Not Only Is for KING & COUNTRY’s Talent Priceless But So Is Their Heart
I have to be honest...there has been many a’time I’ve been driving along in my SUV while listening to Sirius XM and thinking to myself, “My gosh, can’t anyone ever sing about anything but sex and romantic love, these days?” I kid you not.
It befuddles me that - with so many other interesting topics in the world today - that “who adores, hates or wants to hop into bed with whom” - continues to remain at the center of 99.9% of the songs played on mainstream radio, currently, or so it seems. This reality has me all but screaming, “Branch out folks!” while cheering for vocal groups like for KING & COUNTRY, made up of brothers Luke and Joel Smallbone.
This Australian-born, two-time Grammy Award-winning mega duo infuse love into their repertoire, but it is woven around deep and meaningful stories that speak to the human element and of caring well beyond what seems to have become norm these days. Their recent hit Priceless off their newest album “Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong” moves to remind women of their true value. It’s a priceless, catchy melody with a priceless message that women of all ages continue to need to hear in a society that screams otherwise. And it is one that has translated to book form as well as a soon-to-be released movie, both also called “Priceless”.
The movie is due to release in theaters this October 14th and stars Joel Smallbone. It offers a valuable bonding opportunity and important discussion piece between you and your children. So think about taking the kids to see it. You’d be honoring the spirit in which this film was made as well as the manner in which the entire Smallbone’s - massively talented and large - clan lives.
In the words of Joel Smallbone:
What is your personal mantra?
To connect deeply with God and those around us; to inspire those surrounding us and to give them a voice; to continue to risk, to build, and to grow in every area.
What void or need in this world does your music fill?
Music is inherently spiritual. If you travel to remote tribes in the corners of the world - with no electricity, no iPods or iPhones - the one thing you would find is rhythm, melodies and lyrics. It's within our lifestyle, our celebrations and even in our mourning. It's a spiritual universal language.
Music also builds us up and tear us down, as well as emotionally shifts us from within. Our hope as musicians is to take grand themes of stories of hope and to present them in a way that's culturally relevant, but to also invest in a deeper love for each other and God.
You arrive from a highly musical and enormously talented family. What was in the water at home that seemed to generate such talent and ambition to bring your brand of Christian music to the world?
I'm a big advocate for the 'family' business. Our dad was always involved in music, but never pushed us into music. He encouraged us to seek out who we were creatively. In turn, if you look at the family, we each fell into variations of the music business.
Between the band and the film - with the family working together - our work is an extension of what we learned as children. I feel like we stand on the shoulders of giants with what's taken place in our family, and what was built before I had a say in the direction of my vocation.
Share the worst moment in your career that ultimately ended up being the best moment in your career -- you just didn't know it at the time. Explain how you made it through.
A year ago, we had just wrapped up the filming of the movie “Priceless”. My wife had been traveling pretty extensively during that time as well. We were dealing with major time differences and three weeks apart. My wife and I were so focused on our separate tasks at-hand that - for the first time in our two year marriage - we disconnected from each other. It was only when we came back, together, and saw the deep love in each other’s eyes, that we realized the importance of rebuilding what we had.
It was a bit of a personal struggle, but in turn, our career and what we do is so honest that it's directly connected to our personal life. So out of that hard time, our relationship has grown stronger and deeper than ever before. Arguably, I think that challenge has strengthened me, both creatively and personally.
What do you believe is your most important song to date? Why?
I think I would have to say - not to be cliché because it's the most recent song - but the tune called "Priceless". It's something we've been wanting to write for a really long time, but haven't. Often times, creativity can elude you when you try to be too specific with it. But, by the grace of God, we were able to write it last year. It deals with the topic of human relationships and how men perceive women and how women perceive themselves. That issue topples over into so many layers of social environments, family dynamics and beyond. To have a song that encourages people to celebrate a “woman’s worth” is pretty profound for Luke and I.
You are collaborating with talent from strains of music quite different from yours. What challenges or opportunities does that pose? Who would you like to work with going forward?
The challenges this poses are almost exactly parallel to the opportunities it presents. When you are working with artists outside your normal music genre, they approach and pose things completely different. They view things differently and see your art in a different light. This reality can result in insecure relationships, misunderstandings and miscommunications. Alternately, there is beauty and excitement in these collaborations that you might not have otherwise.
