For King & Country looks to inspire at Delaware State Fair

HARRINGTON — Last year, the contemporary Christian rock band For King & Country played the Delaware State Fair as the opening act for headliner Casting Crowns.

This year, brothers Luke and Joel Smallbone are front and center at the fair on July 26 with Sidewalk Prophets and Jordan Feliz as their opening acts.

“I remember playing the fair last year and we when finished, someone said to us ‘You’ll come back next year and headline,’” recalled Joel Smallbone during a recent phone interview from Shirleysburg, Pennsylvania, where they were headlining the Creation East Festival that night.

“I remember thinking ‘Well that’s nice of them to say but that’s not really reality.’ So a year later to get the opportunity to headline a show at the fair, it’s great for us. It’s like being invited back to a really cool party. It’s a real delight.”

The last couple of years have been a whirlwind for the brothers who were born in Australia but moved to Nashville,

Luke, left, and Joel Smallbone, better known as the Christian music group For King & Country, will play the Delaware State Fair July 26 with Sidewalk Prophets and Jordan Feliz. (Submitted photo)

Luke, left, and Joel Smallbone, better known as the Christian music group For King & Country, will play the Delaware State Fair July 26 with Sidewalk Prophets and Jordan Feliz. (Submitted photo)

Tennessee, in 1991 when Joel was 7 and Luke was 5.

After the 2012 success of their first full-length album “Crave,” their sophomore effort “Run Wild, Live Free” debuted at No. 1 on iTunes in 2014, hit No. 13 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the U.S. Christian chart, producing three multi-chart, multi-week No. 1 singles, including the hit “Fix My Eyes,” which reached the Top 40 mainstream Hot Adult Contemporary chart.

The album also garnered them two Grammys.

Their theatrical shows, complete with special effects and their anthem-like inspirational songs, are perfect for headlining tours, Luke said.

“When we started out, we would play these outdoor festival shows at 2 p.m. and it was a chore to just survive and not dehydrate,” he said.

“But the lovely thing now is that we have these crowds who know all the words to our songs and are waiting for us. It’s nice too that when we take the stage at something like the state fair, it’s already dark out, which goes well with our light show. That’s the way we had always envisioned a For King & Country show, with the kind of production that we have.”

Although the shows are full of high-tech wizardry, Mr. Smallbone hopes it’s the band’s brand of uplifting music that folks will remember most.

“Here we are in Pennsylvania today, headlining a festival that’s been around for years and years. We didn’t plan to be in this position. But along the way, if you write songs that are real and authentic, people connect with the music and share it with other folks,” he said.

“You can work very hard and do all the little things to make it in the business but it all eventually comes back to the music.”

After calling themselves Joel & Luke and then Austovile, they changed their name to For King & Country, after a British battle cry, in 2009, parallel to the soldiers’ allegiance to their royal king and country. For the Smallbones, their king is God.

Mr. Smallbone said he and his brother started off writing pop songs but it didn’t feel right to them.

“It has be authentic and real with a message behind it. I could write a pop hit talking about how I feel good today but it feels like a missed opportunity to me. We want to be able to say something and improve the moment for people and hopefully improve their lives deep down. When you see that that has taken place, it’s very special,” he said.

“I had a lady come up to me recently with tears in her eyes. She said ‘My son was killed a couple of years ago’ and her daughter has special needs. And she said ‘You have no idea what your music means to me. Thank you for writing those songs.’

“Those things never get old to see how the music has impacted people’s lives. Once you get numb to that, it’s time to find something else to do with your life.”

The brothers started their careers working with their sister Rebecca St. James, who has since retired from a career in Christian music. They sang backup and performed various tour duties for her.

But Luke never saw himself going into music full-time.

“I wanted to play basketball but in my junior year, I tore the ACL in my knee. I think it was a way for God to tell me that He didn’t want me playing basketball and that pushed me into making music with Joel,” said the 29-year-old.

Along with musicians, the brothers can also add the title of filmmakers to their résumé.

The movie “Priceless,” based on their hit song, will arrive in theaters Oct. 14.

Joel will star as James, who needs money in the hopes of regaining custody of his daughter, so he embarks on a cross-country delivery to pick up some quick cash. However, he finds out that he’s actually involved in a human trafficking operation.

Luke and his brother David are producers while brother Ben is directing.

“Our culture says that God created women to be priceless and we tell men that they need to step up and be leaders in their workplaces and family and we realized how powerful that would be if we could put pictures with that message,” Mr. Smallbone said.

“It’s been a challenging process and we’re thrilled to be a part of it and have the world see it.”

A fall “Priceless” tour will go along with the premiere of the film.

Tickets for the group’s state fair appearance are $45 for pit, $30 for track, $25 for stadium and $20 for grandstand seating.

To purchase tickets, call (302) 398-3269 or visit www.delawarestatefair.com.

The fair runs July 21-30 in Harrington with a special opening night show with Jake Owen on July 20.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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