Country star of The Shires is at home in St Albans

The Shires - Ben Earle and Crissie Gudgin

The Shires - Ben Earle and Crissie Gudgin - Credit: Archant

He may be one half of the UK’s newest country pop duo that has shot to fame but Ben Earle from The Shires has his roots firmly grounded in the Home Counties.

The 27-year-old, whose two-piece is the first UK country group to make it into the album chart’s top 10, hails from this neck of the woods, but listeners could be forgiven for thinking he was a Nashville native with his bluesy and folksy tones.

Born and raised in Berkshire, Ben moved to St Albans just three and a half years ago and cites the city as a huge source of inspiration for his song-writing.

“As a place it is so inspirational. When I first moved here with my parents we didn’t know what to expect.

“I took a walk round the city and ended up down by the Cathedral and Verulamium Park.

“I hadn’t even realised there was a lake there but I started to go there a lot to write songs.”

He admits that until he met his partner in crime and music, Crissie Rhodes, after advertising for a country singer on Facebook, he was relatively new to the country music scene.

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“I had my first taste of it three years ago when I was introduced to a band called Lady Antebellum.

“It was at a time that I was about to give up and then I heard one of their songs which just changed everything for me.

“I was a struggling song-writer and I had written a few songs but I used listened to artists like Newton Faulkner and James Morrison.

“It was like an epiphany and then I met Crissie, who used to listen to Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton with her grandma and she showed me more.”

Despite the pair’s whirlwind success – a far cry from Ben’s days working at 3 Store in the city’s Market Place - it is clear his feet are still firmly on the ground.

“We don’t get a lot of time to sit and reflect on it but the whole thing has happened really quickly. I’m 27 and had written my earlier stuff when I was 17 so I guess it felt like a long time coming.

“We were signed in February, were making an album in April and were in the top 10 a year later.”

Important for Ben, is that the pair “did it the old-fashioned way” in an age where Youtube hits and online views are the number one priority.

“Me and Crissie got together and started making a few songs and then doing a few gigs - our first ever gig was at The Horn, which I love as a venue and then we met our manager through that and got a record deal.

“We’re very lucky and there has been a huge rise in interest for country music over the last year, it’s having a huge revival. It’s meteoric almost.”

Top of the duo’s agenda, Ben believes, is keeping their “Britishness” - evident in their song Made in England, all about fish and chips and pints - something which makes the pair so unique.