For King & Country on the Struggles That Informed 'Burn the Ships,' Their 'Most Mature Record' Yet


Musicians' wives typically function their muse, and all through historical past that dynamic has been recognized to spawn some fairly sappy love songs. However, on Burn the Ships, For King & Country's third studio album, siblings Joel and Luke Smallbone deal with weightier points than romance.

"It seems like probably the most mature document that we've made simply in understanding who we’re as a duo, who we’re as males and possibly understanding life as a result of we’re a bit older than we had been final time round," Joel Smallbone tells Billboard.

Seated in a Nashville studio on a heat fall afternoon, his youthful brother Luke agrees with that evaluation, and admits this assortment can be far more private. "We deliberately went again to our earlier album [2014's Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong] and appeared on the songs that related with individuals. Every music that actually moved the needle, even those that weren't singles, had been songs that had been private. So we stated, 'We're not going to do 15 songs on an album. We're going to do 10 songs and each single music must have a private story hooked up to it.'"

Even in the event that they didn't dwell it themselves, every music needed to be born out of actual life experiences. "It doesn't imply that it must have occurred in our life, however any person got here to us with the story. It seems like you would contact it fairly than conjuring up what the listener needs to listen to, which generally us writers try this and it's harmful. It may work for some, however I typically joke that I'm not a adequate songwriter to write down about one thing that doesn't imply one thing to me. You may undergo these songs and I may level out one thing that Joel walked by means of or one thing that I walked by means of very, very clearly."

The title observe was impressed by Luke's spouse Courtney battling dependancy. The couple has three sons, and through her second being pregnant docs prescribed an anti-nausea medication to assist Courtney with debilitating morning illness. During the being pregnant, they continued to extend her dosage. "I used to be in Austin, TX for a present," Luke remembers. "Courtney calls me and stated, 'Hey I would like you to return house.' I stated, 'Okay what's happening?' She stated, 'I can't cease taking these drugs. We've obtained to cope with this.'"

Luke returned instantly, took his spouse to a psychiatric facility and docs positioned Courtney in a therapy program. Luke dropped her off each morning at 9am and picked her 2pm. "I used to be at house in the future and he or she had a bottle of drugs in her hand. I used to be like, 'What do you may have the bottle of drugs for?'" he remembers. "She stated, 'Luke I must flush these drugs as a result of these drugs characterize a lot guilt and disgrace in my life. I don't need to be consumed by my previous anymore. I need to transfer into a brand new day and to what's earlier than me.'"

The album title got here from that second mixed with an previous historical past lesson. "I learn a narrative about an explorer going to a brand new land. When he arrived on the shore, he calls everyone off of the ships and stated, 'Hey let's go discover this land and see what there’s to be seen,'" Luke explains. "All the boys had been afraid of going into the unknown and he realized that even these boats had been dirty, pungent and small, they needed to remain on the boats as a result of it was acquainted. The subsequent day he calls them out once more and when all of the sailors had been on land, he offers the command to burn the ships as a result of he stated, 'We're not going to retreat. We're going to maneuver ahead in our lives.' The flushing of the drugs was the burning of the ships for my spouse and for us to step into a brand new world, a brand new day. That was 4 years in the past now. My spouse stated, 'You must go share this story with individuals as a result of there's so many individuals which can be certain by issues of their previous. I don't need individuals to dwell like that. I would like my story to be an encouragement to assist them unfold their wings.'"

"Fight On, Fighter" and "Hold Her" had been each songs written to encourage their wives, and their spouses take part to sing on the ultimate observe "Pioneers." The music started with an excellent melody and as they started writing the lyric, evaluating marriage to being a pioneer, they determined it will be solely pure to incorporate Courtney and Joel's spouse Moriah, who can be an completed Christian artist. "Marriage is sort of like pioneering," Luke observes. "You discover this lovely place to construct a house, and as soon as it's constructed you get to see the glory. You look again on what it was wish to construct that new house and plant these crops, no matter it is likely to be. It seems like you might be pioneering. Joel and I initially began singing this music, simply him and I, and it was very bizarre. It's like, 'We're not pioneering collectively.' It was an odd factor and so then we had been like, 'Well what if we ask our wives to do it,' and it was cool!"

