For King & Country (band)

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For King & Country
For King & Country performing in 2018
For King & Country performing in 2018
Background information
OriginNashville, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresChristian pop, alternative rock, soft rock
Years active2007–present
Associated actsRebecca St. James
MembersJoel David Smallbone[1]
Luke James Smallbone[1]

For King & Country, stylised as for KING & COUNTRY and formerly known as Joel & Luke as well as Austoville, is a Christian pop duo composed of Australian brothers Joel (born 5 June 1984) and Luke Smallbone (born 22 October 1986).[2] The brothers were born in Australia and immigrated to the United States as children, settling in the Nashville area.

After releasing a short EP as Joel and Luke, in 2012 they released their debut record Crave. The band was declared by Billboard as one of the "New Artists to Watch" for 2012.[3] American Songwriter described them as "Australia's answer to Coldplay".[4] In 2014, they released their second studio album, Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong., which won a Grammy award.

In 2018, they released Burn the Ships, which achieved gold status. The album featured four singles, including "God Only Knows", which achieved platinum status, and "Joy" and "Burn the Ships", which reached gold status.

The band has collaborated with many artists on their work, including Dolly Parton, Timbaland, Tori Kelly, Lecrae, Needtobreathe, and others.


Early music career[edit]

After failing the fourth grade, the brothers supplied background vocals and other supporting roles for their sister, Rebecca St. James, and various bands in concerts across America.[5] Shortly after Luke graduated from high school, the brothers decided to explore the possibility of forming a band, and in 2007, they began performing as their own band. They began their career as "Joel & Luke", which they later changed to "Austoville", before settling on their current name.[6]

In 2008, "Joel & Luke" released a six-song EP titled A Tale of Two Towns. Three of those songs ("Missing", "Sane", and "Love's to Blame") appeared on Crave with slightly different melodies and lyrics. The other three songs were "Broken Lullabies", "Believe Me Now", and "Something's Gotta Give". Love's to Blame was co-written by St. James.[5]

Rename to "for King & Country" and Crave[edit]

In 2009, they signed on with Warner Music Group with Ben Glover as their producer. They changed their name to "For King & Country", after a British battle cry. Luke said,

"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."[5]

In 2011, they released For King & Country: The EP. Their song "Busted Heart (Hold On to Me)" was released as a single and peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's Christian Songs chart.[7] They described "Busted Heart" as "really a universal cry of humanity for something greater than ourselves...We think we've got it all sorted out, and life will deal you those blows."[8] "Busted Heart" was the fastest-rising single of 2011 in their genre, climbing the Top 10 for weeks.[citation needed]

Their debut album Crave was released on 28 February 2012. The album hit No. 2 on the iTunes top Christian & Gospel albums on its day of release and No. 42 on the overall chart. It peaked at No. 4 on Billboard's Christian Albums chart, and remained on the chart for 41 weeks.[9] It also reached No. 128 on the Billboard 200 chart.[9] The album has received positive reviews from critics. Shortly after Crave's release, they released "The Proof of Your Love" as a single, remixed and titled "The Proof of Your Love: The Monologue Mix". The single differs from the album version with a monologue spoken by Joel from 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (The Message) as the bridge instead of the guitar riff on the album version. The single reached No. 8 on Billboard's Hot Christian Songs chart and spent 29 weeks on the chart.[10] The band toured on the 2012 Winter Jam Tour Spectacular. In May 2012, they appeared on the Huckabee show on Fox News Channel.[11]

Their debut hit song, "Busted Heart (Hold On to Me)" was featured on 28 October 2012 episode of VH1's Rehab with Dr. Drew.[12] Among other television placements, their songs "People Change" and "Love's To Blame" have been featured The CW's Vampire Diaries, and "Light It Up" and "Sane" have been featured on the Lifetime show Drop Dead Diva.[13][14] In July 2012, they announced The Proof of Your Love Tour with Jason Castro and Dara Maclean to visit 30 cities from September through November 2012.[15] In October 2012, they released an original Christmas song: "Baby Boy"; it reached No. 20 on the Hot Christian Songs chart.[16] During the summer of 2013, the band was forced to take time off when the 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Luke dropped to 125 pounds (57 kg) due to an attack of ulcerative colitis.[17] In June 2013, Joel Smallbone appeared in a non-singing role as King Xerxes in the film, The Book of Esther from Pure Flix Entertainment.[18]

