Last year The Shires made chart history with their debut album ‘Brave‘ entering the Top 10 of the UK Album Charts – they were the first ever Country band to do so!
Not content with that feather in their Yankee Doodle hat – The Shires now have the fastest-selling UK Country album of all time, since releasing their brand new album ‘My Universe‘.
Musicvein caught up with one half of the duo Ben Earle to talk about ‘My Universe’, Glastonbury and him becoming a father for the first time.
MV: Firstly, Congratulations on the successful release of new album ‘My Universe’ and also on becoming a father for the first time!
Ben: “Thank you, it’s all been so surreal”.
MV: I heard that just hours after your sons birth you went on to headline the acoustic stage at Glastonbury ! How did you feel that day and how did the two experiences compare?
Ben: “I’ve just been going through the baby photos and it was just the most surreal thing in the world, obviously having your first or any child is a real miracle and then playing Glastonbury Festival that same day was just WOW. My fiance was amazing throughout the labour, River was born at 1:30am and I literally got about 5 hours sleep before having to shoot off for our 9pm Glastonbury set. It was a bit like a Richard Curtis movie, ‘Love Actually’ or something, it couldn’t have been any more perfect!
MV: How do you manage to juggle being there for your fiance and son, as well as there for Crissie and the band at this hectic time?
Ben: (letting out a short laugh) “Erm, good question! Well what we do isn’t a traditional job so we’re home quite a lot, I get to spend good quality time when home and work at night. I’m not always shattered by doing a 9-5 job that I don’t enjoy and I feel so lucky to be doing what I do. I think back to the days when I was working in a shop and Crissie was a waitress, we were dreaming of this moment, now we’re making music every day! I think that in the long run this will set a good example to River to try, if you can, to do what you love”.
MV: So tell me about the themes going on in ‘My Universe’
Ben: “Well the thing with us is we’ve always tried to be really honest and write about things we know. The thing that stood out for us when writing ‘My Universe’ is that we’ve done some big shows, supported The Corrs in the UK and Little Big Town out in the States. When you’re playing these big arenas you just want a bigger sound so when we came to making this album we spoke to the producers – same ones we had on ‘Brave’ – about stepping up the sound. We want to get people clapping, dancing, singing and having a great time at our shows, we want our songs to be almost anthemic. We’ve tried some of the songs out already on our audiences and it sounds amazing especially the song ‘A Thousand Hallelujahs’.
There are a few songs on the album that are really personal to us. Crissie wrote a song called ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ based on her father who unfortunately passed away about 20 years ago. The song has a really beautiful lyric “…I used to wrap my hand around his little finger…” people just love it. Opening up like that was something Crissie hadn’t really done before so when we get people saying that her song touched them, it just means so much to us. I also wrote a personal song called ‘Everything You Never Gave’ and that’s all about my relationship with my dad knowing that I was about to become a father too. Again it was quite a deep subject, painful in a way but what was touching was that someone on Facebook said the song resonated with them. It made them recall a time as nippers, when they and their sibling used to sit on a wall waiting for a no show. The songs on ‘My Universe’ show just how much we’ve grown over the years and through being honest, the songs are hitting home to people much more immediately than ‘Brave’ did”.
MV: The Shires have brought about a huge revival in UK Country music, how do you feel about that?
Ben: “We’re just really excited to be a part of that really. 3 – 3 1/2 years ago Crissie and I felt like the only Country fans here. There was a presence but nothing like it is now. Yes, Country to Country was around but it’s grown massively in the last 3 years, TV shows like ‘Nashville’ played a huge part in the revival as well as Dolly Parton at Glastonbury. When we went Top 10 with our album ‘Brave’ – first UK Country act to do that – it took us by surprise, we never thought that that would happen. We were lucky because we had the label Decca on board and they really believed in our vision. We told them what we do, they came on board and didn’t try to change things. They sent us straight out to Nashville to make the album the way we wanted. We got to record the songs on the album that we wanted to, songs like ‘Nashville Grey Skies‘, which as you know is a very British song about building our very own Nashville over here and I think that just really resonated with people. I remember writing that song whilst having a dream of being at Glastonbury or other big festival, it’s muddy and people are just singing this song back to us – that happened in such a short space of time!”
MV: Now that you’ve conquered the UK, any plans for US domination?
Ben: (laughing loudly) “US domination! I’m not sure about domination, in a couple of weeks we’re going to the CMA‘s in Nashville, before that we’re in Australia. Right now the label are really pushing us and there are tentative plans to have a few months out in the states. You only get one chance to make a great first impression and even though a lot of people know us in the business we haven’t pushed ourselves in front of our Country fans. As you know Country music is massive in the states they have hundreds of radio stations dedicated to the genre – which is why so many songs manage to stay around for months on end – just look at Kelsea Ballerini for instance! Also we were talking to our good friend Lauren Alaina the other day and she’s on a huge promo tour for just one single! so you never know, we’ll just have to wait and see”.
MV: So who would you like to work with in the near future?
Ben: “One person I keep mentioning at the moment is Dolly Parton. I think people forget that she’s an amazing song writer not just a singer. Writing a song with her and then performing it would be a dream come true”.
The Shires tour kicks off next month at the O2 Academy in Oxford.