American audiences are starting to discover why English duo The Shires is the UK’s best-selling country act in that area’s history. The twosome, comprised of singers-songwriters Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle, has just released its new album in the U.S., “Good Years,” available now at retail and online outlets. The album, recorded in Nashville, features songs written by the duo along with some of Music Row’s top writers, including Bob DiPiero, Cam and Canaan Smith.
Rhodes and Earle have been winning over fans with their unique sound combining traditional and contemporary country with a hint of their British roots. “Our writing has a little British spin to it,” says Rhodes. Both are longtime country fans who dreamed of making a record in Nashville and playing the Grand Ole Opry. They talked about realizing those goals, their new album, standing on that legendary Opry stage and other topics in a recent chat with “Sports & Entertainment Nashville.”
The Shires formed in 2013 after Earle placed a post on Facebook seeking a duet partner. “It really happened that way,” Earle recalls. “I wrote that there must be a country singer somewhere who would like to join up.” Rhodes answered the post and came on board. They released their first album, “Brave,” in 2015, which landed in the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart, making the duo the first UK-based country act to accomplish that feat. “That was a dream of ours right there, having something of ours chart in the UK,” Earle says. “No one had ever done that but we believed it could be done. We found out while we were on stage that it had hit Top 10, which was very special.” One of the songs from the album, “Nashville Grey Skies,” was a popular number in the UK. In 2016, The Shires released their second album “My Universe,” which debuted at No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart and became the fastest-selling UK country album in history.
This past March 13th, The Shires released their current effort “Good Years” through BBR Music Group/BMG. The album features 10 songs co-written by Earle and Rhodes and two outside selections, “About Last Night” and “Lightning Strikes,” which was co-written by popular country artist Cam. “That was sent over to our A&R people at the label,” Earle says about the latter tune. “There was so much magic in that song and I liked it immediately. Crissie got it as well.” Rhodes adds, “It’s about that feeling that comes over you when you bump into someone that you used to have a relationship with or were in love with at one time. We both related to that. It is such a well-written song.”
One of the more intriguing numbers from the “Good Years” album comes with “New Year.” The title might lead you to think about renewal or rebirth, but the song takes you down a bit of a different path. It’s New Year’s Eve, and the main character is missing an ex-lover as the minutes to the New Year count down. “Wish you were holding me/ Right here/ Kissing in the New Year,” the key lyric plaintively muses. “That song was written on January 2, 2019,” recalls Earle, who wrote the tune with young English writer Kaity Rae. “She [Rae] came to my house and had that idea. I told her that we have got to write that song. She was really able to capture that energy and that feeling.” Fans can also check out a performance video for the song “Independence Day,” co-written by Earle.
With dual popularity in their home nation and now in the U.S., it’s obvious that big things are happening for The Shires. For Rhodes, the duo’s success has come from a series of small steps. “It’s been a steady climb,” she says. “I would say that there has not been that one breakthrough moment or one big break. We’ve always worked pretty hard and developed our craft.” Rhodes and Earle paid the typical artist dues of tiny clubs and venues where the audience wasn’t always interested and had to be won over. With a laugh, Rhodes refers to those days as playing the “toilet tour,” which she readily explains. “The venues were so small that the dressing room was the toilet or woman’s bathroom,” Rhodes says.
What may have started as a pipe dream for Earle and Rhodes is now becoming more real by the day. “Growing up so inspired by country music and knowing Nashville was the home of that music, I always wanted to find a way to get over there,” Rhodes shares in a release about the new album. Having the opportunity to write with some of Music Row’s finest proved another dream realized for both members. “We’ve written with these huge writers over the years and it’s been great,” says Earle.
On the performing side, The Shires have opened for Little Big Town, Sam Hunt and Shania Twain, and joined Carrie Underwood on her 2019 Cry Pretty 360 Tour for dates in their homeland. Plus, as mentioned, they made their debut at the Grand Ole Opry in 2015, playing on the same bill with such icons as Ricky Skaggs and Connie Smith. “That was the big one for us,” Earle says with enthusiasm. “I always dreamed of playing there. We got to step on that famous circle and that is a once-in-a-lifetime moment.” As Rhodes succinctly sums up, “It’s been an inspiring time.”
The Shires’ new album “Good Years” is available now. For more on this English country duo, please visit their website and follow them on social media.