When Dolly Parton first heard Grammy-winning duo for KING & COUNTRY’s “God Only Knows,” she said it “touched her so deep.”
“It was like God spoke,” Parton said. “I thought so many people with all their problems … I just felt like this song touched everything people struggle with. There’s just such a peace and love and sweetness about it, and I really think this song says what we need to be hearing right now.”
Parton joined the duo – comprised of brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone – for a remix of “God Only Knows” and a new music video. Both will be available at 11 p.m. CT Thursday. The video will premier on YouTube and the song will be on all music streaming services.
“Hearing her sing that chorus and those words, it’s a little bit out-of-body as both artists and writers,” Joel Smallbone said. “It’s that rare moment when you’re like, ‘That’s always how it was meant to be.’ It’s pretty remarkable.”
for KING & COUNTRY, who aren’t a country duo, played three back-to-back concerts at Dollywood last weekend. Following their first set, the Smallbone brothers carried chairs to a shady spot in sight of a large Parton mural and explained how the unexpected collaboration came to be.
Spoiler alert: It started with Parton’s Netflix movie “Dumplin’.”
Joel Smallbone and his wife Moriah saw the inspirational flick, loved the plot and were enraptured by the soundtrack.
“Everyone loves Dolly and then you watch ‘Dumplin’ ‘ and every song was like, ‘I love that song,’” he explained. “At the end of the film, I thought, ‘I wonder if we just reached out.’”
Within a week, the Smallbones had their answer. Parton had just told her manager that she wanted to focus on more faith-based projects when “God Only Knows” was presented to her. She believes the song was an unexpected gift.
“I feel really blessed for ‘God Only Knows’ to have landed in my lap like it did,” she said. “It’s like it fell from the sky. When I heard it, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is so good.’ When we got to singing it, oh it just sounded so good. And just working with them was such a blessing.”
The video concept originated with the Smallbone brothers, including brother Benjamin Smallbone who directed the clip. Known for sweeping, cinematic music videos, the men wanted to focus tightly on three characters in the song – Parton and themselves along with distressed versions of each of them. Joel Smallbone plays an addict. Luke Smallbone portrays a person who is gravely ill, and Parton – at her choice – is a prostitute.
“I just wanted to show how far people could go down, and I knew that was something I could do,” she said. “This whole thing was their project, and God just handed it to me to be part of it.”
“God Only Knows” is already an 11-week No. 1 hit on Christian music radio for for KING & COUNTRY. Parton’s voice wasn’t required to make the song a success. However, the brothers said they needed the entertainment icon to help “God Only Knows” reach all the people who need to hear it.
“God only knows what you’ve been through | God only knows what they say about you | God only knows how it’s killing you | But there’s a kind of love that God only knows.”
“When you hear her sing the song, there’s a weight to the way she sings it that few people could actually do,” said Luke Smallbone, who co-wrote the song with Josh Kerr, Jordan Reynolds, Joel Smallbone and Tedd Tjornhom.
“She started performing when she was 10, and I think about all she has experienced as a woman in the entertainment world and the social changes,” he said. “When she says, ‘God only knows,’ you feel it. You believe her. It was always written for this modern epidemic of loneliness and depression. Dolly is the vehicle to get into some of those hearts.”
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