It was one of the most talked-about performances at the CMA Awards, when rising Christian act For King & Country joined country music icon Dolly Parton on stage at the 2019 CMA Awards to sing "God Only Knows." The duo, made up of brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, is still reveling in the experience, which will go down in history as one of the highlights of their career.
For the siblings, the performance marked their biggest audience to perform in front of, but was just another day at work for the country music icon, who shared a light-hearted piece of advice with the pair right before they took the stage.
"[We were] awfully nervous because first of all, it was in the 9:00 hour so it was two hours into the proceedings," Joel told PopCulture.com. "So we're just shaking in our boots, so to speak, the whole two hours. But also, we hadn't gotten the song right at all. We'd rehearsed it a bunch of times but we had never ever, even down to the point that we rehearsed it that afternoon in her dressing room [gotten it right], and she just kind of graciously said, 'Well you know we're just gonna give it our best, and if we screw it up we'll just say oopsie daisy and keep going.'
"We thought to ourselves, 'You can say that Dolly, 'cause everybody loves you," continued Luke. "But these are the two guys nobody knows from Australia, and if they screw this song up they're gonna be like, 'Kick 'em out here. Take 'em back to Australia, because this was a big moment.'"
Compounding their nerves was the fact that not only was the Bridgestone Arena filled with both fans and people in the music industry watching the CMA Awards, but was also being watched by millions of peoples on their televisions as well.
"It's live television too," Joel recalled. "It's not live to tape. What happens is written in history. And so it was more this profound relief and joy. I remember looking over at our wives 'cause they were in the front row. As we were walking off 'cause we could catch their eye, and they were just as nervous as us."
For King & Country, their CMA Awards performance was just one of the highlights of 2019, which also included performing at CMA Country Christmas and two Grammy nominations, including one for "God Only Knows."
"It has been a great year and, and, unexpected in many ways too,". Joel acknowledged. "I mean, if you had asked us this time last year, 'Hey, would you be performing at the CMAs, or at CMA Christmas, or doing a feature for 'God Only Knows' with Dolly Parton, or it being nominated for a Grammy award, I would have been like, 'Get out of here.'"
For King & Country is taking plenty of notes from Parton as they continue to make their mark in music.
"She is just so kind and humble," Luke boasted. "I think that we were very struck by it. I mean, she called us when the song was nominated for a Grammy. She's like 'Guys, our song, it's doing something cool.'"
"She's done about everything possible in music," he continued. "And yet she's calling us, celebrating a Grammy nomination. We did a music video with her, and you see her saying, 'No that wasn't quite right. Again, again.' You're seeing this level of excellence that she carries that I think for us, it had less to do with words. But to actually see her in action I think was super inspiring because you do see someone who is living it. She's not just talking about it, she's living it."0comments
The 2020 Grammy Awards will air live on CBS on Sunday, Jan. 26 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Photo Credit: Getty / Terry Wyatt