Since the release of The Shires latest album My Universe, Ben and Chrissie haven’t stopped and have been gracing TV, Radio, Magazines and Newspapers. So I was delighted when Ben had a spare 10 minutes for a chat.
Ben on…My Universe
It’s really taken us by surprise how well it’s been received already. I mean you know, we were sort of pinching ourselves with one album, you know three and a half years ago our dream was to get out to Nashville and we made Brave very quickly but in my universe I think it’s a big step up for us in terms of the sound has definitely grown and I think a lot of that is emphasised by playing shows with people like the Corrs and Little Big Town as well so we definitely stepped up and it’s some of that , you know My Universe, Beats To Your Rhythm, 1000 Hallelujah’s it’s got a much bigger sound and you know when we played them live people have just…especially 1000 Hallelujah’s it’s sort of gone crazy…its Hallelujah….it’s just been great fun.
Ben on… Writing and Co-Writing
There is a big mixture. I come from a song writing background and I was writing literally days after we recorded Brave so Beats to your Rhythm that for example was quite an old song for us in a way, but yes that song I wrote is the with a guy Dan McDougall who’s an English writer. I also wrote with him and Nena Nesbitt who I’m really good friends with now, she’s a pop write in the UK. But then we had about three weeks in Nashville in March, and we wrote with people and there was a guy called Jeff Cohen… (Jeff is a great friend to UK country music and has written with many great artists www.jeffcohenmusic.com )
Yes everyone knows Geoff. And yes we wrote 1000 Hallelujah’s together and he also co-wrote Daddy’s Little Girl with Chrissie as well which is one of my favourites on the album.
I think that song is so personal and I think that was a big thing for us as well, apart from stepping up the sound it was also you wanted to stay on honest and stay true and what was fascinating was I started writing a song about my dad when I found out I was going to be a dad, and that was called Everything You Never Gave and then Chrissie wrote this song about her dad called Daddy’s Little Girl because her dad unfortunately passed away 20 years ago which is horrible. She wrote this song and she said “I’ve written this song about my dad…” and the weird thing was I was like “Well I’ve written a song about my dad”, we didn’t tell each other, it was complete coincidence. And we just thought they had to be on the album and they are kind of our own songs, Everything You Never Gave is very much my song and Daddy’s Little Girl is very much Chrissie’s song and I mean those two seem to be really resonating with people, particularly Daddy’s Little Girl which is a bit sweeter and there’s a lot of daughters who say “This song is just me and my dad” and also a lot of dads you know who are saying “This just makes me think of my daughter.” And what’s so nice now is because I think we’re a bit more established we have people just reaching out to us on Facebook and getting so many of these stories from people.
We had a lot on Brave definitely, particularly the song Brave a lot of people, you know it moves people but I think because these songs are a bit more up front and say it how it is. There was one guy on Facebook who said to me, he’d commented on something and he said “Everything You Never Gave just reminds me of me and my brother when we were nippers. We used to sit on our wall waiting for a no show dad” basically and it’s kind of…it’s a weird position to be in, our songs now mean so much to people. And I think when we meet people at gigs and they tell us their stories again it just, it’s I don’t know…it’s very humbling in a way, very humbling.
Ben on… What is success?
I think to take it even further it’s like people sort of say to us “How does it feel to be successful and be a successful country artist?” and you go “Oh well…” all that sort of stuff but I think a lot of people look for chart positions, a lot of people look for how much you sold, but you know, I had to sit down personally a lot…because we achieved a lot with the first album, kind of a lot of them are life goals. I’ve got a gold record on my wall and that’s something I’ve wanted since I was a kid. I don’t want to sound too, not ungrateful but it’s weird when you achieve something like that, you sort of…it’s almost…it’s not an anti-climax but it’s not maybe what you expect in some respects.
Yes. And so then when I really sat down and tried to really reflect on everything it really was those personal stories. You kind of get quite lost in it, especially sometimes on Twitter and Facebook, you get a lot of positive stuff. I think the curse of the internet now is you tend to focus on the negative ones and it’s very easy to scroll through and just go on there and they like it, like it, “oh this song changed my life” and then once you really sit down in your more quiet moments and go “Wow this song” for example Brave got someone through recovery of heart surgery and she met us at a gig in Oxford. She said “I played that in my recovery” and you’re like “That’s amazing.” You know and already like I said Daddy’s Little Girl and Everything You Never Gave, I think that is what really…not keeps you going but makes you realise how well we’re doing, and how many people… If it was one person it would be rewarding but so many people say how much it moves them, all the songs, that is just kind of what country is about really.
Ben on… Negative Comments
Of course things affect you but now I’m sort of getting to the stage where you just have to accept that everyone has an opinion and I think I’m at the point where people do not like it and I said to Chrissie and our manager, and people I work with, I say this is a made up statistic, that I’ve made up, but it’s makes me much better to think…I say that 1 in 4 people just won’t like you.
Ben on… What is Country Music?
