Interview with The Shires!

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Another great weekend at Cornbury Festival. My favourite act was of course The Shires and it was lovely to catch up with them after their set.

Speaking of their set it was fantastic as always, a high energy performance from the pair who mixed in some old and some new material along with a Fleetwood Mac cover and a Striking Matches cover. Ben spoke of baby River who is now two weeks old! The sun stayed out for most of their set until they sung about the grey clouds in Made in England which prompted those grey clouds to make their presence felt however it only lasted a few minutes and Crissie and Ben’s beautiful vocal harmonies brought the sun back out! I also discovered I’m a terrible photographer during their set, every other journalist in the pit was snapping away whilst I kept forgetting where I was and started singing along and nodding my head which in turn made the camera shake, oops! However it solidifies the point that you can’t help but have a great time when The Shires are doing their thing on stage. Without further ado, here’s the interview accompanied by some salvageable photos from their set!

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First of all I can’t wait to hear about the new album, you recorded it in Nashville, how was that?

Ben: It was great, we were sort of going back there, and it’s weird how it’s changed, every time we go, for us. The first time we went we were all starry eyed and “wow this is everything we’ve dreamed of.” Then knowing it better now, we spent three weeks there before we recorded the album, then we almost practically lived there, we have friends there now and for some reason when you write there and record there you’re just more inspired, you can’t really put it into words it’s just something about being there and you can hear it in the album, we’re so proud of it. It sounds great to us.

Crissie: And another thing we had the same producers and the same band actually as well, all bar one I think, Dave was our new bass player so other than that it was all the same crew so to go back, two years later for us because we recorded Brave a while back, it was great to get back in the studio with all the same people and create the next sound that we’re going with this time.

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So obviously it’s two years later, but how is the sound of this album different than the last?

Ben: There’s a lot that’s similar.

Crissie: It’s definitely The Shires still, we’re sticking to our love of ballads, we’ve got some heart wrenching ballads in there but we’ve also got more of an evolved sound. It’s closer to Nashville, a popper sound but still with some great Country elements in there and a lot of fun up beat songs.

Ben: I think playing the arenas and the bigger festivals and shows with people like The Corrs and Glastonbury and here at Cornbury made us want bigger sounding songs, so like Crissie says the crowd can have fun and sing along and stuff.

Crissie: Yeah you sit there in writing sessions and you’re like, this would be really cool we could throw it out to the crowd and you can do that. When we were writing the first album we didn’t know who we were writing for, we were just writing for ourselves because we loved it and this album we’ve still written for ourselves but we have fans now and we can kind of tell what people like to do and they like to sing along, they like to clap or maybe do a dance routine.

Ben: The best way to hear music is live nowadays, you can’t replicate that feeling, like when you look at Coldplay playing Glastonbury or Adele. There’s something so magical about being outside, singing something really upbeat, uptempo, just something big and we wanted to share those moments with people. It’s not changed it’s just evolved and we’re excited to share it with people and they’re going to hear it really soon.

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Great! You spoke a little about the writing process, did you work with any particular co-writers a lot on this record?

Crissie: The song Drive we wrote with Kip Moore and Manny at Country 2 Country a year ago now. Then lots of writers out of Nashville, Jeff Cohen.

Ben: It didn’t make the album but I wrote with a guy called Bob Di Piero who’s literally had like 20 number 1’s and I went into his studio and it’s just full of like walls of awards and stuff that he’s won. All the people we wrote with out there, they’ve got their own personalities and you can hear it in the songs.

Crissie: We have a lot on there with Nina Nesbitt, Nina has featured quite a lot, she’s just a great songwriter.

Ben: And a great friend too. She’s almost a Country writer in a way.

Crissie: Yes it’s funny because she doesn’t come from a Country background but her lyrics, the stories she comes out with, they’re great.

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I don’t know if you’re allowed to say yet but can you tell us your favourite songs on the upcoming album and the stories behind any of them?

Ben: I don’t think we can actually because it’s not all finalised yet. No exclusives Zoe haha nice try!

Fair enough haha! What about a title or is that not decided yet?

Ben: We’re deciding between two, we wont share but we’re very close.

Crissie: We loved Braver, that’s what the fans suggested haha. That did make us chuckle.

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Do you have any touring plans yet?

Crissie: Yes, a tour is being put together at the moment and should be announced soon enough.

Ben: Hopefully next week, but it’s much bigger than anything we’ve done before, it’s funny to look at the list and think really? Can we play to that many people? It still amazes me, like today at Cornbury, that that many people came out to watch us but we remember so vividly like three years ago playing to literally five or six people so naturally it’s strong in our memory so to be playing to so many people so soon is incredible. This tour that’s lined up, I mean cross your fingers that it does sell well haha but it’s great.

Crissie: We’d like to go to Europe and potentially Australia.

Have you been to Australia before?

Ben: On holiday but not working, haha it’s not work.

Crissie: No it’s not work haha!

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For my dissertation earlier this year I wrote a chapter on UK Country music and referred to you guys as the pioneers of Country music in the UK, but what do you see, when you see all these people getting behind you and UK Country, how do you view the growth of the genre over here?

Crissie: The day us two met we thought oh my gosh there’s another Country fan in the UK because I thought I was the only person and you thought who listens to that. It was the kind of thing you didn’t want to tell your friends that you listened to, I don’t know why but you couldn’t announce that you loved Country music and now to see so many people bringing people along, people who don’t like Country music and they suddenly go, I don’t like Country music but I like this.

Ben: I remember googling it when we first met actually as well, it was very hard to find people. I think what we did was give people the belief that you can (do Country music) and you can do well, get top ten or whatever.

Crissie: We’ve got three or four acts now signed to major labels, that’s big in itself, there’s online bloggers, there’s loads going on on Facebook and Twitter and there’s such a community; our fans become friends with each other and you see all the same faces at the same shows.

Ben: It’s getting it’s own identity sound wise as well. When we first started a lot of people were just trying to copy what was coming out of Nashville, it’s not really defined yet but it’s becoming defined and it’s just great to be a part of, we’ve met lots of great friends.

Crissie: It’s great to see the American acts coming over more now as well and shows like Country 2 Country that give a platform for them to play over here and they all say how great UK audiences are because we listen to every single song on the album and they love that. Hunter Hayes plays to thousands out in the states and yet he comes to The Borderline and plays to 200 people.

Ben: Venues like that make you realise how good he is, I was so close to him.

Crissie: Sam Hunt played at the same venue as well, that was mental, we’re so privileged to have that.

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So there you go, we can’t wait for their album to come out and to see what they do with this tour they’re planning. It’s always a pleasure to chat with the pair and we wish them all the best for the exciting times up ahead.

*Originally published here.

Author

Zoe Hodges is a dreamer, writing with the hope of brightening up your day or to tell you something you never knew about the world in a song. :-) A singer-songwriter from Manchester Zoe lives in London trying to bring the sound of Nashville to London with a sort of Mancunian country twang to her voice. Growing up on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lancashire folk music goodness knows how she discovered the likes of Taylor Swift and Alanis Morissette and incorporated their sound into her music! The different guitar tunings she uses inspire a more unique sound and lyrics she never knew she could write however it also means she's surrounded by guitars whenever she plays live so if you see her juggling a few on the way to a gig, maybe give her a hand! Check out Zoe's Blogs, Just Zoe and British Country Music!

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