for KING & COUNTRY
Are on a 'Passionate Pursuit
of Joy' With New Music:
Hear Their Lead Single 'Joy'
Joel Smallbone and
younger brother Luke Smallbone comprise the Christian pop and
rock duo For King & Country. Originally from Sydney, Australia,
they've lived in the Nashville area since 1991.
Since bursting onto the scene in 2010 with their debut album, Crave
-- which peaked at No. 4 on Top Christian Albums -- they've built a
large fanbase that's continuously expanding; much of that success is
word-of-mouth response from their exciting concerts. In fact, there
seems to be a genuine buzz in the Christian genre for the duo right now.
That's evidenced by
the fact that their new single, "Joy," entered the Billboard
Contemporary Christian Music charts this week at #2. The new video for
the song was just released with a surprise cameo appearance by Christian
actress Candace Cameron Bure. See the video at the top of the
To date, the Smallbone brothers, who claimed two Grammy trophies in 2015,
have collected eight top 10s on Billboard's hybrid Hot Christian Songs
chart, which blends airplay, streaming and sales. They've also posted
five Top Christian Albums appearances, all in the top five. Plus, on
Billboard's Christian Airplay charts, the duo has rolled up three No. 1s
(among eight top 10s): Fix My Eyes (September 2014), Shoulders
(June 2015) and Priceless (October 2016).
Priceless is from the feature movie of the same name about human
trafficking, a cause the brothers are extremely passionate about. The
film stars Joel and both brothers were involved in its production.
Another Smallbone brother (there are five brothers in total, plus two
sisters), Ben Smallbone, directed the film.
A gifted little tribe this Smallbone family is: Luke and Joel are also
the younger brothers of singer and public speaker Rebecca St. James.
For King & Country is gearing up for a new chapter. In their personal
lives, both have overcome serious personal hurdles. Luke battled a
life-threatening digestive disorder, ulcerative colitis, in 2016. Then
shortly afterward, Joel's wife, Moriah Peters, also a singer,
faced a serious illness.
Everyone is healthy now and the duo seems anxious to get started.
Joel and Luke Smallbone entered the room with a larger-than-life presence
(they're also tall; Luke is 6-foot-4) as they bounced off the elevator
at their record company, Word/Curb's Nashville office. They seemed
genuinely excited to talk about their upcoming work.
As they got ready to sit down with Billboard to chat, they first asked
for opinions on their brand-new single, Joy. It's the launch
single from a new album due this fall; their first full-length studio
album since 2014's Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.
Here's what the song,
Joy, feels like to me: a giant release and a call to action, to
accept happiness into your life, no matter what.
It's definitely a fragile time in America, the 24/7 news cycle,
polarization, et cetera, and it's easy to get caught up in that ...
and listening to this song, my first reaction is that you're saying,
"Stop for a second and listen." Am I on track at all?
insightful. This song took six months to write, and we wrote it partly
here in Nashville, some in England, some in Los Angeles, and it was not
a finicky song at all to write, we just have a long process. On the song
itself, I think that people are so attached to their phones, screens,
social media that you need to pause and see the joy, in human connection
Luke: Yes, we wanted to really concentrate on positivity in this
song and leave out all negativity. I feel like when people see the
video, it will bring it home and make sense. There's a real beauty in
diversity and different opinions. If you can be open and free about it,
that's where the joy is.
So the hope is for you
that this track,
Joy, might actually get folks to
slow down a second?
Joel: Yeah, we
just get so addicted to these phones, screens, social media, that life
just moves along at the speed of light, or seems to anyways.
Joy is not overtly
religious in its lyrics.
Are you hoping for some
crossover success here?
honestly never think of things in that sense. The music industry tends
to want to put labels on it, but fans don't think of music in those
Joel: I think we make music for people, so if it makes it to all
corners of the earth, great, and if not, then our only responsibility is
to make music that is true to who we are. If you can do that, you'll
find that millions of people are going through the same challenges that
you are. It's all about human connection.
This is the first new
music from you in a while. What is your hope for fans,
and I mean your loyal listeners,
as well as the people that will discover your music for the first time.
What can you tell us about the new album?
Joel: Two years
ago, our record label sat down with us and asked what the next stage of
our career is. Honestly, the first word out of our mouths was joy. The
next stage is joy. There should be joy and not a flighty sense of it,
just stumbling around hoping that that happiness might find me.
No, there should be a fight for joy, a very passionate pursuit of joy. So
on this upcoming album, which will be 10 songs, there's a romantic theme
throughout and also a lot of spiritual themes. We spent a lot of time
writing for the record, but we also wanted it to be concise.
The album does not have a
title yet and is coming when? Some of your marketing materials had
mentioned that it was
being released in May.
Luke: [Laughs] Yeah, we have pushed
this project back two or three times, but it's coming this fall, most
likely in October.
Your last album was
released in 2014.
What took so long?
Luke: Well, we
did the movie Priceless in 2016 with Universal ... and we wrote
songs for the film, which held us over.
Joel: You know, there are lots of other artists that can just get
in the studio and simply write an album's worth of material on the spot.
It doesn't work like that for us. I have always said that I am not a
good enough songwriter to write songs that don't mean anything to me
personally. So, if you're going to write 10 songs for an album, you have
to live some life so you can have something to write about. If I was to
write an album every year or two, I'd probably not have anything that
interesting or unique to say.