In August 2013, the band released Hope Is What We Crave: Live, a live album and DVD, both recorded at The Factory in Nashville on the last night of the band's first headlining tour. They also released "Hope Is What We Crave" as a single. It is a reworked version of "Crave" from their album.[19] They toured with Casting Crowns starting in February 2014.[citation needed]

Rise in popularity[edit]

For King and Country released a new album Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong. on 16 September 2014.[17] The album spent 17 weeks on the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 13,[20] and reached No. 12 on the Digital Albums Chart.[21] The band performed their songs "Run Wild" and "Fix My Eyes" on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on 25 March 2015.[22][23] They were part of the Winter Jam Tour 2015 in the central and eastern parts of the United States[citation needed] and part of Winter Jam 2016.[24] The duo released a deluxe anniversary edition of the album on 23 October 2015, including three new songs: "Priceless", "Ceasefire" and "Wholehearted", as well as a reworked version of "It's Not Over Yet", called "The Encore".[citation needed]

In 2016, Curb Records acquired Warner Music Group's stake in the band's record label, Word Entertainment, thus becoming King & Country's record label.[25]

After releasing their second album, the brothers focused much of their time on the feature film Priceless, which stars Joel in a story about human trafficking. They wrote several songs for the film, part of the reason it took four years to release their next studio album.[26] They also wrote a song, accompanied by a music video, entitled "Ceasefire" for the 2016 adaptation of Ben-Hur; the song was used in the second official trailer for the film and released as part of the official soundtrack.[27]

On 27 October 2017, they released Christmas: Live from Phoenix, and shortly thereafter embarked on "A Glorious Christmas" tour with Casting Crowns.[28]

Continued success[edit]

The band announced that they had begun writing their third studio album, in January 2017.[29] The album's lead single, "Joy", was released on 18 May 2018.[26] It reached No. 35 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart and No. 2 on the Hot Christian Songs chart. Burn the Ships was released on 5 October 2018. The brothers described it as "most mature record that we've made just in understanding who we are as a duo, who we are as men and maybe understanding life because we are a bit older than we were last time around."[30] Two of the songs were written about the weighty topics of addiction and suicide, and two were written to and about their wives (who sing in the final track, "Pioneers", and appear in the accompanying music video).[30][31] The album contains ten songs and they released five music videos to accompany them.[30] "Joy" was nominated for the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song.[32]

On 11 January 2019, "God Only Knows" was released to radio becoming the second single from the album.[33] The band collaborated with Dolly Parton, who was featured on a new version of "God Only Knows".[34] They also released new versions of the song featuring collaborations with Timbaland and Echosmith.

The Burn the Ships album won a Grammy in 2019, as did the single "God Only Knows".

In 2020, after canceling its scheduled tour due to the coronavirus pandemic, the band performed drive-in style outdoor concerts where attendees listened and watched from their cars.[35] The band announced they had reached over one billion digital streams of their songs.[36]

In October 2020, the band released A Drummer Boy Christmas, a full length Christmas album featuring collaborations with Needtobreathe and Gabby Barrett.

In 2021, Burn the Ships achieved RIAA gold certification. The band also released a deluxe edition featuring remixes and collaborations with Parton, Timbaland, Echosmith, Tori Kelly, Lecrae, and Kirk Franklin.

