With two Grammy Awards and five GMA Dove Awards to their credit, duo For King and Country—comprised of Australian-born brothers Joel, 35, and Luke Smallbone, 33—is well known in the Christian pop community.
Country music fans were likely introduced to the duo during the recent remix of their hit song, “God Only Knows,” which features Dolly Parton. The duo’s original version of the song reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Christian Airplay chart in 2019.
Joel and Luke will team with Dolly for the first live performance of “God Only Knows” at the CMA Awards on Nov. 13.
The duo sat down with NCD to talk about how the collaboration with Dolly came together, experiencing their first CMA Awards week and more.
“We’re originally from Australia, but we grew up in Nashville, so we’ve kind of grown up in this whole world of ‘the storytelling as writers,’ and that’s what we’ve really set out to do,” says Joel. “We write stories about life and love and God, and in the case of ‘God Only Knows,’ a song very much about where we find ourselves socially. We just became United States citizens not long ago. This is our first CMA Awards. We’ve been in town [since 1991], but we’ve never been invited, so we’re kids in a [candy shop] to be here.”
“Joel had watched Dolly’s Duplin’ film on Netflix, and he said, ‘I wonder if Dolly would be interested in being a part of a “God Only Knows” remix,’” says Luke. “One of the things we had always hoped was that there could be a female vocal we could feature on it. So we made the call. A week later on the phone with Dolly, she said, ‘I love the song, I’d love to sing it—if you would have me.’ That’s the terminology she was using. We told her, ‘We’d love to have you on it.’ She sings on the song, and we do a music video a couple of months later, and here we are. It’s really unbelievable. We’re thrilled to be a part of this.”
photo by NCD