Liam Turner speaks with Ben Earle from British country duo The Shires about their new album and upcoming UK tour.
Congratulations on reaching top five with your new album, My Universe. Was that your goal this time round?
Thank you! Well, with our first album, Brave, we were the first country act to get top 10. But it’s funny about the chart thing, they’re so different now. Obviously we’d love to go as high as possible, but we knew there were going to be a few big releases that week, like Bon Iver and Van Morrison. But it was really amazing to see the amount of people who got it.
Why do you think it took so long for a country act to do so well in the charts?
It’s really weird, but when we got together about three and a half years ago, if you googled UK country not a lot really came up. I don’t think it’s unfair to say people were trying to copy what was coming out of Nashville. It was often quite pastiche, they were singing about trucks and rhinestones… it just wasn’t real. When we got together we said, “What is country to you?” and the things that came up were the honesty, the storytelling and that classic phrase, four chords and the truth. We said if we stick to that, then we can’t really go wrong.
Do you have a favourite song on My Universe?
I think Daddy’s Little Girl, though I didn’t write it. It’s all about Crissy’s dad and I think that song is just an absolutely incredible country song, so honest. In terms of fun ones, My Universe itself is wicked, it has a big Coldplay moment. But they’re all great.
Picking up on the Coldplay thing, was there a conscious decision to make this album more anthemic?
Yes, definitely. We toured with The Corrs and we did a lot of arenas, and when you’re playing these big venues you just naturally want bigger songs to fill it out. But for us it always comes back to making things that are real and wanting people to have a good time. We just wanted to grow our sound, we didn’t want to just do exactly what we did on Brave.
Now that you’ve released two albums in relatively quick succession, are you going to slow down a bit?
Well, the thing is with Nashville, you’re always writing songs. I’m sure there’ll be a point soon where we’re sat there with 20 songs and going, “Let’s just do it.” I think we’ll definitely get the next one out soon. I don’t know when, I can’t say for definite. But if the songs are there we’ll just want to get it out. Especially with this upcoming tour, we’re going to be inspired to write a lot more again.
Speaking of the tour, are you looking forward to it?
Yes, in some ways it’s the best part of it. You get to see the reactions on people’s faces the instant you sing the song. It still takes us by surprise when you see a fan singing every single word, and you know they’ve sat there with a booklet and gone through the words. I think that’s what so amazing with us, because we’re still quite an old fashioned band. Our fans love vinyl, they love reading the lyrics, they love knowing the credits, who wrote on the song and played on the song. They’re very passionate. We’re also looking forward to playing Wales. We recently played Llandudno, and we’re coming back to Cardiff as well. We’re doing St David’s Hall which I’ve heard is really beautiful.
What about the US, are you going to tour there any time soon?
We’re going out there to Nashville for the CMA awards in a couple of weeks. We’ve recently done a tour with Little Big Town, too, in the Northwest which was incredible. But at the moment we’re intending on having a few months out in Nashville next year. There are a few things we’re going through. Hopefully we’ll get a shot to break America, which is sort of nerve wracking but really exciting as well.
The Shires, St David’s Hall, Cardiff. Thurs 24 Nov. Tickets: £21.50. Info: 029 2087 8444 / www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk
words LIAM TURNER