Before Australian brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone arrived on the contemporary Christian music scene in 2011 as pop-rock duo For King and Country, they traveled a long road from Sydney to Nashville, searching for a life in song.
Their sister, Rebecca Saint James, broke through in the music industry during the late ’90s with a Grammy nod for her album “God,” and then a win two years later for the album “Pray.” Both helped slingshot her career forward and solidify her as a staple on the CCM circuit.
Now, nearly two decades later, the brothers have had their own Grammy success to trumpet. Their 2014 sophomore record – “Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.” – took home honors this year for best contemporary Christian album. (It also enjoyed an eight-week run at No. 13 on Billboard’s 200 chart in its peak period). Their song “Messengers,” with rapper LeCrae, won for best contemporary Christian song.
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The year has also seen the band making guest appearances on a number of high-profile TV programs over the past few months, including “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Entertainment Tonight” and NBC’s new prime-time show “A.D. The Bible Continues,” which used their song “By Our Love” in promotional previews.
Singer-drummer Luke Smallbone says part of the reason their upbeat, anthemic sound has been so well-received in the mainstream might have to do with the universal human appeal of their songs, despite the religious overtones.
“What we try to do with For King and Country is we try to write music that connects with people, (music) that is real,” he says. “And my hope is that this continues – that people look at it and say, ‘Hey, that music connects with me. I don’t know necessarily why, but there’s something about it that connects with my heart.’”
On the heels of performing at Winter Jam 2015 and a brief stint in Germany, For King and Country has returned to the U.S. to finish the spring leg of its “You Matter” tour.
Roseville’s Bayside Church is stop No. 4 on a 14-city nationwide campaign. Set to take place May 4, it’s a show that Smallbone says came about through old friendships at Bayside, as well as a strong fan base there. He said he’s looking forward to coming to California, especially since the Golden State is one of the band’s strongest markets.
“I mean, we’re usually in California nearly every other month,” he says. “So hopefully we can pack that place out; it’d be a lot of fun.”
The band’s Bayside set list will mostly consist of their hits, which include at least nine that landed on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs over the past three years, Smallbone says.
Older material from their first album “Crave” (2012) is sure to get playtime as well, as are newer singles such as “Shoulders” and “Fix My Eyes.”
Behind-the-scenes footage of the band playing “Shoulder” can be found on its Facebook page. Personalized messages and home-video-like content populates their social media accounts – an effort, Smallbone says, that he and his brother make to engage fans on platforms beyond song and stage.
“I can send out one thing about my day, and there’s – between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – 700,000 people that know exactly what I’m doing,” he says. “I think we try to honor the fact that they’re saying, ‘Hey, I’m interested in what they’re doing … .’ So we try to be active in reaching out to those people.”
That fan support shows. A Facebook page was created dedicated to Smallbone when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis – a chronic disease of the large intestine – in 2013 and dropped in weight to a mere 125 pounds.
Unable to work for a while, he’s in remission now and coping.
“Through my sickness, I got to experience what it looks like to really struggle and really hurt for a while, and come out the other side, not necessarily fully healed, but in my mental state a much stronger man,” he says. “And I think a man with more purpose and a mission.”
For King and Country
What: Grammy-winning Christian pop-rock duo makes a stop in Roseville.
When: 7 p.m. May 4
Where: Bayside Church (8191 Sierra College Blvd., Roseville)