SHANE Richie is known for many things - comedian, presenter and of course for playing Alfie Moon in TV soap EastEnders. But country music star?

Tomorrow Shane’s album, A Country Soul, will be released and he is already prepared for the backlash.

“I totally get how the way the business works and you will get people saying I’m jumping on a bandwagon,” he said. “But if I wanted to jump on a bandwagon I’d have done Frank Sinatra, a bit of Buble or songs from the musicals.”

Instead he’s put together a modern country album featuring three original songs plus covers of numbers from the likes of Rascal Flatts, Dobie Grey and Heartland.

“I understand people’s perceptions of me,” said Shane. “There are some who love me and others who think I’m that prat of EastEnders. But I’m really proud of this album. All I can ask for people to think ‘you know what, I’m not a fan of this bloke but let’s have a listen’. And then if they make up their minds about it having listened to it, then I’m fine with that.”

Shane regularly performs with his own band - “we’ll play a pub car park if we can,” he laughed - and a number of the songs on the album are ones which form part of his band’s normal setlist.

“Love the One You’re With is one we’ve played for years,” he said. “Drift Away is another we play and we’ve put a steel guitar underneath it for the album.”

The album reflects Shane’s love for modern country music - he’s extremely knowledgeable on the subject and we spent part of our chat recommending artists to check out.

He grew up in a musical household, his father ran a number of Irish clubs around London.

“My mum loved Patsy Cline and my dad Johnny Cash and Jim Reeves and I’d hear this stuff and I kind of got it,” he said.

“ I loved the storytelling, but then a few years ago I could see it changing. There was a whole generation of artists who had grown up listening to R&B and soul and suddenly they were taking what they had heard and they were putting their own country feel to it.

“Look at Keith Urban (one of the leading figures in country music) he has Nile Rodgers playing on his album and Bulldog rapping and it works, it’s the way forward.”

Shane is quick to point out how seriously he has taken the album.

“It’s taken precedence over acting really,” he said. “I finished filming for Benidorm then went into the studio. For the last four or five months I have been in the studio working on the album, nothing else.”

Knowing he will have to convince music lovers to see past his TV persona, was Shane tempted to release the album under another name?

“No, that’s not something I thought about,” he said. “What I wanted to do was put out a couple of tracks on a white label and send it to radio stations and go ‘guess who this is?’.

“It was interesting, they played the album to some of the buyers from the big outlets and a few people thought it was Bon Jovi and someone thought it was Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s new album. And when they said it was Shane Richie, they were like ‘really?

“All those songs on that album are from the heart. When we were in the studio, I sat in on every mix and I made sure I heard every instrument, every vocal before it went to be pressed.

“If it goes wrong because someone doesn’t like it, then there’s only me to blame.”

A Country Soul is out tomorrow on East West Records