Creatively, I remember working on Run Wild and collaborating with a UK vocalist Aqualung and hip hop artist Andy Mineo. The flavors they brought to this song were completely different from what we would have been inclined to do but it's one of my favorite songs in regards to structure, idea and production.
There is a greater commentary here though. We want to stay in our lanes, even socially. But to reach across the aisles and step into the other neighborhood or environment - although, risky and dangerous - is where deep understanding and the development of great culture in music and social environments can begin. Moving forward, we’d love to collaborate with John Bellion, U2 (specifically Bono), and Max Martin.
The belief in God seems to be in decline in the United States. What do you believe is the biggest reason this is occurring? What is needed to change the direction we are going with regards?
I believe that the belief of a certain variation of God is in decline in the United States. That is a cultural, I even dare say, an American God. I believe that the rise of men and women who are genuinely connected to the 'God of the Bible' - the Gallelian Jesus - is actually on the rise. As the old American version gives way, it's new revolutionary, life-altering, arguably unreligious pursuit of God (the more honest, real, and deeper version) is on the rise and that's exciting to me.
Talk about "Priceless" - the book and the movie. Share how you are involved and what you hope to accomplish from your new endeavors.
The beauty of both the book and movie is that both stories go hand-in-glove and I was really involved with both from inception to the completion, on a few levels. One, in telling the story and the decision behind what story we told; two, in seeing the visuals come to life as an actor and editor -- editing alongside my brother, Ben. So it was a personal project on both counts.
Going forward, you naturally want people to be inspired by the art you portray, but there are two great themes happening. For about thirty minutes of the movie, it dives into the world of slavery, prostitution and trafficking. I hope as an external outlook, the viewer is able to be challenged to do something about these issues, to learn and seek more information. But if you look at the wider scope of the film, I hope that men are challenged to really fight for those that they love - to step up and step out - to love well. For women, I hope they see that their definition is not found in their sexuality or appearance or in their connection with a man. That they are, in fact, “image bearers” of God.
Since there seems to be no limit on your talent or ability, what's next?
When you make a record, you have the band and a handful of producers -- maybe ten people on your team. You are developing forty-five minutes of audio. On the other hand, when you make a film - in this case an hour and thirty minutes of audio and visual - you are working with lots of people and realities in the form of actors, producers, marketing teams, and financial costs. It’s a whole other kettle-of-fish.
It is an endeavor that has been challenging and rewarding. And I am grateful for the experience. That said, I'm really excited to move forward and do another record. I think when you exert yourself and test yourself to see how far you can go, going back to a familiar place it seems and feels easy. I don't want to say the record will be easy - as it won't be easy to make - but it will be less overwhelming than making a film. I'm thrilled to begin creating the third for KING & COUNTRY record.
Share a social cause or cause-based organization close to your heart.
Two come to mind vividly: a church based recovery program called Celebrate Recovery and Compassion International.
What Celebrate Recovery is doing to stop addiction, prostitution and trafficking is amazing. We've had a great partnership with them.
I am equally floored by the work Compassion International is doing to alleviate poverty, providing children proper educations - spirituality and physically - and appropriate sustenance. Through their sponsorship program, they are giving these children real opportunities, helping hundreds of thousands of kids.
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
I hope that people will look at our work and creativity and be inspired. More importantly, I hope they look into it and say, 'Wow, isn't Jesus great!” I want them to say about me, specifically, is “Didn't he really - in his art and creativity - lift the name of Jesus rather than walk away.' Whether it's myself singularly or by celebrating the band, I want others to realize that all that I am - in life and work - is a reflection of a greater story.
Needless-to-say, count me amongst the extended Smallbone audience. I will be reading their book, seeing their movie, attending their recently announced Christmas tour (with Lauren Daigle, no less) and awaiting their third for KING & COUNTRY album. The fact is, this kind of multifaceted talent comes few and far between. When coupled with a sincere desire to better mankind, as opposed to merely feeding current-day trends for financial or egocentric gains, it makes it even more rare. Some might even say “Priceless”. You will too given you are aching for entertainment that steps outside-the-box and into all of the chambers of your heart.
Many thanks to Joel Smallbone and Icon Media Group for making this interview possible