For those who don’t know much about you, can you just give us the summary of what it was like growing up from the family side of things with music?
My Dad was a concert provider in Australia and he’d bring over big names like Amy Grant, Carmen and Striper. One particular tour didn’t go very well and we lost everything. So Dad was offered a job in Nashville and thought that it would be a good idea to move his 6 kids and wife who was 6 months pregnant to America. We did that and then not long after my Dad lost his job as well. So we were on the other side of the world, no friends, no family, no car, sleeping on clothes and not knowing when the next meal was going to come from. We just gathered around as a family and had to ask God to provide for us.
We just got to see God do so many different miracles, and it just felt like this was where we were meant to be. Soon after that our sister Rebekah St James starting touring and so Joel and I would go with her. Joel was a Stage Manager and I was the lighting director. So we both grew up and got into the industry being crew guys!
Growing up for you two, was it always going to be music? Was there ever kind of a point that it was going to be something else?
I wanted to play sports, and didn’t pursue music until I was 19. I never really had an interest in music before then. I would sing at church or in the shower like everybody does. I taught myself to harmonise and would do backup vocals for my sister, but I just wanted to play sport! It’s very Australian of me.
I was about 16 and playing basketball, it was my first game. I tore my ACL and my left knee. I knew at that point, that dream wasn’t going to go anywhere. Soon after I graduated high school, Joel came to me asked what I thought about writing some songs and singing on some demos to see what would happen. For about 5-6 years nothing happened, and we wrote a lot of terrible songs! Slowly but surely we always had a steady incline. It helped prepare us and also helped us not give up.
Can you share with us what you can about what life is like on the road? Because externally people look and see you guys on stage, which is the peak of the mountain. But they don’t see the other stuff, so can you give us a bit of a reality check?
If you want to be a musician, you have to get used to ‘hurry up’ and ‘wait’, because you can’t do anything, so you’re in this perpetual state of waiting all the time, and then all of a sudden it’s ‘GO GO GO GO! PERFORM! SET CHANGE!!!’!
On tour we’ll always go make sure that we do devotions to have a bit of a moment to remind us what’s important in life, then we’ll go through a set talk and then we’ll get to side of the stage. It’s funny because I used to think that ‘I’m only working for an hour a day, why am I so tired?’ but you give out physically and emotionally. That’s what the most difficult about this. These songs are your stories and your life is right before everybody, and in a way people are critiquing you and your story.
Is it hard for you to bare your soul in your music?
I think that there’s something therapeutic about it. Sometimes we hear of a story and we write that song based on that story. But sometimes it’s important for songs to be kind of like our journal. What I’ve realised when I’m vulnerable is that there are other people, in the millions, who have got the same thing happening in their life. It encourages me to be vulnerable, because I think that’s what God wants us to do. He wants us to pray unfiltered prayers, so in my mind I should be writing unfiltered songs. So is it hard? I don’t know – there’s vastly more talented people out there in the world. But I’m willing to be vulnerable and transparent, and I have my story – which is maybe all I’ve got.
Now finally, do you consider yourself as Australian or American? We’ve done the numbers and you’ve spent more time in the US… but do you still call yourself an Aussie?
I think that we’ve become hybrids! Over here everyone thinks that we’re Australian, even though I don’t sound as Australian as I once was. But we go back to Australia and everybody thinks that we’re American! But you know what, your blood is your blood, and I think that we have this Australian underdog spirit. I did marry an American and my kids live here, but let me put it this way, I always go for Australia in the Olympics!