Headliner recently spoke to Luke Smallbone, one half of four-time Grammy Award-winning Christian rock/pop duo For KING & COUNTRY, to discuss the musical chemistry he has with his brother Joel, collaborating with Dolly Parton on the band’s hit God Only Knows, and their new Christmas album that has been eight years in the making.
Australian-born, Nashville-based sibling duo For KING & COUNTRY are currently out on the road with “A Drummer Boy Drive-In: The Christmas Tour” in support of their first holiday album, A Drummer Boy Christmas.
“Obviously we’re there in person and we have a live PA, so you can roll down the windows if it's not too cold and still have a really nice experience,” says Smallbone. “The most important thing right now is that it's safe and socially distanced, so we're very grateful to have a little bit of work and be able to share the music that we've made on the Christmas album with the people.”
At least one positive about 2020 is that the pair have been able to use technology to their advantage. In fact, it has been quite the boon for their creativity:
“With the Christmas album, one of our producers who lives in Bath, UK was able to record a little bit there. It was mixed in London, we had some strings played in Copenhagen, we had some horns done in L.A, it was mastered in New York and then our band was in Nashville!”
Smallbone actually started out in life wanting to pursue sports, but that dream quickly faded when he tore his ACL playing basketball. Going into music with his brother Joel then seemed like the perfect alternative; the pair wrote some songs and did a couple of projects together, “but nothing ever really hit all that hard,” he says. “It was during those years that I think I fell more in love with music; I could see its power and maybe saw some of my talents beginning to form.
“During those six or so years of very little success we were finding ourselves and trying to figure out how to work together, and they were probably the bedrock of everything that we do now.”
From a creative standpoint when it comes to the songwriting process, there’s a lot of chemistry between the brothers, and they’re able to combine their talents in a truly meaningful way. After all, teamwork makes the dream work.
“We know each other so well, so when he’s resistant of an idea I can usually understand the reason why, and we can get to the bottom of it. Joel and I have very different musical talents. I usually start a lot of songs whereas he is more of a finisher, and I tend to usually be a little bit more of the driving force behind a new idea.
“To be honest we were arch rivals growing up, but now we have become dear friends. We've spent so much time together and worked with each other for so long that sometimes we can finish each other's sentences, and in some cases finish each other's songs! I've often joked that when Joel and I are separate, we’re just a leaf in the wind, but together we can do something that I think is special.”