Tony Cummings runs through the career-so-far of Australia's pop rockers FOR KING & COUNTRY

Photo by Curb Records
Photo by Curb Records

Anyone who's heard the 'Crave' album by For King & Country - and you soon will if you're a Cross Rhythms radio listener - will acknowledge they're a class act. The duo's radio friendly pop rock sound has already been called "Australia's answer to Coldplay" by one critic which may be a tad OTT but does convey something of the buzz Joel and Luke Smallbone are creating with the release of their Word/Curb album. The duo recognise that songs dealing in spiritual truth carry a great deal. Interviewed on TheSeedCompany website Joel Smallbone said, "The power of music can impact our mood, emotions, our day. But when you merge the strength of music with the heart, hope and passion of the Gospel. . . it has the ultimate power not only to change someone's day, but to impact them for eternity. This is why we write music and sing songs - we hope that people will be moved, encouraged and stirred to live a life for Someone greater than themselves."

Although it's, rather peculiarly, not mentioned in the duo's official biography the Smallbones are the younger brothers of CCM star and author Rebecca St James. Joel and Luke even appear as part of Rebecca's backing entourage on the singer's CD/DVD package released in 2007 'ALive In Florida'.

The brothers were born in Sydney. Their father, David Smallbone, was a music promoter and his record label released the first Rebecca St James album. Then with interest being shown by America's Forefront Records in 1991 Dad took the perilous step of relocating his entire family to Nashville, Tennessee. Joe reminisced on the NewReleaseTuesday website, "So with our mum pregnant and our four siblings (so that makes six, without including the baby on the way) we grabbed 16 bags and moved to the US. . . Since then, apart from school and playing sport we've travelled with various artists all over America and the world singing bvs and running different aspects of their live shows."

By 2007 the brothers were playing gigs in their own right and in 2008 released 'A Tale Of Two Towns: The EP'. The songs on the project were rather morose relationship songs and one, "Love's To Blame", was co-written with sister Rebecca and gained quite a bit of popularity and is till getting occasional hits on YouTube. A new version of the song is featured on 'Crave'. Another song from the Joel & Luke era, "People Change", got used in the much-watched Vampire Diaries TV series. The Smallbone brothers then began performing under the name Austoville. The duo were signed with the Warner Music Group and put with songwriter and producer Ben Glover who has penned songs for everyone from Trace Adkins and The Backstreet Boys to Fireflight and Francesca Battistelli. The song "Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)" from Fervent's 'For King & Country: The EP' made Billboard's Top 100 Christian Songs.

The duo spoke about "Busted Heart", "The heartbeat of the song is really a universal cry of humanity for something greater than ourselves. I sort of liken it to a five year old pompous kid who just got the training wheels off his bicycle and he can ride for the first time and thinks he doesn't need his dad anymore. He has things all sorted out. And, after a little while he falls and crashes into a thorn bush and skins his knees and it's that moment of realising he can't do it. He's hurt and he's damaged. All of the self-sufficiency comes down to a simple cry for dad. Hold onto me, don't let me lost my way. There is a bridge we cross as adults where we play the same games as kids. We think we've got it all sorted out and life will deal you those blows. This song is that cry saying, 'God, Father, hold onto me, don't let me lose my way.'"

It was producer Ben Glover who was responsible for the brothers ditching Joel & Luke and Austoville and settling for a third, and hopefully final, name. "We wanted a band name that carried more meaning. We were in the studio recording our debut record that Joel had the idea of All The King's Men, like the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. Our producer overheard our conversation and swung around in his chair and said, 'What about For King & Country?' And we all felt a sense of providence in that moment. "For King and Country" was the battle cry of English soldiers willing to lay down their lives for their king and their country. And now it has become our mission, to lay down our lives for our King and our country."

As well as tracks produced by Ben Glover, the 'Crave' album, released in the US on 28th February, also contains fine production work by Shawn Shankel (the Jonas Brothers, Natalie Grant) and Matt Hales (the British studio whiz otherwise known as Aqualung). It immediately received enthusiastic reviewers, JesusFreakHideout enthusing, "'Crave' is full of soaring melodies as well as a stunning mix of guitars, piano, strings, keyboard and electronic effects" while IndieVisionMusic declared, "This album is clever and inventive." The final word goes to Joel Smallbone, "Music has the peculiar ability to connect with the soul, and we want to use it to encourage. . . Life is a journey, full of highs and lows, triumphs and sorrows; these are the subjects we write about: real human experiences. Whether that means sharing about honest struggles, asking unanswered questions, or talking about relationships, our hope is this music will inspire you and each song will relate to you, right where you are." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.