Music and influences[edit]

SUSIE Magazine stated, "It takes only one listen to the brothers' rich, upbeat, alternative sounds and thoughtful lyrics to understand their sudden popularity."[citation needed]

In a 2012 interview, they described their philosophy:

"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."[5]

They cite U2, Mutemath, OneRepublic, the Beatles, Goo Goo Dolls, and Switchfoot, as well as film scores, such as those from Braveheart and Gladiator, as their musical influences.[37] Also in a recent interview with Jesus Music, member Joel Smallbone discussed the 80's hair metal band Stryper and their early influence on the band. The interview can be found on Stryper's Facebook page.

Personal lives[edit]

Joel David Smallbone was born on 5 June 1984[1][38] and Luke James Smallbone was born on 22 October 1986.[1][2][39] Both were born in Sydney, to David and Helen Smallbone, and moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1991, after their father's job relocation.[5] Their father was a music promoter, and Joel recalls, "going to these rock concerts, sitting on my father's shoulders, plugging my ears...Honestly, in a lot of ways I feel like music chose me and as I grew older, I made a clear decision to fully lean into it."[40] The Smallbones are the younger brothers of Christian recording artist and speaker Rebecca St. James, and the brothers-in-law of Jacob Fink, former bassist for the band Foster the People. They were raised with another sister, Libby, and three other brothers, Ben, Dan, and Josh.[41]

On 26 June 2010, Luke married Courtney Helm.[42] Their first child, Jude James Smallbone, was born on 19 December 2012.[43] They also have a son, Phoenix Alexander.[44][45] In late 2016, Luke announced via social media that he and his wife are expecting their third child.[46] From 2013-2015, Luke battled a life-threatening case of ulcerative colitis, pushing him near death and causing him to miss 40 of the band's live shows.[47] He went into remission in 2015.[48] He and his wife also nearly lost their two-month old son to sudden infant death syndrome in 2018; he has since made a full recovery after skull reconstruction surgery.[49] Also, they released two new songs, Relate and For God is With Us, and announced their fourth album, What Are We Waiting For?

On 7 July 2013, Joel married Moriah Peters, who is also a recording artist, in California.[50] They now reside in Nashville, Tennessee.[51]

Both brothers are dual citizens of Australia and the United States.[26]


Other media[edit]


In 2014, Joel Smallbone starred in the movie "Like A Country Song" which also starred multi-platinum selling recording artist Billy Ray Cyrus and Two And A Half Men's Jennifer Taylor. Joel Smallbone was the lead actor in a 2016 drama about human trafficking entitled Priceless, which was released in theatres in October 2016. Luke was one of the producers (together with their father) and their brother Ben directed the movie. Some of the music for the film was written by For King & Country.[52]

As of 2019, they are working on a musical under the title The Drummer Boy which is currently set for a 2021 release.[53]


A novel, Priceless: She's Worth Fighting For, based on the film Priceless, was released on 6 September 2016.[54]

Awards and nominations[edit]

In December 2012, iTunes selected Crave as their Breakthrough Christian & Gospel Album of 2012[55] while at the inaugural K-LOVE Fan Awards held 1 June 2013, they collected the "Breakthrough Artist of the Year".[55] In 2015, they won two Grammy Awards at the 57th Grammy Awards, one for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album and one for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song.[56]

Billboard Music Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2019[57] For King & Country Top Christian Artist Nominated
Burn the Ships Top Christian Album Nominated
"Joy" Top Christian Song Nominated
2020 For King & Country Top Christian Artist Nominated
"God Only Knows" Top Christian Song Won
2021 For King & Country Top Christian Artist Nominated
(with Tori Kelly and Kirk Franklin)
Top Christian Song Nominated

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2015 Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong. Best Contemporary Christian Music Album Won
(Lecrae featuring for King & Country)
Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song Won
2017 "Priceless" Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song Nominated
2019 "Joy" Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song Nominated
2020 "God Only Knows"
(For King & Country and Dolly Parton)
Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song Won
Burn the Ships Best Contemporary Christian Music Album Won

