CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today CLICK HERE

The Shires: Herts’ country music stars

PUBLISHED: 10:28 07 August 2018

The Shires' Accidently on Purpose hit number three in the album charts this year (photo: Sela Shiloni)

The Shires' Accidently on Purpose hit number three in the album charts this year (photo: Sela Shiloni)

Sela Shiloni

The Shires are riding high as the UK’s most successful country music act. With strong links to Herts and neighbouring Beds, the duo blend a Nashville sound with home-inspired lyrics

The Shires are the UK’s most successful country music act ever. All three of their albums have charted in the top 10. They have headlined the Albert Hall – the first UK country act to do so – and they will be supporting country queen Shania Twain on an arena tour in September and October that will put them before 90,000 people.

If the story of The Shires had been written as a movie script, it would have been dismissed as far-fetched and idealistic. Struggling songwriter-guitarist and former X Factor contestant Ben Earle, of Flamstead near St Albans, falls in love with country music after hearing American country-pop group Lady Antebellum. He posts a message on social media seeking a country singer

and is answered by Crissie Rhodes, a cover songs vocalist and also former X Factor hopeful who, handily, lives just a few miles away in Shefford and who has, in the words of country magazine Lyric, ‘the voice of an angel’. Ben has always been a talented singer too – he sang a solo at the start of The Queen’s Christmas message in 1999.

Their first show was at renowned local music venue The Horn in St Albans in 2013. After playing small pub gigs around Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire for a few months, their music is recommended to a manager. They sign to a major label, become the first UK country act to sign to a label in Nashville, the home of country music, and go to Nashville to write and record. Their first album, Brave, goes top 10 – the first UK country album to do so – within a year or so of their first shows together and goes on to gain a BRIT Gold disc for 100,000 sales.

This sort of progression is almost unheard of in the British music industry. It usually takes five to seven years to get from pub to chart. Sudden success can come to a pop act from TV, but The Shires achieved it without TV, with no chart singles and in a minority genre.

The instability that often accompanies rapid acclaim has not troubled them though. Five years in, Ben and Crissie have just notched up more achievements: second album My Universe reached number three in the chart and has ‘gone gold’, while third album Accidentally on Purpose, released in April, also reached number three. It has a song, Stay the Night, gifted to them by Ed Sheeran with whom they performed in the US.

The Shires’ magic ingredient – beyond great songs, gorgeous voices and a contemporary look – could be the love of, well, their home shires, that comes through in their music. Their first single, Nashville Grey Skies, says Ben, ‘is about the dream of building our own Nashville here. We want to keep our Britishness. In that song, people don’t drink moonshine, they drink G&Ts. We didn’t want to sing about things we didn’t know or understand, because country music is about honesty and truth.’

The Shires (photo: Sela Shiloni)The Shires (photo: Sela Shiloni)

When they go to Nashville to co-write with the music city’s big hitters, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire are still on their minds. Visiting the States gave a new experience that sharpened their perceptions of home.

‘We wrote Made in England after our first trip to Nashville,’ Ben recalls. ‘Going to America was fascinating for us because people are so proud to be American. When we came back we wanted to write a song about being proud of where we’re from. Fish and chips, cups of tea. People seem to love it and it’s really important for us to keep that identity because it is who we are.’

The local features that anchor their identity when they are writing in Nashville are mostly of the great outdoors: Ben loves Verulamium Park in St Albans and Rothamsted Park in Harpenden, while Crissie votes for Wicksteed Park in Kettering. Ben says, ‘I lived in St Albans six or seven years ago and didn’t know Verulamium Park. I happened to turn into it when I was out running and discovered this huge park with a massive lake.’

Ben and Crissie are not a couple. Crissie is single. Ben is married and has two children with his Australian wife Vicki. River, their first, was born on the morning that The Shires were due to headline the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury in 2016. Ben was at the birth, leaving Crissie on tenterhooks at the festival,

(he arrived in time but had not slept for 24 hours). Their second child, Tennessee, is a very recent arrival. He was due the day before Accidentally on Purpose was released, which obviously would be a very big day for the band, but considerately waited eight days to join his brother.

With Flamstead facing glamorous competition from Nashville and Vicki’s home city Sydney as a place to raise the kids, where does Ben think River and Tennessee will grow up? ‘We have great options!’ he replies. ‘We love going to Nashville, but I’d love him to grow up here in Britain. Nashville is a great place to live for a while, but I miss home too much to stay there.’

Nearby Whipsnade Zoo is already a big draw for the family. Ben also enjoys being able to eat well locally, citing The Fox in Harpenden and L’Olivo in Wheathampstead among their favourites.

With a supporting role to Michael Buble in Hyde Park as we went to press and with festival dates right up to the Shania Twain tour through to October, The Shires may see little of their home shires till autumn. Here’s hoping that their longing for home turns into more great music.

Catch The Shires live in tour

August

6th Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

24th Thame Showground, Thame

25th Chepstow Castle, Chepstow

27th Towersey Festival, Thame

September

7th & 8th Stanford Hall, Lutterworth

9th The Long Road Festival, Stanford Hall, Lutterworth

Supporting Shania Twain:

September

19th & 21st The SSE Hydro Arena, Glasgow

22nd Manchester Arena, Manchester

24th Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham

26th & 27th 3Arena, Dublin

29th SSE Arena, Belfast

October

2nd & 3rd O2 Arena, London

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hertfordshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hertfordshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hertfordshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Yesterday, 16:21

The film director is inviting people around the UK to mark Armistice Day at the beach

Read more
Yesterday, 16:07

In the fourth of our series, we look at 20 facts, theories and mysteries connected with the always intriguing Garden of England

Read more
October 2018

Pagham Harbour has inspired photographer Richard Dunkley for 20 years. Ahead of a charity event he introduces his favourite shots

Read more
Yesterday, 11:18

With the number of UK couples running businesses together on the rise, Sandra Deeble talks to four Herts ‘co-preneurs’ about how they make it work

Read more
October 2018
Yesterday, 00:00

Putting the spotlight on retailers whose business is an important part of the community

Read more
Yesterday, 00:00

Justin Moorhouse shares his love of Old Trafford

Read more
Thursday, October 18, 2018

Graham Denison is a projectionist at the Ritz cinema in Thirsk, one of the oldest cinemas in the country, staffed by a team of volunteers

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

With The Great British Bake Off back on our screens the nation is falling in love with baking once again. Head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park, Sarah Frankland, tells us about what it takes to make it as a professional

Read more

Whatever your age, whatever your ambition, whatever your ability, Total Ensemble creates inclusive theatre with extraordinary results both on stage and off it

Read more
October 2018
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The new novel by Sarah Perry is out this month. It’s frighteningly good, writes Rowan Mantell

Read more
October 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search