Sun 12 May 2024

The Shires

The Shires

Fate is a curious thing. One small twist here, a turn there… Before they became The Shires, singer-songwriters Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes had met a series of dead-ends. Now they’re the UK’s most successful country music export, with four top 10 albums and hundreds of thousands of tickets sold around the world.

The fact that Nashville has embraced The Shires with open arms – from a record deal to a history-making award from the American Country Music Association – is testament to the duo's authenticity. Debut single “Nashville Grey Skies,” a playful song about Britain needing its own country scene, caught the attention of broadcasting legend Bob Harris in 2014. Achieving a place on the BBC Radio 2 A list, its soaring harmonies and uplifting sound offered an early glimpse at the alchemy that transpires when Earle and Rhodes join forces. Career milestones followed like pieces of a jigsaw fitting into place: supporting slots with Little Big Town, The Corrs, and Carrie Underwood (during her Cry Pretty UK tour), playing C2C Festival, a sold-out headline tour and the release of their spectacular debut album, Brave, which became the first-ever top 10 album by a UK country music act. Another three top 10 albums followed: 2016’s My Universe (featuring fan-favourite “Daddy’s Little Girl”, about Rhodes’s late father), 2018’s Accidentally on Purpose, and 2020’s Good Years, each one soaring to No 3 in the UK.

Almost a decade later, their initial goals now come across as ludicrously modest when you consider what they’ve achieved since. “We wanted to get our music to Bob Harris, and we wanted a thousand Facebook followers,” Rhodes laughs. “At the time that seemed crazy, but Ben was committed to it.” Title track “Ten Year Plan” is imbued with Earle’s natural optimism; a little tongue-in-cheek, but poignant, too. It’s the perfect song to start a new year, one that follows plenty of bumps in the road, all those unexpected turns, but perhaps has brought us to where we need to be. It's a song – and an album – to remind us to be grateful for the things we might otherwise take for granted. Here’s to the next 10 years.