GMA Dove Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2013 "The Proof of Your Love" Song of the Year Nominated
Contemporary Christian Performance Nominated
Crave Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year Nominated
"Caught Dreaming"
(Andy Mineo featuring For King & Country)
Rap/Hip-Hop Song of the Year Nominated
For King & Country New Artist of the Year Won
"The Proof of Your Love" Short Form Music Video of the Year Nominated
2015 For King & Country Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year Won
Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong. Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year Won
2016 For King & Country Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year Won
2019 "Joy" Song of the Year Nominated
For King & Country
(credited as Luke Smallbone and Joel Smallbone
Songwriter of the Year (Artist) Nominated
For King & Country Artist of the Year Nominated
"God Only Knows" Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year Won
Burn the Ships Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year Nominated
2020 "Burn the Ships" Song of the Year Nominated
For King & Country Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year Nominated
Artist of the Year Won
"Burn the Ships" Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year Nominated
"Solo Dios Sabe (God Only Knows)"
(featuring Miel San Marcos))
Spanish Language Recorded Song of the Year Nominated
"God Only Knows" Short Form Video of the Year Won
2021 "Together" Song of the Year Nominated
For King & Country Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year Nominated
Artist of the Year Won
(with Tori Kelly and Kirk Franklin)
Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year Nominated
A Drummer Boy Christmas Christmas / Special Event Album of the Year Won
Recorded Music Packaging of the Year Nominated
Burn The Ships Concert Film Long Form Video of the Year Won


