I caught for King & Country frontman Joel Smallbone on his tour bus, as the band headed to Lubbock, Tex. as part of the East/South leg of their Crave tour.
"My passion for film is evident even within for King & Country. The way we present music videos with live music--the art of creating characters has always been alive inside of me. So I had the opportunity to scratch that itch with The Book of Esther.
Based on the Biblical telling, The Book of Esther chronicles Esther and her cousin Mordecai, as Mordecai engineers Esther's rise to become King Xerxes's queen. Because of jealousy and resentment of Mordecai, prime minister Haman the Agagite engages in a dangerous game of venomous intrigue, which results in a plot to murder the Jews, Mordecai's and Queen Esther's people.
Joel remarked on his role as "King Xerxes" as "a really cool, and fulfilling moment to bring this rich character to life." Joel's father (who manages for King & Country) sent in a screen test to Esther director David A.R. White. "David really took a chance on me. They were gracious to even work with our schedule. When the filming was happening we [for King & Country] were in the middle of our first headlining tour. I flew from Virginia, to L.A., went straight to the set, filmed for three days, and then flew out for a show."
This inaugural role soon followed with the part of up and coming country singer "Jake Reeson" in Like a Country Song. The film is another story of deliverance, and explores the themes of humility and forgiveness in the presence of painful secrets and heavy burdens.
"The reason I was able to lean into this role so heavily was because of the great experience for The Book of Esther. It was daunting at first, but it really built my confidence in a huge way. The Like a Country Song film was very interesting, because the character I play was a very narcissistic, womanizing alcoholic. I really wanted to play the role because what it really showed me is that this guy came from an awful heritage, and he became the man he became. There's a redemption story, no doubt, but it was an honest, real role."
Joel comes from a family with strong Christian and musical roots. He sings with his brother Luke, and Christian recording artist Rebecca St. James is his sister. Though for King & Country's music is not overtly Christian, it does carry themes of salvation, redemption, and hope. "Obviously, I am unashamedly, unabashedly a Jesus follower. Musically we write songs about God, but we also write songs about experiences. These other songs that hopefully have a slant toward the hope that we have found in Jesus, but they are songs for people. I want to make music, I'm a human, I'm a person, so I want to make music for people; and I want to make films for people."
The Book of Esther can be purchased from PureFlix, through Amazon.com, and at Christian bookstores. Like a Country Song is scheduled for release in Fall of 2013. "Like" the film's Facebook page to keep abreast of the release schedule.
Despite the siren song of Hollywood, Joel wants to continue being a musical influence through for King & Country. "Music is what I have really invested in over the last seven or eight years. Both Luke and I have designed to do this for this time period. Music will always be a major focus. But my hope is to do one or two films a year."
For King & Country continues their tour, with July dates in Minnesota and South Dakota, and an August appearance at the Harvest Crusade in Anaheim, California. Visit the for King & Country website to purchase tickets.
Joel's vision for the the future is to "reconcile the songs that I write and the films that I portray with a sense of, 'Is there redemption?' When you boil it down, that's what Jesus is all about. Jesus is about redemption. The films like Gladiator and Braveheart, they are about redemption. So I would play those roles any day of the week because the spiritual connection is so deep."