Luke Smallbone is apologetic on the other end of the phone as one half of the popular for KING & COUNTRY explains the reasoning behind being a few minutes late for a scheduled phone interview.
“Sorry mate, life on the road, some confusion, you know,” the native Australian said in a sweet and gentle manner that provides some authenticity behind his apology. “We are so excited about coming to your town. We’ve been there before and can’t wait to make it back.”
The two-time Grammy Award-winning band, that features Luke and his brother Joel, will headline the for KING & COUNTRY Christmas with their guest Lauren Daigle tonight at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. They opened recently for Casting Crowns at the SEC Arena, and their enthusiastic reception laid the foundation for their recent 15-city tour that will feature many holiday tunes, including their original “Glorious.”
“No pressure there, huh?” Luke said, when asked about writing and performing an original Christmas song. “It is intimidating, writing a Christmas song, because some of the greatest songs ever written deal with Christmas, and we’re going to be performing many of them on this tour. Christmas comes just one time a year so we thought we would come up with our own song, and we hope everyone enjoys it.”
Fans have been enjoying their unique blend of theatrical, soaring melodies and sweeping themes and lyrics since the two brothers formed their unique band back in 2011.
Since then, they have been named by Billboard as one of the New Artists to Watch in 2012 and won the GMA Dove Awards’ New Artist of the Year Award in 2013 - and two Grammys sit on their mantles back in Tennessee.
With strong Christian roots, the powerful rock/pop duo promises a show that will make the holiday season even brighter and more joyous.
“We have more than 300 shows under our belts and have criss-crossed the country in a passenger van back in the day, so we’re ready to give our fans something special on this tour,” Luke explained. “When fans come to our show, we want them to feel like they have seen something honest, real and authentic. God has chosen up to be here, to do what we are doing, and we want to make sure that our message is strong and powerful.”
While they started out as a Christian group, Luke and Joel have ventured into new musical territories.
They have collaborated with hip-hop artist Andy Mineo and continued their creative partnership with artist/producer Aqualung. Their sound is as unique as their theatrical live shows that often feature Luke banging away on a drum while he and Joel command the stage with a presence that would make Bruce Springsteen proud.
“We just want to be ourselves and we want our music to honest,” Luke said. “We love orchestral arrangements and any kind of music that is real and organic. We feel like if we are honest with ourselves, our fans will embrace our music – all of our music. We want to touch their hearts.”
One song that certainly touches the hearts of all their fans is the single “Without You,” off their RUN WILD, LIVE FREE, LOVE STRONG album.
The album is a musical documentary of the many life-changing times of growth, transition, revolution and revelation for the brothers.
Joel got married and Luke became a father during this time. But Luke also faced a life-threatening illness that through pain and fear helped him grasp onto a joy and happiness he never knew existed.
“Without You,” features Luke’s wife, Courtney, who is not a professional singer, on vocals.
“That was the most honest and difficult song for me, because it was written during my illness,” said Luke, who suffered from a digestive disorder — ulcerative colitis — back in 2013.
The 6-foot-4-inch singer weighed only 125 pounds and was too frail to hold his own newborn baby.
“Courtney feared she was going to lose me, and it is difficult to grasp a moment like that. She said, ‘Luke, you just can’t leave me here.’ The lyrics gave me the vision and the hope for what is to come. I know that I have today but I don’t know if I have tomorrow, so in those moments, I am going to laugh, and I’m going to dance if I can. If this illness was to take me, it would take me as a very hopeful man.
With the help of songwriter Matt Hales, the brothers turned Luke and Courtney's journey into “Without You.”
“Just hearing Courtney sing it - and it was just us two, I recorded it with her - it was an amazing moment," Luke said.
And another amazing moment followed. After making it through his medical ordeal, Luke was watching his young son, Jude, take his first steps.
“And I thought, ‘Run wild, live free, love strong,’ as I watched Jude learn to walk, and that became the title of our album,” Luke said, softly. “I learned a lot about faith and family during my illness and I discovered an even deeper love than I knew existed. I am a fortunate fellow.”