Christmas is around the corner and the music of the season takes over our radios and TikTok feeds. Through all the noise, the traditional favorites stand strong: “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World” and, of course, “Little Drummer Boy.” The holiday staple has been reimagined and popularized by Australian-American Christian pop duo for King & Country.
Brothers Luke and Joel Smallbone front the band, bringing sellout crowds to their shows for 10 years. They return to Cleveland this Sunday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for their A Drummer Boy Christmas tour. Tickets remain available for the show on Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse’s website
We caught up with Luke Smallbone before the show.
Cleveland Magazine: This is an annual tour. What is the best part of touring during the holiday season?
LS: It’s the fact that people are coming together to make Christmas memories. Growing up we all had those Christmas pageants we would go to, so in some cases, these Christmas events become those memories for people. There’s something about seeing families together and you look out and recognize, “Oh this is their moment; this is their Christmas memory.” To be included in that is really humbling.
CM: You and Joel have spent years reimagining these Christmas classics. What inspired you to create your own renditions of these timeless songs?
LS: It was 10 years ago we did our first Christmas tour. We had just released our first album, and we had locked ourselves into an old church and we just worked on a few renditions of Christmas songs. One of them just so happened to be this rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.” We went into these shows and people were really connecting to this version of “Little Drummer Boy” so we just kept developing every Christmas.
CM: You guys have performed in Ohio quite a few times, last Christmas in Columbus being the most recent. Is there something you find special about performing here?
LS: In some cases, Ohio is the heartbeat of America. You’re pretty much in the middle. You’ve got the blue-collar aspect of Ohio, a lot of people that make the rest of America go ‘round. There’s a dedication and an appreciation from us towards Ohioans that maybe is a little unexplainable.
CM: Do you have a favorite song to perform that you look forward to each night?
LS: There’s something about playing “Little Drummer Boy.” It’s the song that everyone is looking forward to. You can see all the cameras come up and everybody getting excited. Second to that is “Joy” toward the end of the night. It’s an upbeat, fun song and from our vantage point, there’s a lot of joy around the room.
CM: In other news, you just won your first American Music Award for Favorite Inspirational Artist. What was it like to win that award?
LS: You don’t get into any industry because of the potential for an award, you get into it because you love it. We grew up loving singing songs, trying to write songs and compose, so for us it’s a pat on the back, but this isn’t the reason we got into music. You take it as encouragement, but it’s not the reason why you do what you do.
CM: In addition, you recently announced a new movie based on your single “Unsung Hero.” How did that come together
LS: When we wrote that song a little over two years ago, I had gone to a producer friend of ours. We’ve talked on and off about our parent’s immigration story coming from Australia to America and it’s just a remarkable, powerful story. Now we’re in post-production and the hope is to have the film out fall of next year or on top of 2024.
CM: As you head into a weekend of performances that Cleveland is at the tail end of, what would you say to people looking for a bit of joy this Christmas?
LS: Everybody’s coming from all sorts of different walks of life, but we can all be thankful for something. That can be the pillow under our head, the spouse that we have, our child, friendships at work. What I find with thankfulness is when you practice it, it changes the way you look at everything else. Find the super simple thing to be thankful for because it very well could change your Christmas season.
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