"It feels like the last few years have been in fast forward mode" In conversation with Crissie Rhodes

The last couple of years have been mega-successful for Brit-country duo The Shires, from becoming the first UK country act to debut in the official UK top ten album chart in 2015, to their second album, My Universe, becoming the fastest selling country album ever in the UK in 2016. We were first due to speak to the duo in 2015 but technical issues meant we only had the pleasure of chatting with Ben Earle. Happily, as part of our Women In Country series, we've finally caught up with Crissie Rhodes.

Hey Crissie, so My Universe has been out for almost a year, how have things been since?

Really great, thank you. It feels like the last few years for us have been in fast forward mode. We’ve had two great tours, we went around the country visiting lots of radio stations. We did in-store signings at HMV where we got to meet lots of our fans and most recently we supported Jeff Lynne's ELO at Wembley Stadium, which was an amazing experience for us.

I think my favourite part of the album is the ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ / ‘Everything You Never Gave’ double whammy in the middle. They’re two brilliant tracks, how did those two songs come together? Was the plan always to have them side by side in the tracklist?

Thank you very much! We had no idea each other had written songs about our dads and that somehow we wrote them around the same time, while we were on tour with Little Big Town. Ben knew he was going to become a father for the first time, but I didn't know at that stage. I never thought that these songs that are so personal to the both of us would work on our album but they worked perfectly, giving both of our stories about our Dads. It was Ben’s idea to have them side by side on the album. We have received many messages about these two songs in particular. It’s really nice to hear how our songs have impacted other peoples lives.

What’s your favourite song of your own?

It’s hard to pick just one because they all have their differences. Songs such as 'Jekyll & Hyde' and 'A Thousand Hallelujahs' are so much fun to perform live. There’s so much energy in both of those songs but as a lover of ballads and using my whole range, songs such as 'Desperate' and 'Naked' are belters for me. I love being able to use my voice in its entirety.

How do you think the country scene has changed in the UK since you guys first came about? Are we getting anywhere near to ‘Nashville Grey Skies’?

Most definitely! Look at all the country music festivals popping up and the amount of artists/bands there are now. Bob Harris is championing rising country acts on his radio show on BBC Radio 2 and we now have a whole DAB radio station devoted to country music thanks to Chris Country. I think soon enough there will need to be a direct flight from Heathrow to Nashville!!

You guys always seem to be on tour, is that because you love playing live?

Yes! We really do love being on stage, performing night after night. There really isn't a greater feeling. Even if we’re having a bad day, when we get on the stage, everything outside is forgotten and we are completely in the moment and at one with the crowd.

What’s the best thing about touring?

Being on the road with our touring family. As a touring musician, you end up spending more time with your band and crew than with your own family. We have so many laughs on the road and as much as the boys are very boisterous, I do miss them when we are apart.

And the worst?

The adrenalin come down. It gives me an amazing boost of energy while I am on stage and for a couple of hours after, but the next day is like you’ve been hit by a truck. Couple that with how dark it is and super snuggly the bunks are on the tour bus. It makes me wanna sleep all day. There is never the time to sleep all day though!

Where’s the strangest place you’ve played live?

The Amazon Warehouse in Hemel Hempstead…yup that's right…a huge warehouse! It makes me giggle thinking about it now. We sang to all of the staff members just before the Christmas rush started.

What’s have you got coming up for the rest of 2017?

We have lots of festivals throughout the summer, all over the country. We are then heading to Nashville to write and record album three.

You’re a woman in a predominantly male industry, has that had any impact on your career so far?

Other than mostly being surrounded by guys on the road, not that I am aware of.

Are there any instances when you’ve thought “A bloke wouldn’t get treated like that!”?

It is hard being a woman in the public eye. There are pressures to look good all the time. I don’t think men feel this pressure as much as women.

It should be more acceptable for a girl to go about her day without having make-up and high-heels. It’s what’s inside that counts.

Some people (including Margo Price) don’t think people should be bringing gender into the question in music, it should be irrelevant, but it feels like it’s still an issue. Is it?

I know there was a problem in the USA where the radio stations wouldn't play two consecutive songs by females, which seemed very daft to me. I know that the women in country were not happy about this. I think we need men & women’s opinions and stories in songs. Obviously men are not going to relate to our female stories as much but I know us women need to stick together to lift each other up and help each other out in hard times. But I also believe listening to a guys side of the story can let us understand their point of view too. I like to keep an open mind and consider both sides of the story.

What female artists do you listen to regularly?

Maren Morris, Lauren Alaina, Kelsea Ballerini, Carrie Underwood. My leading ladies as I was growing up were always Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Celine Dion & Leeann Rimes.

And who’s the number one country act we should be looking out for this year?

I absolutely love Lauren Alaina. Her lyrics are empowering to women and her voice is killer. She is by far my favourite vocalist right now. There’s nobody new in country that has a voice like hers.  She is also empowering to women. She talks from experience of the pressures on girls and young women today. Her lyrics make me feel like I'm not the only woman going through these daily struggles.

What advice do you have for people trying to get into the music industry?

There is no such thing as an over night success. This industry demands you to work all hours for very little return (at the start) I can’t possibly name everything because there is so much but here are a few pointers...

Do a whole lotta free work to practice your craft. Playing every type of event will teach you how to work different crowds, whether it be a small pub, a wedding or an arena.

Make everything your own style. Write with everyone. Carry a note book to jot any song ideas down. Never put any covers/original performances online that you don’t feel at least 90% happy with, people are very quick to judge! Try to find acts to support on tour to showcase yourself to a new audience.

Once you have your record deal, that's when the hard work begins!

If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?

I have just heard a song by Brett Young called ‘Like I Love You’ on Chris Country radio. It stopped me in my tracks. It resonates with me a lot right now having recently split from my boyfriend. Every person needs country music to get them through whatever they are going through! It’s an honest and relatable music genre!

Finally, how do you take your coffee?

I love a flat white or cortado. A short coffee is my thing!

Thanks so much for your time Crissie, really appreciate it, have a fantastic time with the rest of the tour.

Thank you so much for these great questions!!

For more information on The Shires and where you can catch them live, visit their website. You can also keep up with their news on Twitter and Facebook

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