Priceless message

Aussie pop-rock duo speak up for women in new film

Joel and Luke Smallbone
Brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone want women to know they are priceless

Grammy-award winning brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone of For King & Country have been called "Australia's answer to Coldplay" due to their inspirational pop melodies on the preciousness of life, love, and hope.

At the 2015 Grammys they garnered awards for their latest album 'Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.' and for the single 'Messengers' co-performed with rapper Lecrae.

Their hope-filled songs have been broadcast on popular TV shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Vampire Diaries and Drop Dead Diva, and their 2012 album 'Crave' featured strongly on the Billboard and iTunes charts.

One inspirational message the Nashville-based brothers have long advocated is respect toward women.

During a 2014 tour Joel wore a necklace with an Australian one-cent coin, and told audiences, "Culture tells, particularly you ladies, to talk... walk... dress, like a penny", leaving women to feel like they are worthless.

This is a lie, Joel added. Instead women must see that they are "priceless".

That powerful word is the title of a 2015 single, as well as a feature film out August 2016, starring Joel Smallbone, who has two previous film credits.

In this coming-of-age love story titled Priceless: She's Worth Fighting For, Joel plays a young man who is partly responsible for his two sisters' capture by sex traffickers before becoming a man willing to sacrifice everything to rescue them.

The film's message that men should show true respect to women attracted a well-credentialed cast including Bianca Santos (The Duff), Jim Parrack (True Blood), and David Koechner (Anchorman).

The Priceless movie comes at a time when high-profile actresses and female sporting stars are concerned about underrepresentation, shallow interviewing, and sexist roles.

"In most movies that I see," Luke observes, "it's about what a woman can give a man, not how a man can treat a woman. I think [this film is] ...a total 180 on a different perspective."

Born in Sydney, Australia to an entertainment manager father, and siblings of another Grammy-winning artist Rebecca St. James, the brothers grew up in a musical household in Nashville, Tennessee.

When they emigrated in 1991 they had little food and a rented house with no beds or chairs but the deeply committed Christian family had great faith in God, who answered their prayers without fail.

Joel explained to, "We would sit in a circle and pray for everything, and we saw miraculous interventions."


On one Thanksgiving night Joel recalls they were invited to a meal with another home-schooling family.

"At the end of the night the father... said, 'We believe God's told us to give you a key to a new minivan."

Neighbours left food at the front porch, anonymous cheques arrived in the mail, and later the local church donated furniture they needed.

"As a boy, radical paradigm shifts were made in my understanding of the spiritual world, faith, prayer," Joel says.

The brothers observe that their birthplace Australia is mostly non-religious due to a "no worries" lifestyle as the economy, weather and life is "pretty good".

However, the family's struggles and his parents' proven faith showed Joel his need of God.

"C.S. Lewis said, 'Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world'," Joel says. "We were fortunate to grow up in a spiritual family."

Joel says that he and younger brother Luke mutually "crossed [the] threshold of releasing our lives to God (that is, faith in Jesus) when we were eight years old."

Luke admitted to that at age eight, "I was quite a liar."

One time his father asked him to apologise to his mother when, he says, "I kind of paused and said, 'I know I need Jesus in my life.' ...I realised that I have to absolutely have Jesus to be able to forgive those sins."

Luke prayed with his parents to give his life to Jesus and recalls, "That night... I'll never forget it was the best sleep I'd ever had, because... my soul felt free."

After two years of the family getting by with odd jobs, 16-year-old Rebecca landed a record deal.

The family began touring the country "like an Australian version of the Von Trapp family" according to the brothers, who provided the background vocals, spotlights, and video production.

In 2005 Luke and Joel launched their own band and a record deal came two years later.

They say the vision of their songs and film roles is to always portray a sense of "redemption".

"When you boil it down, Jesus is about redemption (being delivered from our wrong doing)," Joel says.

Luke also believes that "If it wasn't for those trying times that we had, when we got here to America, we wouldn't be the people (or artists, says Joel) that we are today. Everything comes down to struggle."

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