Luke: Right, you need that time to make some mistakes, strive a
little, so the 10 songs that we have, they're essentially our journal
You are both songwriters
and collaborate on most of your material together. Now that the process
is wrapping up for this album, is there a feeling of satisfaction?
Luke: I can
explain it this way: Our sister Rebecca is pregnant and seems like she's
going to have a baby any minute. I feel like that's a good comparison
with our new record. You know how it is, you live and breathe this
stuff, so right now we are very anxious. We're about to give birth to a
Joel: Exactly, I lay in bed at night thinking about it, Luke is
probably thinking about it in the shower. It's on our minds all the
time, especially now.
See For King & Country's Official Music Video For "Joy"
featuring Candace Cameron Bure - Click
See For King & Country's "O God Forgive Us" Official Music Video - Click
See For King & Country's live version of "Priceless"
as they surprised fan Candace Cameron Bure on "The View" - Click
You've had plenty of chart
you've won awards -- with this being your third album, are there tangible
Joel: You never sit
down to do a record thinking about charts, winning an award or anything like
that. That's not why you get into this. You do it for the power of the music
and the effect that your songs can have on people.
But isn't there also a hope
that as many people as possible will connect with
your songs and it may help them
in their own lives?
that's the anticipation. If I was to encapsulate what we want from this
album is that a lot of people out there, who might be hurting, can be
touched and encouraged by these songs.
Joel: This is such an exciting time in music because the walls are
coming down. It's all about creating a playlist to meet your emotions. I'm a
believer that music is the universal language. Our hope is that wherever you
are, no matter what your religious beliefs; that you can look at this music
and just say, "I get it."
I know you guys are big
U2 fans and they seem to be one of just a few big acts not afraid to get
onstage and say how they feel politically --
and if they lose any fans because of that,
they seem OK with that.
So I am asking that, in this age of polarization that we live in, what is
your take on it and do you try to avoid it?
Joel: I think it's
less about staying away from it and concentrating on what our mission is,
but I do believe there's a social side to our music, too. We're not a
political band, but we're a social band, talking about important issues like
human trafficking. Also, talking about women and a woman's worth.
But the climate is kind of toxic and angry out there. At the same time, I
have just become an American citizen, so I am feeling a real affinity with
Americans as well as patriotism.
So Luke, you are an American
citizen too? Are you both dual citizens of
Australia and the U.S.?
Luke: Yep, that's
right. I passed that test a long time before Joel ever did. [Laughs]
Did you help your brother
laughing, but it's actually a little intimidating to think you might get
rejected. It's a giant relief when you know that you've passed.
As a former radio programmer,
I still have that sense of how a song will sound on the air. I think Joy
is one of those songs that was just made for radio. With all of the other
platforms available to consume music, do you still sense that romance of how
a song will sound on the radio?
Joel: I am an
Apple, Spotify guy, but there is still a certain magnificence to hearing
your song on a terrestrial radio station. I don't think that will ever go
How do you make sure that your shows
Luke: I think it's
similar to how you make your music. You tell your stories about where you
are in life and people gravitate to it because they're experiencing similar
things. We all put our pants on the same way. We meet people where they are.
When you speak to people from your box and expect people to relate, you're
not going to get the results that you were striving for.
I believe that anyone can walk through those doors on any given night,
and you have to be ready for that, and be able to relate to that person.
What's your favorite kind of
Luke: We have been
playing a lot of hockey rinks and basketball gyms of late. [Laughs]
Honestly, it doesn't matter where we are; we're going to try and bring
people in and create something special. But we're thinking of going on a
short run and play theaters like Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. We're really
excited about that. The best places to play as an artist are the places
where you can reach out and touch the audience and create a community.
Why do you think there are
some Christian artists lately who do not want that
Christian tag on their music?
Joel: I believe
that when you look at history, there was so much power in religious music,
whether it be hymns, chants, choir music. I think there are signs that it's
coming back. I think there's always going to be artists that desperately
want everyone to like them. That's a dangerous place.
I think with the album we're about to release that we have romantic
songs, but we also have our spiritual and religious songs. On our spiritual
songs, we don't back away from our beliefs. We're not backwards, coming
forwards about our spiritual songs. We're proud of who we are. It's music
that we just have to get out, we believe in it that much.
You've both been through a lot
personally. Everyone is healthy now, I hope. ...
Luke, you went through something really serious. As a cancer survivor, I can
tell you that it's pretty much a factor in everything I do. How does what
you survived affect both your career and life overall?
Luke: Yes, I can
say that when you walk through something like that, it just changes you for
the better. It actually makes you a more compassionate person. It changes
the lens that you see life through. You just had to overcome miserable
things to get there.
I don't ever want to go back there, but you're a better person on this
side of it. I work hard now, but I also rest hard. I think, before, my value
was in my work, and now it's in things like seeing my wife's smile as I come
up the driveway.
I probably should have asked
Why the name, For King & Country?
Joel: It's actually
good you put it at the very end. You know, when we were thinking about a
name, every billboard, every name, every advertisement that you see, they
are all potential band names. We came up with our share of silly ones, but
we wanted something that was a touch regal, a name which had a sense of
purpose. We didn't want a quirky, just bizarre name.
The phrase "For King & Country" just kind of came out in our first studio
session. It was actually a cry that Roman soldiers would cry out as they
were going into battle, and we thought it was perfect. After all, all of us
are essentially going into battle.
~ from www.billboard.com ~