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For King & Country's sibling duo keep it humble



Onward, Christian soldiers: The Smallbone bros head into battle. - COURTESY WORD ENTERTAINMENT
  • Courtesy Word Entertainment
  • Onward, Christian soldiers: The Smallbone bros head into battle.

A quick look at the tour itinerary of For King & Country indicates how quickly this sibling duo of Luke and Joel Smallbone has risen through the ranks of the Christian music scene. Just two albums into their career, they wrapped up a stint early in the year headlining Winter Jam, Christian music's leading annual package tour. Spring saw a series of headlining shows in other large venues, and now, FK&C has deployed to play festivals and more arena shows.

Luke says he and his brother appreciate their success, but their priority remains to make sure their surge in popularity doesn't change their goals. "I think there's a responsibility when things seemingly go your way," he says. "What do you do with that? Are you going to end up changing who you are or are you going to continue on with the mission you started out in music? ... We want to be people that are generous, that are humble, and we want to be character-filled people."

He credits the duo's first two outings on the Winter Jam tour, in 2012 and 2015, with playing a part in their upward trajectory. "There's not too many tours where you can get in front of 500,000 people ... it was an amazing experience," he says.

Equally thrilling, FK&C's two full-length albums — Crave (2012) and Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong. (2014) — each went Top 5 on Billboard magazine's Christian albums chart, while notching three Top 5 Christian music singles. The Smallbone brothers topped that off last year by winning the Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Album for Run Wild.

"I want to be somebody that tries not to take [the award] seriously at all, other than it's people coming alongside of you saying 'Hey, we're proud of what you're doing. We encourage you. Keep up the good work,'" he says.

Natives of Australia who moved with their family to Nashville in 1991, the brothers first got a taste of the music business during high school by singing backup for their older sister, the well-known Christian music singer and author Rebecca St. James.

After that, they decided to try forming their own group, independently releasing a debut EP, A Tale of Two Towns, in 2008 before getting signed by Warner Music Group. That was followed in 2011 by a self-titled EP, which gave FK&C a breakthrough when its single, "Busted Heart (Hold On to Me"), reached No. 3 on Billboard's Christian singles chart.

This paved the way for the Crave album, a second Top 10 single in "The Proof of Your Love," and then a setback for Luke. On tour in summer 2013, the 6-foot-4 singer contracted ulcerative colitis and landed in the hospital when it grew serious; his weight dropped to 125 pounds.

He eventually recovered, and FK&C's popularity accelerated with Run Wild, an album filled with epic songs in the vein of Coldplay and U2. Two singles, "Fix My Eyes" and "Shoulders," went Top 5 on Billboard's Christian Songs chart.

The brothers now tour with a five-piece band, delivering a fairly elaborate show, with a good deal of visual production. "The shows these days need to be as entertaining as possible," Luke says. "The people that you're playing for have entertainment in their pockets. They have it on their phones. It's around everywhere. So if you're going to leave them with a message, if you're going to leave them with something, you've got to get their attention."

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