For King & Country: Drumming into Christmas

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

For King  Country - Luke l. and Joel Smallbone2Luke (left) and Joel Smallbone of For King & Country Luke Smallbone recalls how it all started when he and his brother Joel began doing music.

"I thought, 'What do I know how to do?'" asked Smallbone, now 32.

"I knew how to play drums a little bit....and from then it was just getting some drums together and hitting on them as hard as you could."
Now the creative duo and accompanying band For King & Country have their own giant-sized Christmas tour titled "Little Drummer Boy" (with special guest Zach Williams, coming to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids Dec. 9).

And in preparation the band has packed extra percussion power into its musical arsenal.

"We keep adding drums every so subtly," grinned Smallbone. "We have a main drum kit and another side drum kit and then an auxiliary kit and so forth."

It's Luke's smart snare drum flare that opens "Little Drummer Boy" which builds into a cacophony of swirling beats, harmonic vocals, and dramatic pauses (see a live performance at


It's been an international trek for the lads, who early on learned the rhythm of life on the road.

Younger brothers of Christian singer Rebecca St. James, the Smallbone boys and family moved to the U.S. from their native Australia when young Luke was just 5 years old. It's natural they would follow their sister into Christian music ministry.


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St. James co-wrote several songs on For King & Country's new album "Burn the Ships." She also assisted on the band's Christmas album: last year's award-winning "Live From Phoenix." On it the band recorded versions of carols such as "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" as well as several originals.

And, of course, their take on "Little Drummer Boy."

"We'll also be doing songs from our new album, including 'Joy," which has a great theme for Christmas," said Smallbone of their tune which has been on Christian radio charts for six months.

Since forming the band in 2009, they have won Grammy and Dove Awards, garnered top radio hits, and have appeared on network TV slots such as "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."

Just last August they performed in Muskegon at the Unity Christian Music Festival.

"That's one of our favorite places to play – I think we've been there every other year or so," said Luke, who is two years younger than his brother bandmate Joel. "So to come back to the area during Christmas season....there ought to be some snow around," he added.

Several years ago For King & Country opened a Van Andel Arena show for the band Casting Crowns. Now they've achieved headline status in the venue.


The players have built on their early album successes (songs such as "Proof of Your Love" and "Fix My Eyes") and are finding that their newer tunes have become their best-known. The infectious "Joy" has become their new fan favorite.

"If you check on the (music) streaming song services, that's the biggest song we've had," Luke reported. "It's crazy the way songs can get into consumers hands so quickly."

The artist offered that "back in the old days," a song would be released and it would take months for it to become familiar to listeners, largely through radio. Now it happens more quickly.

"We released 'Joy' to Europe and then two weeks later we went there," recalled the artist. "And everyone was already singing along to the words."

Meanwhile, their live show has become one of their calling cards – high octane movement, large assortments of lights...and drums aplenty.

"We enjoy trying different things to make it interesting," Smallbone said. "I often say if you take a high school basketball team with all their energy and they decided to play in a band instead of on a basketball court... that's what you get with For King & Country – to bring that fun and jumping around kind of attitude."

"Little Drummer Boy: The Christmas Tour"
featuring For King & Country and Zach Williams
7pm Sun Dec. 9
Van Andel Arena, 130 W. Fulton St. Grand Rapids
Tickets range from $23 to $68 dollars, available via Ticketmaster outlets, online, by phone at 800-745-3000 or at the door.
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Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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