Look at someone like Sam Hunt, and people are like “Well this isn’t country” and it’s like you just said about the song writing, I feel like Sam Hunt songs for example they are country songs. You listen to Break Up In A Small Town and that is a story and I think that is a thread. If you listen from the really early stuff and through to like Dolly Parton and I think even Brad Paisley is an incredible story teller and then Sam Hunt, and you sort of go “Well they are just stories” and that’s what we do. We write about what’s honest and true, and if people think country is just having a pedal steel guitar on there then fair enough, if that’s what country is to them then fair enough.
Ben on…Live on Radio 2 with Bob Harris and the track wouldn’t play! (Did that really happen or was that just a set up?)
Yes! No I listened back to it this morning and they said that I think 4 seconds of silence on radio is like the worst thing you can ever have, and it ended up being 10 seconds of silence because basically we sat there and Bob played the song and then it just suddenly stopped playing, and he was like…it’s the most flustered I’ve ever seen him and he was still so calm, and he was like “Oh it seems like the machine has stopped playing” and apparently he said it had happened once in his career and everybody in the building was like “It just never happens” and apparently if you get 15 seconds then I think a song just starts playing, it’s their like safety fall back thing.
But yes he said “Can you play it live?” and we were like you don’t really play that song acoustically just on guitar because we feel it really benefits having the banjo and stuff and then we were like, well we’re not going to say no…
I mean we used to be able to play song on guitar and piano and it should stand up and that’s what sets you apart in Nashville, if you can’t do that then I don’t know, you should be able to do that I think. So we did and it was great. It’s one of those things that…
Ben on… Writing songs for UK Country Artists
Yes well it’s just an idea. I just wanted to support UK country and sort of asked Decca if they would release a few songs that I’d written and get UK country artist to sing them. I’m really good friends with Gareth and Dee (Dexeter) and I’m pretty good friends with Megan (Megan & The Common Threads) and Dahlia (Dahlia) I think are awesome and with Liv (Liv Austen) as well. I mean the only thing I wish, there were no guys and I don’t want people to think I was just looking for girls but…
Yes… yes… yes….
It turned out really well and what was great, I mean it was I didn’t realise how excited they would all be and they brought so much. I sent them demos and Megan especially, that was really last minute and they all came back and just completely breathed life into every single song.
I thought the way Dahlia took Only Human and just…I didn’t have to do anything, I mean they just played guitar and they kind of sang and it was like that’s great. I’m really excited to see what happens with them and they are all great singers and well..Dee’s voice as well is just awesome, it was really exciting and fun to be part of. I think we all have to support each other in UK country because that’s what they do in the States. Ward Thomas were at No. 1 recently and I was just so happy for the girls and people on line would be like “Oh rivalry” and it’s like no, everyone should support each other. We’re all in doing the same thing.
The iTunes Country charts was full of UK Country Acts
Yes it was great timing as well because it was complete coincidence that the girls went No. 1 that week as well in the main chart so the whole thing was awesome. It’s a really nice break because I remember when Taylor Swift was just always like 1, 2, 3, 4 and it was like “Can we have something else now?” So it’s really growing, it’s really building and I think C2C every year is just a complete testament to that, the whole thing is growing. There are so many young artists coming through and I think that’s just really, really exciting.
Ben on…C2C Country2Country
I think we’ll be there hopefully in some form, we’d love to be but it’s funny because we obviously don’t get to see as many people, I mean I don’t know, I don’t know if we’ll be playing or not I have no idea but I think I did see a few people last year, this year sorry, and I saw Miranda Lambert is my favourite, one of our favourite songs is The House That Built Me, both of her songs, and that is…
That is, when she played that I felt I was the only person in the 02, I really did. It was just like “wow” but I can’t wait to see line up. I’ve heard loads of rumours but that’s probably just about as founded as they are unfounded.
Ben on… Time off and Daddy Time
I mean I had today off actually which was nice. We went to a little farm near us, with a little petting thing and that was great. It’s really close actually, alpaca’s there and llama’s there and I think being a dad has just been the most amazing thing because you go on stage in front of how ever many people…like last night we were on Bob’s show and then like the next day it’s changing nappies, and it’s kind of…again it’s really humbling. It just keeps you grounded.
In country every artist you’ve met, and we’ve met some big people they are all so grounded because it’s all about real life and I love the thread of family in country. I mean look at Charles Kelly’s Instagram all the time, he’s just so excited to be a dad and a lot of people ask me “how is it going to be being on tour and being away and stuff” and I always say I get to spend so much quality time at home because when I’m at home I’m really at home and then I’m going off doing something I absolutely love and to be able to provide for my family now which is great and I just hope as River grows up maybe if we have more, as they grow up as well, they’ll just see that I’m lucky enough to do something I absolutely love and very few people get to do that. Again I feel very privileged to do it and I just hope they’ll, as much as they can just try and follow their dreams. I hate this word but it’s really a blessing…
I know, it sounds very cliché doesn’t it but it really is. Well thank you so much for…I know how busy you are and taking time out to talk to us, we love your album and we play it, it’s been reviewed with us. We’re really happy, we’ve got people coming out to see you on tour, we hope to see you at C2C. Keep doing what you’re doing, keep that light shining very brightly for British country music and very excited to follow your journey.