Spotlight: For King & Country, The Band Dishes On Love And More!

Joel and Luke Smallbone are no strangers to fame. The two-time GRAMMY award-winning duo for KING & COUNTRY have garnered four No. 1s (“joy,” “Priceless,” “Fix My Eyes,” and “Shoulders”), nine Top 10 hits, and have had their songs featured on the Emmys, Super Bowl, The Tonight Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Given all their accolades, it was almost intimidating to interview them, but once we got on the phone for our audio interview, it turned out that my fears were totally unfounded. Both brothers were incredibly humble, sincere, and overwhelmingly nice, even taking the time to find out about me and the work we do in Kallos! In fact, when I finally met them in person two months later at their first-ever concert in Singapore, I was surprised that they actually remembered me from our brief phone conversation.

In a world filled with so much negativity and cause for pessimism, for KING & COUNTRY is a breath of fresh air. Both onstage and off, the brothers are passionate about putting out music — and more importantly, a message — that uplifts the soul and calls people to action. What really sets the band apart is their art of storytelling through songs, and with their latest album Burn the Ships, the duo are sharing their most personal work to date, because the songs are about some of the most meaningful and terrifying moments of their life.

Their raw honesty and intensity of emotion shows itself in all the songs in their latest album, and I was privileged to find out more about what’s currently tugging at their heartstrings!

Hi Joel and Luke! We’re really looking forward to seeing you in Singapore.
Joel: I should say this before we go on further in the interview but we are so excited to come your way. The only time I’ve ever been to that part of the world is when I flew through Singapore airport. That was it. We didn’t even get to go out of the airport. This will be our first time in Singapore and we are so excited to come and experience your culture and your land. And I love Asian food! If I could have Asian food every day of my life, I would be a happy man! I’m gonna eat a lot of food while I’m there.

We can’t wait! Your album title was inspired by a Spanish explorer from the 1500s who landed on enemy territory and rallied his men by telling them to “burn the ships” so that the only way to go was forward. Retreat wasn’t an option. Why did this story inspire you?
When my wife Courtney was pregnant with our second son, she was prescribed medication to combat her debilitating nausea. One night, I was performing in Austin, Texas, Courtney called and said that I needed to come home because she couldn’t stop taking the medication. I was shocked because I had never had such calls from her before. I remember coming home and her saying that she was much better at that moment. But as the night progressed, she turned to me and asked if she could just take one more of those pills to make it through the night. Her hands were trembling as she spoke those words — that was when I knew it was pretty serious. The next morning, I took her to the mental health facility to deal with her growing addiction. She went through two weeks of therapy, made remarkable improvement and we didn’t have to ever go back. There was one night when she had a bottle of pills in her hands and she told me that she wanted to flush them away as they represented so much guilt and shame in her life. That was her moment of “burning the ships” and it inspired me as I was writing the song for the album.

Your No. 1 hit song “Priceless” speaks about celebrating a woman’s worth. Why is this an important message for you?
Luke: It started when Joel and I were doing shows with our older sister Rebecca St James years ago. She was playing in mother-daughter conferences and we would just follow along and play our songs. At one of these events, a mother came up to us one day and said “Hey, it’s really an opportunity to do something because you are the only dudes here!” And that was when we started thinking seriously about the impact we can make. We realised that culture is extremely powerful in telling women that they are cheap, and not worth anything much. But we believe that there is a God who says every woman is priceless! It became such a poignant thing for us over time that our older brother, Ben, decided that we should make a movie out of it to illuminate the issue of sex-trafficking. Since we were going to make a movie, we decided that we needed to write a song about it! It has been a beautiful journey thus far in empowering women to believe that God’s word speaks much more truth than what culture tells us.


Joel, this might seem a little random, but we are big fans of your wife Moriah Peters and we have to ask! How did you feel when Moriah told you that she wanted to save her first kiss for her wedding?
Moriah is quite afraid of germs; I endearingly call her a germophobic. We used to joke that she probably wouldn’t want to kiss me too then! But of course, that is not true. The truth is that when she was 14 years old, she decided that she was going to save her first kiss for marriage. And I believe that was a decision that was good and beautiful.

I respected Moriah’s conviction because what I loved while we were dating was that it put the focus on what was most important — Christ. It took the focus off physical intimacy alone. You see, there is a part of marriage that involves physical intimacy and sex. But that’s only a part of it! Instead, there is a whole lot on friendship, understanding, learning, and loving each other. I am not sure what it’s like in Singapore but in America, people do prioritise physical intimacy. But it can get highly confusing when physical intimacy is premature and given at a wrong time in a relationship. On hindsight, for us, it was a very beautiful restraint. Also, in America, a common phrase people use is that “you have to test drive the car and see if it works”. I, for one, have found that to be very untrue. Both Moriah and I stayed true to our conviction on purity during our dating years. We have been married for five years now and I daresay that we are very compatible for each other.


In your new album, the song “Pioneers” features both your wives. For Joel, this song is completely different to “I’ll Wait For You, Love”, which you wrote with Moriah before you even started dating. What has marriage taught you about love that caused you to write this song?
A lot of young people, be it in the United States or in Singapore, are similar in their obsession about the beginning of a relationship. I admit, seeing a girl across the room, going on a first date, having the first kiss and what not, all of those are beautiful. However, I came to realise that there are plenty of songs in the States that sing about that “special first moment” or the beginning of a relationship. But, sadly, not a lot of songs sing about the consistency and commitment of love. The fact is that it is in the difficult and trying times during the course of a relationship that the richness of love is found. When Moriah and I co-wrote and sang “I’ll Wait For You, Love”, we were writing about who we thought we were. But eight years later, here we are singing “Pioneers”; it is a much deeper song that paints a truer depiction of who are now as a married couple and our perception of love. In a time where commitment can be hard to come by — the “through thick and thin”, “till death do us part” kind of commitment — it’s a song that celebrates that kind of love.

What is one verse that you hold close in your music career?
Luke: For me, Psalm 20:7 is my anchor. It says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” In today’s day and age, it is so common to trust in many tangible and seemingly “important” things such as careers, homes, incomes and more. But my desire is to be someone who desires to trust in God alone! No matter what valleys that I will go through, or how my music career becomes, I will still choose to trust in Him alone.