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For Joel Smallbone, the recent release of “A Drummer Boy Christmas” has been a long time coming. 

And he isn’t just referring to the fact that he and brother Luke, with whom he shares the spotlight in the Christian pop-rock duo For King & Country, invested a year in the arranging and recording of these songs.

As Smallbone says, “Christmas has kind of followed us around for most of our career.”

For King & Country will play a drive-in concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at Gila River Arena.

It wasn’t long after releasing their first album, “Crave,” in 2012 that the brothers, whose family had moved to Nashville from Australia when they were kids, decided “for whatever reason” to do a Christmas tour that year.

“We had no Christmas record,” Smallbone says. “No Christmas singles. We just said ‘We’re gonna do this.’ So we shoved ourselves into this factory and that’s where we actually came up with this rendition of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ that kind of set the tone for not only our Christmas music, but in some ways the direction of the band as a whole.”

The group’s Christmas album was recorded in Phoenix

For King & Country (Photo: Provided by the artist)

In 2016, the brothers recorded the last concert of their first expansive Christmas tour in Phoenix at Grand Canyon University, releasing an album the following year called “Christmas: Live From Phoenix.”

As Smallbone says, “It was a bit of a pinnacle night for us as a band. We were with Lauren Daigle and the tour had just been received in a really magical way.”

Midway through the tour, he says, “We felt like there’s a moment here that needs to be captured.”

A live recording from that show of “Little Drummer Boy” went viral.

“We had hundreds of thousands of shares and millions and millions of views on Facebook,” Smallbone says.

“That really solidified the beauty of us being part of the Christmas story and ‘Drummer Boy’ being a song we need to continue to present to the world in different forms.”

Last year, they performed the song on “CMA Country Christmas.”

The making of ‘A Drummer Boy Christmas’

That made it the obvious candidate for title track when they were getting songs together for this latest project.

As to how they chose the other songs on “A Drummer Boy Christmas,” Smallbone says their choices always tend more toward the spiritual side of the Christmas playlist but especially in 2020.

“All of a sudden, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman,’ as much as I love them, they didn’t really feel in the spirit of what this record should be,” he says.

“So those types of songs very quickly slid off the table and we really laser-focused in on this record being a very spiritual journey celebrating the hope of humanity in our minds and this great intervention of God and man 2,000 years