by Mark Geil
For King & Country‘s new album Burn the Ships is filled with personal songs born out of traumatic moments and difficult lessons learned. The band’s ability to convey these vulnerable experiences into song is what helps connect them with an audience that reaches around the world. We recently asked Luke Smallbone to take us behind one of the new songs, specifically the title track, to show an example of where the band’s songwriting is centered.
“When my wife was pregnant with our second son, Phoenix, she was dealing with a lot of morning sickness. She went to the doctor, and he gave her some medicine to help with the nausea. I was out on the road a decent amount during that time. I noticed her behavior changed a little bit, but she was pregnant, so that’s not unusual.
One particular day, I was in Austin, Texas getting ready for a show that evening. She called me and said, “I need you to come home. I can’t stop taking these pills.” I asked my other brother, who was in town, to go be with Courtney and make sure she was okay. I got on a plane and came home.
As the night went on, she would start shaking and having these conversations like, “Maybe the doctors want me to just taper off, not stop taking these right away.” She was almost hallucinating. Of all the things I’ve experienced, I think that was the most difficult thing I’ve dealt with, because the next day I had to take her to a mental hospital.
When they called her back, I got up to go back with her, like a normal doctor’s appointment, and they said, “No. You can’t come.” I felt so much grief in that moment. She had outpatient therapy every day. We actually had some amazing memories of that time. She excelled, she was doing great, but she still felt this pull to pills. One day I went home and she said, “Luke, I’ve got to symbolize something, I’ve got to flush these pills down the toilet. I’m done. I’m done with the guilt and the shame. I’ve got to move into a new way. A new life.”
When she was flushing those pills, the analogy of burning the ships came to me: the story of the sailors not wanting to explore the new world, wanting the comforts of their boats. Their leader calls them out and says, “We’ve got to burn the ships. This is a new world.”
It was a unique moment that I’m thankful is in the past, that we get to talk about in this manner now.”