"When I sat down within the studio and performed all 4 of us collectively I actually cried," Joel says of being moved by their efforts.

The album additionally contains one other household collaboration. The Smallbone's sister, Rebecca St. James, co-wrote three songs, together with "Never Give Up." "She was very influential in that music and that second," Joel says of his sister, who was one among Christian music's most profitable acts within the '90s. "She did it for 20 years and now she simply had her second youngster, in order that they've obtained two little ladies… For King & Country in some methods is a legacy band of Rebecca's. We grew up doing stage managing, working lights and singing background vocals for her."

Before the album dropped Oct. 5  Word/Curb Records, For King & Country launched movies for 5 songs. "We did one in Iceland, one in L.A., one in Seattle, one on the salt flats in Utah. It's been intense, but it surely's been exceptional," Joel says. "We needed to provide you with these ideas and the second music on the document is known as 'God Only Knows.' The week we had been arising with the video idea each Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade had taken their lives. The music actually circles round this concept of statistically we’re lonelier than we've ever been, however but we're extra related by social media than we've ever been. It's nearly these fake relationships, these form of fabricated relationships. In the 1980s in America, 20% of the individuals claimed to be lonely. In 2017 it's nearly 50%. We've greater than doubled, however but in that point interval the connectivity of humanity has exponentially heightened. Why is that this taking place?"

They determined to make the video a clip to help suicide prevention. "We comply with this beautiful younger woman by means of her day doing regular issues," Joel explains of the video, which was directed by their brother Ben Smallbone. "She hangs out with associates. She goes to a espresso store and he or she walks onto a bridge that night time and throws herself over a bridge. Then it form of reverses to a pinnacle second the place somebody interacts together with her. It's a bodily interplay. It's not a Facebook message or an Instagram be aware. Someone ran after her, hugged her, discovered her and altered her."

Not all the album is so emotionally heavy. The first single, "Joy," is a buoyant observe backed by a 100-member choir. The music has already topped the Christian Airplay chart, incomes them their fourth No. 1 on that record, and it peaked at No. 2 on Hot Christian Songs. "'Joy' was the primary music we sat down to write down for the document," Joel says. "We've been a fairly critical band up till this level. This was an actual enjoyable second simply to go, 'Alright we've nonetheless obtained one thing we're saying right here, however let's have a little bit of enjoyable with it.' We actually loved that. It's onerous to write down a music like 'Joy' with out a good feeling. This document wanted to have depth, but it surely's additionally second in time to search out issues to have a good time."

The Smallbones are presently touring in help of Burn the Ships. "We are attempting one thing a little bit bit totally different," Luke says. "We had been like, 'What if we go throughout America and do 10 reveals within the greatest cities, however deliberately maintain them in theater dimension, 1500 or one thing like?' So we're going to New York, Nashville, L.A., Denver, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago and we're going to play and actually introduce this album to individuals for the primary time in these sort of intimate settings that I believe will actually depart a mark."

Obviously the brothers are hoping these songs will join with a broad viewers, they usually belief they may discover their house. "We've at all times simply tried to write down songs which can be true to us, so if it's writing songs that would performed on prime 40, that's nice," he says. "If it's songs about our love for our wives, that's nice. If it's songs about what Jesus has accomplished in my life, I believe that's related as nicely. That's what makes artwork palatable is when the one who listens says that music is true to whoever wrote that music and so wherever it goes, we go."

As the interview winds down and Joel is ending up some soup, he reaches for a culinary reference to explain his hopes for the album. "You can both make a cheeseburger of a music or sushi," he grins. "The cheeseburger you possibly can devour and be like, 'This is superior!' It's about the way in which you devour it. With sushi you've obtained the chopsticks. You've obtained to decelerate. With the cheeseburger, you simply shove it into your face. Music is comparable and hopefully we would like our music to be sushi to the listener. There's nothing unsuitable with both. If you may have an excessive amount of of both, particularly cheeseburgers, it's not going to be wholesome for you, however the level is that there’s music that I really feel like will come and go. As rapidly as you see it, you devour it after which it's gone. What we've labored for — and whether or not or not we've succeeded we'll discover out in just a few months or a yr — however our hope that when it's heard and consumed there's an honesty and depth. It may not be the flavour of the week, however once you devour it, you join and it lasts."