This year has taught us all a lot about our capacity for change, ability to adapt and how resilient we are in the face of multiple unknowns. And globally, the music industry has been one of most affected with live shows cancelled and mass gatherings prohibited, sending artists online to keep connected to their fans.
It hasn’t dampened the spirits of Australian-born pop duo For King & Country though, who have turned these uncertainties into a time of celebration with their new album, A Drummer Boy Christmas.
Now based in the States, the band’s first Christmas album comes at the end of a year that, for them, has meant a whole lot more family time and seen them create a touring drive-in show they’ve legally been able to take on the road.
When the tour they had originally planned for 2020 got cancelled, singer and songwriter Luke Smallbone said it became a time where their faith was deepened as a family, and his three sons got to see their parents’ beliefs in action.
Luke told his sons “this is actually a moment for us to practice what we preach”.
“You know our faith is in Jesus, and we talk about that form stage, we talk about that at home, we talk about that in a lot of circumstances that honestly, are pretty easy.
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“[In 2020] things have gotten more complicated, and this is a moment for us to believe the things we’ve talked about for years and years,” he said.
The restrictions to live performing has meant Luke and his fellow front man and brother Joel have had to adapt – a trait they said it pays to stretch at times like this.
“When you’re forced to kind of do different things [because] you can’t do certain things, that’s the moment innovation must take place. And if you don’t innovate you’re not going to get to do anything,” Luke said.
“So I think for us, [adapting] was more of a necessity than anything. We asked ‘what are the rules?’ and ‘what can we do within the confines of those rules?’”
Along with having a great team of bandmates and technicians who’ve made their drive-in shows possible, Luke’s clearly seen the hand of God on what they’ve been able to do – especially when their booking agent told them theirs was the only tour of its kind happening across America.
“Some of the things that have happened for us have been quite miraculous,” Luke said.
“There’s a very tangible, real God-component to some of the doors that have been opened to us – they don’t make a lot of sense.
“We literally just did five or six shows in California and they’re one of the toughest states on a lot of the [COVID-19] restrictions. We played by the rules, and I think there’s just an unexplainable God-component to what has taken place that I don’t think we can underestimate.”
Around the world it’s fair to say fans’ appreciation for live music and entertainment has gone up over 2020, as they long for what they’ve missed and value the creativity of artists who’ve kept it alive throughout the pandemic.
“Music has this ability to bypass the head and go directly to the heart,” Luke said.
“And, I think, never has it been more important for us to bypass our head in a roundabout way, than in a pandemic. There are a lot of things to worry about right now; it’s pretty easy to turn on the television and think, ‘how am I going to make it out of 2020?’
“There’s so much out there, there’s so much fear and I think [the gift] of music is that it has an ability to calm the soul even when you’re in a very anxious or stressful situation.”
Over the years For King & Country’s hits like Shoulders, God Only Knows and, more recently Together have helped listeners through tough seasons but Luke said, “a lot of times we’re writing these songs to comfort our own souls.”
It was earlier on in the band’s career, listening to a song in the car he wrote for their first album, Crave, that Luke said, “a lightbulb went on” for him about how important writing songs that comfort his own pain is.
“That’s what I’m called to do,” Luke said.
“I’m called to write songs that speak to my soul because there’s millions of other people in the world that have the similar hurt.
“The similar need of healing. The similar storylines of redemption – and need redemption. The reason why we do music is for King, and for people – that’s ‘For King & Country’.”
For a brief moment as teens, Luke and Joel wrote those songs hoping to make it in the mainstream, until they realised there was more creative opportunities for them as Christian artists.
“In mainstream music you really just need to write a really good love song, and it hit me that in music that is infused with faith, you can kind of write about anything because I’m writing about things through the lens of what Jesus has done in my life,” Luke said.
“And that applies to the way that I love my wife, it applies to the way I love my kids. That applies to painful things that I’ve walked though and that applies to the delightful things that have taken place.”
Luke and his wife Courtney have three young boys they’re raising at the moment, with a little girl expected in January. Thinking about the values he’s trying to instil in his sons as they grow up, Luke said he hopes they learn to be men with vulnerability and strength.
“It’s very easy to create rugged people with a closed-off heart, but what does it mean to be a tough man, but with a sensitivity to the things of God? That’s probably what we shoot for the most.”
Join For King & Country for DRUMMER BOY: A Night of Celebration Live on Facebook, December 16 at 12pm AEDT or right here: