Watch Priceless trailer here:
TDB: Hello, my name is Maddy Agers from The Digital Breakdown. Today I am talking to one half of the incredible band “For King & Country”, his name is Joel Smallbone. Joel, how are you doing today?
Joel: I’m doing well! Thank you for the time, dear. Are you doing alright?
TDB: Yes, I am doing very well today! You are starring in the upcoming movie “Priceless” which is coming out October 14th. Can you tell me a little bit about the premise of this movie for those who don’t know?
Joel: I was very fortunate to play a character by the name of James Stevens in the film. He is a bit of a “down and out” character; he had a bit of a tragedy in his life where he lost his wife in an accident and as a result became very bitter and in and out of prison. His daughter was claimed by Protective Services because he could no longer look after her properly. In an effort to get his life back on track, he takes an under-the-table transportation job to drive unknown content a long distance across America, straight through with no questions asked. He agrees to do it for cash. Midway through the trip he can’t stay awake in the middle of the night and runs off the road. He hits a ditch and as he is surveying the truck he hears crying in the back, so he knocks off the lock and realizes it’s not “what” he’s transporting but “who”.
He’s got two young ladies in the back of the truck, so he obviously invites them into the cab and they go on a bit of a road trip the rest of the way together. As they get to know one another on the road trip, he starts kind of seeing a real strength in the older of the two girls (who are both sisters) and is drawn to that. They say they are going to be waitresses and maids so he doesn’t think too much more of it. Once they get to the drop-off point, he realizes as he is handing them over to these men that he has sold them into slavery. He’s kind of beside himself, Maddy, and he becomes a bit of a vigilante from then on in an effort to save these young ladies from their slavery. It’s a love story, drama, and thriller. We’re all really excited about it. We’ve really seen the film from inception to completion, so this is certainly our baby as a project.
TDB: Can you explain a bit about why you wanted to take the role of James?
Joel: That was part of the beauty of it. The way we came up with the idea or the concept of the film was one of the things that For King & Country, which is comprised of my brother Luke and myself, have felt moved to share about since the beginning of the band is charging hearts of men to be chivalrous in how we love and celebrating a woman’s worth. Out of that movement, called the ‘Priceless’ movement, has a song called “Priceless”, the novelization of the film, and the film. Two years ago we went to our brother Ben and said “There’s a message here that really needs to be told here. What about we take this to the silver screen?”
So we were literally involved in the very beginning stages of even developing the character James and the story – for the story, we pulled some inspiration from true stories we heard documented. I think what drew me to him is that he’s not very different from me, provided just a few different circumstances. I think that’s a lesson to us all in life – we could easily be very different people if it were for just a few twists and turns in our life story. We could have a very different perspective. I also was drawn to play him as an American because I felt like part of the responsibility to play him in the film was to bring a certain awareness to some cultural dynamics in the United States.
TDB: Right, because one surprising thing in the film is that you don’t have an Australian accent, you have an American accent!
Joel: *laughs* Were you convinced? Did you believe it?
TDB: At first, after watching the trailer, I realized you weren’t speaking in your normal accent. Then, I watched the movie and at the end had to stop and think “Oh yeah, Joel speaks with an Australian accent. I forgot about that!” So yes, you were very convincing! Was that hard to do – to adjust your voice that way?
Joel: Uhhh, yes! The short answer is yes. I had a great opportunity a few years prior, I was in a country movie opposite the role of Billy Ray Cyrus. I played a kind of Southern American. I was able to get my feet wet in the accent dialect with that film but it was kind of “twangy”. What was more important with this one was to play a more general American accent. So, we asked a dialect coach by the name of Steve Corona, who has worked with some of the greats – Helen Mirren, Gerard Butler, some great actors. He came on the road with us for a week and really coached me on how to progress into an American accent and out of an Australian accent. Without him I think it would have been a bit different for sure.
TDB: For King & Country has been big supporters of chivalry ever since the beginning.. What makes this particular subject so dear to yours and Luke’s heart?
Joel: Well there are a few layers to it, I mean you go back to the fact that I’m one of seven kids and my parents have loved each other for some 40-odd years so there’s a very special relationship between them that was modeled for us. My sister Rebecca was a Gospel artist for many years and she spoke a lot about chastity in relationships. So it was sort of something that we were aware of as a family for sure, but I think it really came to a head when we started as a band. Luke had just gotten married and I had actually met my wife Moriah at his wedding. She was kind of a wedding crasher of sorts, a friend of mine brought her to introduce her to me. It was a set up of sorts.
Right at that time Luke and I started touring, so almost simultaneously we really felt this need or opportunity to share with both men and women about what our perspective was as young men. You know what’s funny is that one of the reasons we felt moved to share it was just walking through a lot of it as young men. We’re walking through the dynamics of culture and what the voices of music, entertainment, and society keep telling us about how a relationship should function and what love really looks like and all the rest of it. It’s just very confusing. I think it was partly even self preservation to talk about this, or it was therapeutic to talk about this for our own relationships to remind ourselves to love well.
TDB: This movie is blowing up social media by people who cannot wait to see it.. It’s trailer currently has millions of views on Facebook alone. Are you at all surprised by this wave of excitement for Priceless?
Joel: You’re always hopeful as an artist, you create art because you want to be truthful to yourself, but you also want people to be inspired through it. You always have this sort of hope and dream that people would receive it and the early signs are that people, as you well said, even from the trailer, are really rallying behind it. I don’t think I’m necessarily surprised as I am just relieved and really proud and happy. I say that because the backdrop of this, as I’ve always spoken about, is the movement. That movement has been so radically accepted that it’s almost alarming. I think both Luke and I knew that this sentiment and message, if presented right, would be something that people would really rally behind. The early signs are, as you noted, online that people are really rallying behind it. I just find that very thrilling.
TDB: The last question I have for you is about your upcoming Christmas Tour with Lauren Daigle. I would just like to know what you are looking forward to most about this particular tour?
Joel: Well there are two tours – one is the Priceless Tour this fall with newcomer Jordan Feliz who is an old friend of ours, and the hip-hop artist KB who we love and respect immensely. That is partly to continue the story of the movement and the film and really partner with a couple of great artists. There are going to be a couple of really cool integrations of how they play into the set as well.
We’ve only ever done one small Christmas tour a few years ago, the first year we were out as a band. I’m so excited to come back around because Christmas is our favorite holiday, we actually love Christmas music. We’ve worked a lot of the year on a Christmas song called “Glorious” which will be released later this year. That’s all obviously so exciting, and then to have such a beautiful voice that is Lauren Daigle and her releasing a Christmas project as well it just seems like it’s almost too good to be true. So on both counts there’s a lot of enthusiasm about them.
TDB: Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk to us today! We’ll see you out on tour!