Ahead of their Royal Albert Hall debut, The Shires – the biggest-selling UK country act of all time – treated a group of aspiring songwriters to an Elgar Room workshop in songwriting, music making, music business and beyond.

Starting off with an overview of their career, Ben and Crissie moved through their diverse collaborations and performed two songs, before breaking the workshop into groups to write and perform brand new numbers.

Scroll down to read ten tips we picked up:

The Shires’ Albert Sessions workshop. Photo: Paul Bernstein

1. On getting started…
Ben got into songwriting after feeling wrong playing other people’s material and looking for an outlet to express himself. He says he’s not himself when he’s not writing.

2. Don’t be afraid to show your influences and link them in new ways. Ben and Crissie say they’re proudly British with an American style.

3. On finding your voice…
It’s a bad idea to focus on how other people write – you should “just do it” and find your own style, even if it involves writing a lot of material before you find something good.

The Shires’ Albert Sessions workshop. Photo: Paul Bernstein
The Shires’ Albert Sessions workshop. Photo: Paul Bernstein

4. On finding inspiration…
The ‘everyday’ is the best possible creative inspiration – go out and talk to people, ask them about their day, and live a life outside songwriting that’ll ultimately inspire it. Ben jots down normal things that Crissie says, and got their third album name Accidentally On Purpose from something she said in passing.

5. Writing alone can be good, but writing in a group is best to develop ideas, move past ruts and expand your own creativity.

6. On moving past bad songs…
Ben says he’s “a big believer in finishing a song no matter what”. What seems like a bad idea could develop into something later, so it’s important to never dismiss any idea.

The Shires’ Albert Sessions workshop. Photo: Paul Bernstein
The Shires’ Albert Sessions workshop. Photo: Paul Bernstein

7. On succeeding in the music business…
Ben’s advice is to “get your songs out there. Keep doing, doing, doing”. Crissie also recommends pulling in any creative help – visual, dramatic, musical, to help improve your own work.

8. You have to practice relentlessly, even pretend practice, if you’re aiming to succeed – and it should stay fun throughout.

9. On managing nerves around mentors…
Crissie and Ben’s advice is to just appreciate the opportunity, take in ideas, and realise they were in your shoes too. You could write a better song than them after all – “there’s no good or bad, there’s just authentic”.

10. And finally…
Don’t be self-conscious and just get on with it! You don’t need to be a big personality and it’s the small experiences, like their early pub gigs, that make you. You have to just believe you’re doing the right thing.

The Shires’ Albert Sessions workshop. Photo: Paul Bernstein
The Shires’ Albert Sessions workshop. Photo: Paul Bernstein