The Shires (duo)

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The Shires
The Shires, Towersey 2018.jpg
Performing at Towersey Festival, 2018
Background information
OriginHertfordshire and Bedfordshire, England, UK
GenresCountry, country pop
Years active2013–present
LabelsDecca, Universal Music Group Nashville, Dot, BMG Rights Management
MembersBen Earle
Crissie Rhodes

The Shires are a British country duo composed of singer-songwriters Doctor Ben Earle and Doctor Crissie Rhodes. Earle sings vocals, plays piano and guitar, and Rhodes shares lead vocals. The duo formed in 2013 and released their debut album Brave in 2015, becoming the first UK country act to chart in the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart.[1] The group's second album, My Universe, became the fastest-selling UK country album in history when it was released in October 2016.[2]

They hail from the neighbouring counties of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire in England. "Shire" is the original term for what is usually known as a county in the United Kingdom. The duo fittingly took the band name to maintain a British identity and take a small part of Britain to the United States. After playing hardly half a dozen shows together, The Shires caught the attention of Decca Records, who signed them in the United Kingdom, and they secured a contract with American record label Universal Music Group Nashville, thus becoming the first ever English country act to be signed to a major Nashville label.[3][4][5] They were also the first UK country act to have a top ten album and the first to receive an award from the American Country Music Association.

They were officially awarded Honorary Doctorates of the Arts by the University of Bedfordshire for their services and contributions to music on 25 July 2019.


2012–13: Early beginnings[edit]

Crissie Rhodes has performed at weddings, pubs and clubs performing songs by Dolly Parton amongst others. After joining The X Factor in 2013, she was tipped as a winner but failed to qualify out of the early rounds. Her country music influences include Alison Krauss, Martina McBride and Faith Hill. Ben Earle was previously a solo artist and had supported KT Tunstall on tour. Also a failed The X Factor contestant, and a struggling songwriter who had been writing for 10 years, he had tried to get cuts for other artists. He discovered country music in 2012 via Lady Antebellum, the American Grammy Award-winning group. He cites the Kacey Musgraves album Same Trailer Different Park as a major career inspiration.[5] Earle and Rhodes met after Ben, with an aim to become part of a duo, posted a "There must be a country singer somewhere" message on the social media website Facebook, seeking a partner, to which Rhodes responded.[3][4] As part of BBC Radio 2's coverage of a festival, The Shires were included as a segment in a documentary titled "Nashville UK", which assessed country music's standing in the UK and, as one of its promising artists, their determination to export their British country roots to their American counterparts.[6] The Shires have composed songs with hit Nashville songwriter Steve Mcewan (Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood) and Play Productions an accomplished Swedish writing and production company, who comprise Tim Larsson, Johan Fransson and Tobias Lundgren, who have worked with Rascal Flatts and Celine Dion.[4][7]

2014–15: Brave[edit]

They were invited to the C2C: Country to Country 2014 Festival and performed at The Town Square Pop Stage on 16 March 2014 outside the London O2 arena.[8] Their first single "Nashville Grey Skies" was released on 4 April 2014 and received its first airplay on the Bob Harris BBC Radio 2 Country show on 3 April 2014. It was added to the BBC Radio 2 "B" Playlist for the week commencing 3 May 2014 and climbed to the "A" playlist the following week.[9][10][11] The song was written by Ben before visiting Music City which is a song about hope with a pipe dream of building, and the UK having, a country music capital of its very own.[12] It takes the musicality influences from America whilst maintaining a Britishness with the song writing. It contains facetious lines such as "Well they say it's way too cold for cut-off jeans and they won't be drinking moonshine but G & T's" and "We can build our own Nashville under these grey skies".

On 21 April 2014 they travelled to Sweden and then headed to Nashville to begin preparations and record their debut album. The duo toured the UK with Ward Thomas[13] and Little Big Town,[14] prior to their own headlining tour in 2015.[15] In March 2015 the duo returned to play C2C and also released their debut studio album Brave on 2 March 2015.[16] The album peaked at number 10 on the UK Albums Chart, making The Shires the first UK country act to have an album in the top 10. In March 2016, as the most successful country music act the UK has ever had, they were invited to C2C as "ambassadors", introducing the acts on the pop-up stages throughout the weekend in London, playing their own sets and appearing in the arena to introduce acts performing on the Yamaha Music Stage. The Shires opened for The Corrs on their comeback tour in 2016 including shows at Birmingham's Genting Arena, Cardiff's Motorpoint Arena, Liverpool's Echo Arena, The O2 Arena London, Manchester Arena, Glasgow's SSE Hydro, Dublin's 3Arena and the SSE Arena Belfast between 19 and 29 January.[17]

2016–17: My Universe[edit]

In July 2016, The Shires announced their second studio album My Universe would be released on 30 September 2016.[18] They released "Beats to Your Rhythm" on 29 July as the first single from the album. The second single from the album was "My Universe" and was released on 16 September 2016; it charted at 89 in Scotland. Online music news site, Get to the Front, reviewed the album and stated that "musically, lyrically and vocally there is little else you could ask for in a country album."[19] My Universe debuted at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart and became the fastest selling UK country album of all time.

