, ‘Made In England’ and ‘Young Hearts’ were recorded as pretty much single takes I think in Nashville. We wanted some of the songs to be recorded out there and then we recorded the rest of the tracks in Sweden.
If you ever release your music in the US I think ‘Made In England’ would make a perfect introduction. Because it just says everything you are, you’re ‘Made In England’!
Ben: We played that live when we supported the Striking Matches and it was such a great moment. I don’t think we are proud enough sometimes over here to say how proud we are to be British.
Crissie: Everyone started giggling at the lyrics. We didn’t write them as funny, comical lyrics. It was funny how people really related to your fish and chips, the cold pebbled beach and a milky cup of tea. It was funny to hear everyone’s reaction to that, it’s not what we expected.
I’m very surprised you didn’t call the album ‘Made In England’ I think that would have been quite fitting.
Crissie: That was like the first thing that came up. but as much as we are made in England and most of the songs were written in England, the album was recorded in Nashville. So we couldn’t claim that it was made in England.
Ben: Made in Nashville and Sweden [Laughs]
There’s also a lot of albums that are ‘Made In England’ actually. We thought it was really original. We Googled it and found there were quite a few. I think Elton John had one.
Aww, were you slightly disappointed?
Ben: Yeah, it’s always the way now when you write a song nowadays, I always Google it to check that someone else hasn’t written it!
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Crissie and Ben for taking the time to chat. I also wish to thank Steve and Caroline at Decca, as without them this interview wouldn’t have been possible.
Written by Claire-Louise