A country music duo is making waves on the music scene.
The Shires consists of Gravenhurst’s Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle, who lives in Slip End near Luton.
Having been signed by Decca Records, they are preparing for the release of their debut album in September.
The pair met through a mutual friend after Ben posted a status about needing a female country singer.
Crissie said: “Ben sent me a couple of songs on email and I thought ‘I love this.’ We met up the next day and it went really well rehearsing together.”
It was fortunate that Ben, who was living in St Albans at the time, and Crissie lived close enough to work together. The group’s name, the Shires, is inspired by their home counties.
Former Samuel Whitbread Academy student Crissie has performed at pubs and music venues around the area including in Shefford, where she grew up, and for the regular Performers and Pints event in Potton. The duo played one of their first gigs together at the Stratton House Hotel in Biggleswade.
And they were spotted at a beer festival in Haynes, leading to them finding their manager and later getting the record deal.
Crissie said: “We write our own songs. Sometimes it’s just Ben and sometimes we do it together or we may write with another person.”
Describing their success so far, Ben said: “The biggest venue has been the O2, just in the outside bit. The best gig was on Monday, June 23 when we played with Striking Matches. It was the first gig with people singing along! There’s been a lot of hard work to get to that point before we got the deal.”
The 26-year-olds have travelled to country music’s home in Nashville to write and record songs with musicians there.
Ben, who plays the piano and guitar as well as singing, fell in love with country music three years ago after hearing Lady Antebellum’s song, Need You Now, whereas Crissie grew up listening to country music. She includes Faith Hill, Alison Krauss and LeAnn Rimes amongst her role models and inspiration.
Although country is a very American genre The Shires try to keep their British authenticity. Their song Made in England, includes references to typical English items such as fish and chips and cold pebble beaches. The duo believe that country music is up and coming in the UK.
The Shires will embark on a UK tour this month, arriving at The Stables in Milton Keynes on Thursday, July 24. For details see www.stables.org/Whats_on/Event/The_Shires
You can find the duo on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theshiresuk and their debut single, Nashville Grey Skies, is available on iTunes. Their second single will be released soon.