  1. ^ a b c d ASCAP. "Busted Heart". ASCAP. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  2. ^ a b For King & Country (4kingandcountry) (12 August 2009). "@rochellesheree I'm (Joel) 25, and Luke's almost 23". Retrieved 23 January 2015 – via Twitter.
  3. ^ "for KING & COUNTRY: Billboard's Artist To Watch In 2012!". 17 January 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  4. ^ "Live at American Songwriter—Ken Will Morton, For King & Country, Jack Tempchin, Garland Jeffreys". 2 November 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e "For King & Country: From Rebecca St James sidemen to CCM success". 23 May 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  6. ^ Susnik, Martin. "God was at the Grammys in 2020". Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Billboard 3/10/2012". Billboard. 10 March 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  8. ^ "#296 - "Busted Heart" by for KING & COUNTRY". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  9. ^ a b "For King & Country - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  10. ^ "For King & Country - Chart history (The Proof of Your Love)". Billboard. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  11. ^ "For King & Country on 'Huckabee'". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Rehab With Dr. Drew | Songs By Episode". VH1. 11 November 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  13. ^ "For King & Country Releases Debut Record on Feb. 28". Music News Nashville. 12 December 2011. Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  14. ^ "Biography | for KING & COUNTRY". Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  15. ^ "'Proof of your Love Tour' Brings three of Christian music's brightest new Artists - for King & Country, Jason Castro, and Dara Maclean". The Christian Post. 12 July 2012. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  16. ^ "Christian Songs,, issue date December 22, 2012". Billboard. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  17. ^ a b Adams, Brent (12 December 2013). "For King & Country returning to Southeast Dec. 21-22". The Southeast Outlook. Middletown, Kentucky: Southeast Christian Church. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  18. ^ "Pure Flix Entertainment Presents 'The Book of Esther',, issue date June 8, 2013". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  19. ^ "FOR KING & COUNTRY". New Sound Magazine. Archived from the original on 29 January 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  20. ^ "For King & Country - Chart history - Billboard". Billboard. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  21. ^ "For King & Country - Chart history - Billboard". Billboard. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  22. ^ "for King & Country Perform 'Fix My Eyes' on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' Tonight; 'And so it begins!' Band Says on Facebook [PICTURES] : Music". 25 March 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  23. ^ "Catch for KING & COUNTRY on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! Tonight! | for KING & COUNTRY Latest Updates". 25 March 2015. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  24. ^ Winter Jam 2016 spotlights Crowder, For King & Country, Matthew West (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
  25. ^ Curb acquires Warner's stake in Word Entertainment (Nashville Post)
  26. ^ a b c For King & Country Are on a 'Passionate Pursuit of Joy' With New Music: Hear Their Lead Single 'Joy' (Billboard)
  27. ^ Ben-Hur: For King & Country call for Ceasefire in music video (
  28. ^ "Casting Crowns and for KING & COUNTRY Join Forces on 'A Glorious Christmas' Tour". Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  29. ^ "for KING & COUNTRY Begins Work on Third Studio Album". Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  30. ^ a b c For King & Country on the Struggles That Informed 'Burn the Ships,' Their 'Most Mature Record' Yet Billboard
  31. ^ "For King & Country 'Burn the Ships,' confront suicide and anxiety on personal new album". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  32. ^ Lynch, Joe (7 December 2018). "Grammys 2019 Nominees: The Complete List". Billboard. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  33. ^ @4kingandcountry (11 January 2019). ""'God Only Knows' released to radio today, which couldn't have come at a better time as it's" (Tweet). Retrieved 12 January 2019 – via Twitter.
  34. ^ Dolly Parton Changed Everything About For King & Country's 2020 Plans
  35. ^ How For King & Country's Q1 Drive-In Smash Kept The Christmas Spirit Alive
  36. ^ "For King & Country Celebrate One Billion Streams, Announce 'A Drummer Boy Christmas' Album [Exclusive]". Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  37. ^ "Writer of the Week: for KING & COUNTRY". 7 July 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  38. ^ for King & Country (4kingandcountry) (5 June 2010). "RT about Joel's birthday. Joel from @joelandluke is turning 26 this year. I thinks he's starting to feel a little old! -L #happybirthday". Retrieved 23 January 2015 – via Twitter.
  39. ^ for King & Country (4kingandcountry) (22 October 2013). "In the last year Luke faced severe illness & became a dad! He's one of the most hope-filled people I know! Happy birthday little brother! -J". Retrieved 23 January 2015 – via Twitter.
  40. ^ "Biography | for KING & COUNTRY". Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  41. ^ Watts, Cindy (27 November 2014). "For King & Country gives thanks for family, early trials". The Tennessean. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  42. ^ "Simple Wedding - Wedding Photo Book". Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  43. ^ "Music News, December 2012: IT'S A BOY FOR LUKE SMALLBONE OF AUSSIE DUO FOR KING & COUNTRY". 20 December 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  44. ^ Janet Van Vleet. "Christian pop group For King & Country to play Abilene". Abilene Reporter News. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  45. ^ "Smallbone/Fink Flashcards". Quizlet. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  46. ^ "Luke Smallbone Family Growing – 3rd Child Coming!". The Fish 95.9 fm. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  47. ^ For King & Country's Luke Smallbone nearly died from illness
  48. ^ For King and Country's Luke Smallbone keeps the faith
  49. ^ for King & Country's New Song: Luke Smallbone Cried Out to God After Baby Son Became Lifeless
  50. ^ Dinger, Anna. "For King & Country's Joel Smallbone Married Moriah Peters on July 7 [Photo] : Articles". MusicTimes. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  51. ^ Dinger, Anna. "For King & Country's Joel Smallbone Married Moriah Peters on July 7 [Photo] : Articles". MusicTimes. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  52. ^ "Joel Smallbone to star in Priceless Movie". Inquisitr.
  53. ^ Foust, Michael (28 March 2019). "Filmmaker Erwin Brothers Announce 4 New Movies, Launch Studio". Christian Headlines. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  54. ^ Longs, Herb. "For KING & COUNTRY Announce "Priceless" Novel". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  55. ^ a b Shi, Tony. "For King & Country Is Named Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the First-Ever K-Love Fan Awards". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on 16 June 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  56. ^ "Grammy Awards 2015 Winners: Lecrae, for King & Country, Erica Campbell Win Big In Christian Gospel Categories". Christian News, The Gospel Herald.
  57. ^ Warner, Denise. "Cardi B Leads 2019 Billboard Music Awards Nominations With 21". Retrieved 4 March 2019.

External links[edit]