THE Shires are releasing the love-struck ballad Sleepwalk as the second single from their Top Three album Accidentally On Purpose, but it is surprising the English country-pop duo have any time for sleep, given their prolific songwriting and touring.

Next Thursday, Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes return to York Barbican, where they last played in December 2016, since when they have headlined Yorfest on Knavesmire last September.

"The whole time we're touring, we're writing songs too and then we go out to Nashville to record. We've always been able to find time to write," says Bedfordshire singer Crissie.

"Touring in inspiring too because you come back off tour and think 'I want to write songs about what we've experienced', so in any down-time we write, and we also had a couple of songwriting visits to Nashville too," says Hertfordshire singer and guitarist Ben. "We just love writing songs – and because we often co-write, it's like hanging out with your friends!"

The Shires' debut album, Brave, went gold in 2015, when it became the first British country album to enter the British top ten. Their sophomore record, My Universe, soon followed in 2016, reaching the Top Three en route to being the fastest-selling British country album ever.

On April 20, their third album in four years arrived: a rate of productivity out of step with many prominent bands today. "But The Beatles were pretty good at that!" says Crissie.

Recorded in the country capital of Nashville, Tennessee, The Shires' new country-pop songs chart their changing world since making their breakthrough in 2015, their relationships and their time in the United States. Accidentally On Purpose is full of personal songs that "really sum up the whirlwind journey we’ve been on together," say the duo.

"From the first day we met, we’ve been crazy dreamers with big plans, who really believed that country could break into the UK mainstream, but for all those dreams, we never imagined it would all happen so quickly."

Given their rapid rise and chart success, did The Shires feel greater pressure when making their third album? "Pressure? It's funny because our record company [Decca] very much leave us to get on with writing and recording," says Crissie. "It's now more about choosing the singles, as there are so many people involved and everyone has an opinion."

York Press:

Three albums in four years for The Shires: "The Beatles were pretty good at that," says Crissie Rhodes

Ben and Crissie made their first two albums in Nashville with a live band in the studio, as was the custom in the Seventies, and this time they worked in tandem with Lindsay Rimes, a producer with an ear for pop. "We were looking for producers and the production he did on Guilty and Ahead Of The Storm was so incredible, we just thought he'd be amazing for the album, so we asked him if he'd be up for the whole record and he was."

What keeps drawing The Shires back to Nashville? "The way that people write songs out there, it's very much like a day job," says Crissie. "On any day, they'll go, 11 to 3, write one song; six till late, write another song. That's inspiring. They really understand what's going on in the market out there, and we loved working with Lindsay because he had a door into Australia as well as America for us."

Among the songwriting credits on Accidentally On Purpose is one Ed Sheeran. "We went to say Ed's show in Nashville, sitting five rows from the front, and straight after we were invited to the after-show. 'Oh my god, we might meet Ed; we'll have to act really cool,' I said," recalls Crissie. "There was a moment when Ed locked eyes with Ben, and Ben introduced himself. 'I know who you are,' said Ed."

What happened next? "Ed had written this song, Stay The Night; he'd already done the demo and he decided to send it to us," says Ben. "We'd love to sing it with him one day."

Accidentally On Purpose follows a trend of choosing an album title to match the number of records made by the duo. "After Brave and My Universe, we wanted something that had three words as it's our third album, and as it had to be one of the tracks, we thought Accidentally On Purpose sounded quirky but right," says Crissie.

"Then we found that our marketing team at Decca had started doing these hilarious things accidentally on purpose, like their leaked email of the album artwork."

An album title was born, and now, anything but accidentally, Accidentally On Purpose has risen high in the charts.

The Shires play York Barbican on May 31; doors open at 7pm. Tickets update: limited availability on 0844 854 2757, at or in person from the Barbican box office.