Above: Joel (left) and Luke on the iconic Sydney Opera House steps.
Backstage at the Opera House before their historic first Sydney gigs on Monday, January 28, the boys from For King & Country reminisced about some early memories from their formative early years in Australia.
Chatting to Hope 103.2’s Sam and Duncan, Joel and Luke Smallbone – who were born in Wahroonga in 1984 and 1986 respectively – said being back in Sydney was a ‘full circle’ moment.
“Dad was a concert promoter, and one of my first memories was coming to a concert here that Dad was promoting, as a wee lad,” Joel said. He thinks it was a concert of David Meece, the piano-playing Christian pop artist of the 80s and 90s.
“This is a real full circle for us,” he said.
It was in 1991 when the boys, aged 5 and 7, moved with their family including sister Rebecca, to Nashville. Their dad, David, went to a new opportunity over there, but tragically what was promised fell through, and he was left unemployed.
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While there wasn’t any great personal stress in that experience for Luke and his brother, as they were just small boys trusting in their parents, it’s nevertheless a chapter that has taught them about God’s faithfulness. In that time they saw provision, new doors open, and their sister Rebecca launched to fame as the pop artist Rebecca St James.
“A lot of us in relationship with God are always trying to poke at God ‘please reveal to me that you’re real, again’,” he said. “I remember when I was pretty young I went to my sister [known to fans as Rebecca St James] and said, ‘what do you do in your moments of doubt’ and she said, ‘you reflect on the past and see his faithfulness’.
Proud Moment for For King & Country and the Smallbone Family
Joel said returning to Australia as an established pop act was a good moment for their whole family.
“I think for us, particularly for Dad, who manages us, this is a real profound moment – because… we left in disgrace, really. So I think coming back there’s a newfound pride and confidence in the family, in God, in music, in redemption. So that’s something we’re really excited to carry into this whole trip.”
The world is a different place to the one the boys lived in as Sydneysiders nearly 30 years ago. With modern lives now being radically affected by technology, politics and social change, Joel and Luke have a passion to infuse their music with a message of hope.
“I hope we can be a small drop in the ocean of encouragement and change,” Joel said. “That [message] is, that you are undeservedly and extravagantly and completely loved, and there’s an opportunity for this grand joy, because of that.”
Luke said that visiting Australia with his wife and three young sons made him long to hang around for longer, and that it helped his family understand some of his nature.
“You are undeservedly and extravagantly and completely loved, and there’s an opportunity for this grand joy, because of that.” ~ Joel Smallbone
“There’s definitely something about looking back and seeing where you come from,” he said. “[They can see that] Dad is pretty chill because that’s the culture he comes from, Dad likes sports because nearly every Australian likes sports. Driving by the homes you grew up in, ‘Daddy grew up in that home, that’s the mango tree he talked about’.
“I just hope for [my wife] Courtney that she gets to answer some of the questions she’s always had about me.”