Luke Smallbone is on the road with his brother, Joel. The two Australian-born musicians, collectively known as for King and Country, are somewhere in the Midwest, in the middle of a packed summer of tour dates. The band will be releasing the new album "Burn the Ships" in October and its first single, "Joy," peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Christian chart, making it the band’s highest charting single.
Between sound checks and gigs, Luke Smallwood talked by telephone about the band’s performance at Kingdom Bound, the annual Christian music festival at Darien Lake. For King and Country will be headlining the second night of the festival, July 30, and it is a show that Luke describes as a homecoming of sorts, given the number of times the brothers have played Kingdom Bound.
Question: For the folks who may never have seen you perform live, give them a sense of what can they expect.
Answer: My brother Joel and I have about six guys that play with us and what we really like to do is to bring as much energy as possible to the stage. If you could imagine a bunch of basketball players who fell in love with music, we are jumping around, running all over the stage, changing instruments and hitting the drums like our lives depend on it. We have a great time on stage, we love what we do, and that’s what we bring to the show.
Q: How different is it to play a festival like Kingdom Bound compared to a more traditional concert?
A: We go way back with Kingdom Bound, and in fact, the first time we played here we actually got introduced as, "for God and Country" so it was one of our first shows and it was like, OK, here we are on the side stage eating humble pie. I think we have played that festival more than any other festival in America. They are great people there and it’s a great event —I mean who doesn’t want to go to a theme park and experience the music at the same time? I think it’s a pretty cool experience.
Q: You have a full tour schedule this year. How do you avoid the burnout of playing night after night including the grind of travel between shows?
A: There is always a temptation to go treat some nights as just another show, but what I realized is that what makes an event so special, is that it is the only time in the history of the world where that collection of people will be together at a show. You have an obligation to the fans to always give your best. For the most part, we play the same set every night, but what makes it unique and special is that the people are always different. The smiles are different, the excitement is different, the high-five you give a person in the audience and the experience you share with them is different every night.
Q: Your new album, “Burn the Ships,” is scheduled to be released in October. Will you be playing anything from the new album, in addition to your hits?
A: We are always trying to interject new life and new songs into the set. So yes, will be performing a song, “Joy,” which is our latest single, and we will be playing another new surprise song as well.
Q: So many people draw inspiration from you and your music, so what or who inspires you as you write and perform these songs?
A: I try to do my best to read as much as I can, which, with three kids, can be a bit challenging, but C.S. Lewis has always been somebody I have found really inspiring since I was a young boy. He had a way of articulating things that felt new to the mind. He was obviously brilliant and respected and just a man that I have always looked up to. His work has impacted my trajectory with God, but also just as a person and a father.
July 29 to Aug. 1 at the Darien Lake Amphitheatre grounds. for King and Country will perform on the main stage at 9:30 p.m. July 30. For a full list of speakers and musicians, plus ticket information, visit kingdombound.org/festival.