Country music is having something of a moment in the UK right now.
And at the forefront of the homegrown movement are the duo The Shires.
Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle may hail from England, but they have their spiritual home in Nashville.
They formed after Ben (from Hertfordshire) appealed on Facebook for a female country singer to work with him. Crissie (from Bedfordshire), a friend of a friend, replied, came round the very next day and they discovered an instant chemistry.
And while they may love all things Nashville, they’re not in thrall to it – their song Made In England makes sure they put their own stamp on the genre.
When they spoke to The Guide back in February, their debut album Brave was several weeks from release.
That whole story about how found each other is true, and it’s probably one of the best things I ever didBen Earle of The Shires
As Ben says: ‘We had that dream of doing for country what Mumford and Sons did for folk.
‘If we can get our album in the top 10 that would be amazing for us and such a statement, as we’d be the first British country band to do that.
‘If we get it right, we could be that first act in the top 10.’
When the album came out in early March it did indeed hit the top 10. Brave was released on the revived Decca Nashville label – The Shires were the first UK act to be signed to the label.
‘It’s a huge honour,’ says Crissie, ‘You see the artists who were on it before like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, it’s incredible that they’ve done that for us.
‘I’ve seen that name on vinyl and CDs when I was growing up, and to see our name next to that logo is great.’
When Ben put the feelers out for a female singer, Crissie was singing in pubs and at weddings, but as she says: ‘I would throw in the occasional country song, but I didn’t think there was a market for it in this country.
‘For a solo singer to say: “I want to be a country singer” would have been ridiculous.
‘We were lucky to find each other as people with a similar vision.’
Ben, who had 10 years’ experience as a singer-songwriter, adds: ‘At the start I just wanted to be Lady Antebellum 2.0.
‘I had done the solo thing before, but it’s a lot more fun sharing it with someone, and I thought a female voice would be more interesting.
‘Harmonically we love singing together. That whole story about how found each other is true, and it’s probably one of the best things I ever did.’
The Shires are at The Wedgewood Rooms on Tuesday. Doors 8pm. Tickets £12. Go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk