September 30, 2016 : By Drew Menard - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
As it performed in Liberty University Convocation on Friday, the Christian band for King & Country struck a chord more powerful than its intense percussions and melodic vocals, emphasizing to the crowd that every life has value.
The two-time Grammy Award-winning pop group, led by brother duo Joel and Luke Smallbone, recently expanded its media influence by creating a feature film, “Priceless,” which hits theaters on Oct. 14. (Lynchburg’s Regal River Ridge Stadium 14 also has an advance showing Oct. 13.)
The Smallbones’ older brother, Ben, directed the movie, which Joel stars in and Luke helped produce. The film, inspired by a true story, is about a man who decides to fight human trafficking after discovering his truck driving gig is being used to transport victims.
From the Vines Center, the brothers debuted a never-before-seen trailer before it hit social media, as well as a new ballad-style rendition of the film’s title track, which also went public today.
The group pumped up the crowd by performing the band’s biggest hits, including the upbeat anthem “Fix My Eyes” and their harmonic breakout single, “The Proof of Your Love.” The singers wove in and out of the crowd as the fans sang along to the familiar tunes.
The Smallbone brothers then sat down, talk-show style, with David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for Spiritual Development, to discuss the band’s Priceless Movement. They explained that since the group formed, it has been focused on sharing the message that men should treat women with respect. The movie grew out of the movement.
“The idea of relationships and love, commitment, was sort of heavy on our hearts,” Joel Smallbone said. “One of the things that we shared at every opportunity was a simple message: We say to young ladies, ‘You deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and honor and don’t let anyone disrespect you in relationships.’ And we would say to us as men, ‘It is time for us to step up and stand up, chivalry is alive and well; these ladies they deserve to be treated with respect and honor.’”
“We feel like (the term priceless) perfectly illustrates our point,” Luke added. “Every life is important, because if a human life is priceless, then what is the opposite of that? What’s the antithesis of that? It is a life that can be bought, an experience that can be bought. That is why we interjected these storylines into our platform.”
Over 300,000 fans have supported the movement by wearing necklaces that feature an Australian penny with the word “Priceless” written across it. (The brothers were born in Sydney before their family relocated to Nashville.)
The brothers decided that they wanted to expand the reach of their message through feature film. Not content to produce a warm, fuzzy flick that lacked substance, the creative team came together to make a film that explores the reality and dangers of human trafficking. Even with a modest budget, the film has a sheen of quality and features intense imagery to shine a light on this dark side of the world.
The film’s powerful message attracted Hollywood veterans, including producer Steve Barnett (“A Walk to Remember,” “300”) and the on-screen talents of David Koechner (“Anchorman,” “The Office”), Jim Parrack (“True Blood,” “Suicide Squad”), and Bianca Santos (“The Duff”).
“If you are going to do something about this, then you need to lean in with everything within you,” Joel said of combating human trafficking. “We are the ones who are going to shoulder this for our kids. … The most deplorable thing about this is that it is attacking the very fabric of human society and that is the family. Tear down the family, the whole world goes to hell, so to speak.”
He added that for men, winning the battle means living respectably and being protective, while women need to know that their inherent value comes from God and not from their looks or relationships.
“A lot of it is knowing our value in who we are as people,” Luke said. “I find myself going, ‘Are we going to be fooled by the lies that the media feeds us constantly day in and day out?’ If we understand who we are under God then I believe we can repel the lies of the world, the lies of society.”
The band closed out the service by performing the new version of “Priceless,” inviting the students out of their seats and to the front of the stage. They then spent an hour interacting with students and taking photos with them. LU Stages gave out 150 free tickets to the movie through an Instagram promotion. Tickets were also free with the purchase of a Priceless necklace.
Sophomores Cassia Ries and Maria Shickel were among the first to meet the band. They said today’s Convocation was “by far” one of their favorites.
“I love their priceless message,” Ries said. “It’s really cool that they, as men, are pushing that out into the world and getting guys and girls excited about it.”
“It is definitely rare; you don’t see it that much among celebrities,” Shickel added. “They could easily have a different message, but that these two guys, two Christian artists, want to make this their message is awesome.”
In an interview after Convocation, the Smallbone brothers — who have performed on campus four times in the last two years and are slated for Liberty’s Winterfest on Dec. 31 — explained why they chose Liberty as the launching pad for their film promotion.
“It’s quite an influential group here,” Luke Smallbone said. “You have people who seem to rally behind causes, who rally behind ideas, and when you think of releasing a movie, and today, releasing the special new trailer, I
don’t think we could think of a better place to do that than Liberty.”
Joel Smallbone added that the band has been coming to Liberty for many years, dating back to when the brothers sang background vocals for their sister, Rebecca St. James. He has been impressed with how the university has grown.
“I am really excited, particularly about the arts departments here,” he said. “I really feel like (Liberty) is reaching this beautiful crescendo of these people who are being sent out over the country and all over the world to really have great impact and are being trained in incredible ways. So, it seemed like a no-brainer to come and be a part of it with you guys.”