In October 2016, The Shires secured a recording contract with American label Big Machine Label Group and its imprint Dot Records. The Shires said : "We are absolutely thrilled to sign with Dot Records in the USA. The UK is our home and we are proud of our success so far, thanks to Decca Records, but it's always been a massive goal for us to build our presence and make a name for ourselves in the USA."[20]

In 2017 their new single "Daddy's Little Girl" was released, joining BBC Radio 2's playlist. It is about Crissie's late father; the video features footage of her and her dad.[21] On 9 March 2017, The Shires were presented with their first CMA Award by Kristian Bush during the songwriters event at the C2C: Country to Country festival.[22]

2018-present: Accidentally on Purpose[edit]

On 26 January 2018, The Shires announced their third studio album Accidentally on Purpose would be released on 20 April 2018 alongside a UK tour.[23] On 8 March 2018, the first single from the album "Guilty" premiered on BBC Radio 2 before being released that day.[24]

The second single "Accidentally on Purpose" was released on 9 June 2018.[25]

The third single "Echo" was released on 13 July 2018.[26]


Ben and Crissie were officially awarded Honorary Doctorates of the Arts by the University of Bedfordshire for their services to the Arts.


Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions Certifications
UK Country UK
  • Released: 2 March 2015
  • Label: Decca
  • Formats: CD, digital download
1 10 36 8
My Universe
  • Released: 30 September 2016
  • Label: Decca
  • Formats: CD, vinyl, digital download
1 3 63 2
Accidentally on Purpose
  • Released: 20 April 2018
  • Label: Decca
  • Formats: CD, digital download
1 3 2
Good Years

Extended plays[edit]

Title Details
The Green Note EP
  • Released: 4 November 2014
  • Label: Decca
  • Formats: CD, digital download


Year Title SCO Album
2014 "Nashville Grey Skies" Brave
2015 "Friday Night"
"State Lines"
"All Over Again" 79
"I Just Wanna Love You"
2016 "Beats to Your Rhythm" My Universe
"My Universe" 89
2017 "Daddy's Little Girl"
2018 "Guilty" 77
Accidentally on Purpose
"Accidentally on Purpose"

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
2017 "Daddy's Little Girl" Shaun Silva


Headline Tour


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
2014 British Country Music Association Horizon Act of the Year The Shires Won
2015 Entertainer of the Year Won
Duo of the Year Nominated
Male Vocalist of the Year Ben Earle Won
Female Vocalist of the Year Crissie Rhodes Nominated
UK Song of the Year "Made in England" Nominated
UK Album of the Year Brave Won
2016 Entertainer of the Year The Shires Nominated
Duo of the Year Nominated
Male Vocalist of the Year Ben Earle Nominated
Female Vocalist of the Year Crissie Rhodes Nominated
2017 Country Music Association Jeff Walker Global Achievement Award The Shires Won
British Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Nominated
Duo of the Year Won
UK Album of the Year My Universe Nominated
Video of the Year "My Universe" Nominated
2018 Duo of the Year The Shires Pending
Album of the Year Accidentally on Purpose Pending
Video of the Year "Guilty" Pending

Live radio appearances[edit]

The Shires made their national radio debut on 1 May 2014 with a recorded live session with Bob Harris OBE on BBC Radio 2. They performed 2 songs "Brave" and "Only Midnight".[33]


  1. ^ Stassen, Murray (9 March 2015). "The Shires become first UK country act to reach Albums Chart Top 10". Music Week. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  2. ^ "The Shires sign US record deal with man who discovered Taylor Swift". BBC. 28 October 2016.
  3. ^ a b The Sunday Times: That British twang, Country is being reborn in Bedford, not Nashville. Retrieved 12 May 2014, published by Paul Sexton, 4 May 2014
  4. ^ a b c Sounds Like Nashville Artist Profile Page Archived 13 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 12 May 2014
  5. ^ a b Bob Harris BBC Radio 2 Live Session. Retrieved 12 May 2014
  6. ^ Nashville UK presented by Paul Sexton; first broadcast: Thursday 20 March 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014
  7. ^ Play Productions Homepage. Retrieved 12 May 2014
  8. ^ C2C: Country to Country 2014 Festival Profile Page. Retrieved 2014-05-12, published March 2014
  9. ^ BBC Radio 2 Playlist. Retrieved 2014-05-12, published 9 May 2014
  10. ^ The Shires Twitter Comment. Retrieved 12 May 2014, published 30 April 2014
  11. ^ BBC Radio 2 Artist Profile Page. Retrieved 12 May 2014
  12. ^ Allmusic Artist Credits. Retrieved 12 May 2014
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "The Shires".
  15. ^ "The Shires".
  16. ^ "Music – The Shires".
  17. ^ Baines, Huw. "The Shires To Open for the Corrs on Comeback Tour – Stereoboard".
  18. ^ "The Shires – My Universe".
  19. ^ "Review: The Shires – 'My Universe' – GetToTheFront". 26 August 2016.
  20. ^ "The Shires make UK country history with Big Machine record deal".
  21. ^ "Official Charts - Home of the Official UK Top 40 Charts".
  22. ^ CMA Country Music [@CountryMusic] (10 March 2017). "Country Music duo @TheShiresUK were surprised with their first CMA 🏆 at the #CMAsongwriters Series show in London!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  23. ^ "The Shires on Twitter".
  24. ^ "The Shires on Twitter".
  25. ^ "The Shires on Twitter".
  26. ^ "The Shires New Single Echo".
  27. ^ "Shires". Official Charts Company.
  28. ^ "ARIA CHART WATCH #414". auspOp. 1 April 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  29. ^ "NZ Top 40 Albums Chart". Recorded Music NZ. 26 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  30. ^ Peak positions for albums in Scotland:
  31. ^ a b "Certified Awards" (enter "The Shires" into the "Keywords" box, then select "Search"). British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  32. ^ "Chart Archive > 27 April 2018". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  33. ^ Bob Harris Country BBC Radio 2 playlist. Retrieved 2014-05-12, published 3 April 2014

External links[edit]

The Shires at AllMusic