for KING & COUNTRY’s Joel Smallbone became a United States citizen just over two years ago, an accomplishment he has great pride in. After touring the world in support of their new album, Burn the Ships, the band found themselves partaking in America’s greatest pastime to kick off the festival season. With the stage set right behind second base at the beautiful Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX, (home of the Texas Rangers), we stood on the infield dirt and listened to all our favorite songs, new and old.
Before the game and the concert, NRT's Jake Frederick caught up with Joel overlooking the field.
Pardon the pun, but what’s on deck for today?
What’s on deck... Well, this is a rarity for us. We played at the Rangers about two and a half years ago, I think. It’s such a different show because we normally have the lights and the LED and we’re inside. In this case, it’s going to be at 5 pm, it’s going to be outside, and we are going to be on a tiny little stage, basically like a semi-trailer. We’re actually looking forward to it because it gets back to the grit and the gusto of music. We’re going to play 5 songs off the new record and a load of others.
Talking about outside shows, it’s the start of your festival season. What’s your favorite part about festivals?
This is our first outdoor show in America this year. Outdoor concerts can either be the worst or the greatest concerts of your whole year. It all depends on how the weather is, which it’s a beautiful day today. When it all aligns, it’s spectacular. They’re some of my favorite concerts because you’re out in a field in the middle of nowhere, you can see the stars, singing these songs, it can be a profound moment. I feel like today, with everyone having some good American fast food in them and some soda and a good baseball game, we’ll be ready here.
We’re known here for some good ballpark food, some outrageous items. Are you planning on sampling some of the food, like the 2-foot boomstick, or any of the other gutbombs?
To be determined. The gutbomb sounds like a bad idea when you’re trying to play for an hour and fifteen minutes. So I think we might hold off on the gutbomb, but the two-footer sounds like a good thought though. But, to be determined.
You just announced a new tour, the Burn the Ships World Tour, tell us a little more about that.
We released this album, Burn the Ships, in October last year. We started the world tour the beginning of this year. We were in New Zealand and we did a load of shows in Australia. Then we went to the Philipines, we went to Singapore, and we came back here after and did about 7 weeks of the tour across the United States. We’ve always had this dream of taking this show into arenas and doing an elaborate concept production, which in this case the entire stage is going to be shaped like the bow of a ship. There’s actually going to be people who can sit inside the stage, and we’re going to have these massive LED screens that can move. There’s not going to be any special guests, it’s just going to be us and the audience. We’re going to play every song off the new album and all your old favorites. The hope is that it will be the most elaborate tour and night we’ve ever done, but at the same time I think it will be the most personal.
Are you including a railing? Are you practicing your Titanic pose?
We will have the point of a ship. It has been joked about that we should do the Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet moment, but it would be awkward if it was Luke and I doing it, so we might pass on that.
I think you’re right. Or you could each have your own side for the moment.
(laughing) We’ll see. Again, to be determined.
Last time we talked with you guys, the album had been out for just a couple weeks...
I was sick as a dog that night. I wasn’t there, I think Luke did that interview.
Yeah! Now that the album has had some time to breathe, what has the impact of the album been?
We were talking about it earlier today, it’s been really remarkable. We’re seven months into the day. It’s still a young record, but it’s been really incredible. It’s a romantic album celebrating our wives. It’s a social album, I became a United States citizen a little while ago. It’s also obviously a spiritual album. It’s an album of no retreat, hence the title. It’s been remarkable to be able to play these shows not only in America but to play them as part of this world tour. To play them worldwide. That music can really reach not just across religious boundaries or political boundaries, ethnic boundaries, whatever it might be, but it can also reach across the ocean to people. That has been one of the most remarkable things to see that even around the world, people being really impacted by the songs.
I asked Luke this question in the last interview, but I’ll ask the same question. How was it working with your wife, Moriah, on “Pioneers”?
I’ve sung with Moriah on some of her projects before, and she’s actually sung a lot on this record. On “joy.,” if you hear the gospel vocalist on the background, that’s my wife. Luke has sung with Courtney, but we’ve never sung with the 4 of us together. I remember when we started working on the song, I’d come with the idea of it. I thought this could be a very beautiful concept. Initially, it was just Luke and me singing it, and it was very awkward. I tracked Moriah and my vocal, but I was in Australia when Luke and Courtney tracked their portion. I remember coming home and sitting in the studio and listening to it all put together, all four of the vocals, and I actually cried. It was so moving for me to hear all of us singing these words, it was a special moment. There’s been a lot of love songs written about the infancy of love, the first spark of love, but not a lot written about the consistency, or the sacrifice, or the beauty of committed love, and Pioneers was really that for the four of us. Being almost six years into marriage, it was a very special moment.
Out of all the songs on Burn the Ships, which one is most personal to you? What is your song?
They all have different places in my heart. “God Only Knows,” I remember I had that phrase written on my phone. Just those 3 words: God Only Knows. It had always struck me what a flippant phrase that is, but when you really dig into it, how profound that thought is. I think the most ironic, and in turn, maybe the most moving song of the album for me, is a song called “Control.” I’m the middle of seven kids and I’m kind of the little engine that could with a lot of this stuff, and my wrestle in life is this. There’s a beauty to dreaming and putting things into action, but there’s also in the grand scheme of life, a release that you have to have, releasing control. So yeah, I would say "Control."
As a wrap here, for Burn the Ships World Tour this fall, I understand that there is a special package with VIP tickets.
We’ve partnered with Compassion International since the beginning of the band. They’re a child sponsorship program for those who don't know. They’re doing really excellent work around the world in not only providing education and food for young people but really revolutionizing families and offering them hope and faith and changing the trajectory of their future. The offer is if you are able to sponsor a child as a couple, a family, or individually, as a thank you, we offer you some of the preferred seats for the tour. We’re doing a question and answer before that you’ll be invited to for the night. It’s just a way for us to say thank you, let us give to you if you will, as you’re giving to support this incredible program around the world.
You can find more information about the tour here.
Jake is a longtime fan of Christian music, Jesus Freak Cruiser, a techie, and a softball player. He lives in Texas with his wife and daughter.
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