SI.com caught up with two-time Grammy award winning Christian pop/rock duo For King & Country. Joel & Luke Smallbone won the prestigious awards with their sophomore album, “Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong” being selected as the Best Contemporary Christian Music Album, and their song with Lecrae, “Messengers,” winning the Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song. The brothers took time to chat with me about their journey to becoming who they are today, and predictions for the College Football Playoff.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
SI.com: Why music? Was it something that both of you knew you had a voice at a young age? Did someone discover your voice? How’d that come about?
FK&C: We often say that music chose us. Even, maybe, more than we chose music. We grew up in a very musical family. [We] are two of seven kids. Our dad was a concert promoter. Ultimately, he lost a quarter million dollars on a tour and ended up packing 15 suitcases with my mom and selling what little we had left, moving to Nashville, TN. Our oldest sister, Rebecca St. James, started touring. She was more of a gospel artist, so Luke and I saw the impact that music could have on a person’s life, on a person’s spirit. And we both fell in love with everything from the inspiration, to the entertainment of music. That in many ways is where we credit For King & Country in the formative years.
SI.com: What was it that allowed you all to have the opportunity to say “Ok. Music is it.” Relive that moment with me.
FK&C: It was a bit of a slow burn. Like most things in life, you think that it is going to be this epiphany. Like, “Hey! This is what we are gonna do!” Next thing you know, For King & Country had many years in the dark, and playing at independent shows and clubs, and kind of finding out who the band was. It was a lot of hard years. A lot of failure. [We were talking] to major labels, and every time it was a reason of why it wouldn’t work. But I think there were a few culminating moments that really formed For King & Country. It’s bigger than Luke and I. Our family carries on with it, our dad manages it, one of our brothers does video work, one of our other brothers helps with commercial and merchandise. It’s really the pedigree in the family.
SI.com: Talk a little bit about you Grammy Award–winning album [Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong].
FK&C: It was a real polarizing album to write and record. Right around the recording, I got married, and Luke [became ill], and had come off the road. It was a great drama, if you will, in the process. These songs like “Run Wild” and “Fix My Eyes” were written as celebration. To circle back around and have a Grammy award recognize that album as one of the awards. It was encouraging, but it was so much more than that for us because it was almost redemption of all the hardship that was put into writing it.
SI.com: Who should be the top four teams of college football right now?
FK&C: I love conference championships, so if Clemson beats North Carolina, they’re in. If Alabama beats Florida, they’re in. So the question is, does Iowa truly belong? I don’t think that Ohio State necessarily truly belongs (and I know I’ll probably get a lot of backlash for that). I don’t know what your thoughts are on it, but those are mine.
SI.com: Well, I think those are very fair thoughts. I’m partial to Ohio State because I’m a native.
FK&C: (laughs) Does that hurt a little bit that I said they don’t belong?
SI.com: I think you made a fair assessment, but I think Ohio State left an exclamation mark in Ann Arbor.
FK&C: True. But Michigan, though, is overranked.
SI.com: Well, as an Ohio State fan, I always think Michigan is overranked. That’s a given.
FK&C: (laughs) I like that.
SI.com: So, with the possibility of [Alabama or Clemson] losing, let me know your top four.
FK&C: Whoever wins the Michigan State versus Iowa game is in. Oklahoma, they’re obviously in. I think that Clemson is gonna show up and win [their] game. I think Michigan State is gonna beat Iowa. I think that Alabama is gonna beat Florida. So that would be my four: Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State, and Oklahoma. That’s who I think the top four a gonna be.
SI.com: Awesome. Well, we’ll see on Sunday, and I am excited to see how that’s gonna pan out.