Caleb says these words of their father still haunts him and his brothers till this day. However the Followill brothers - and one cousin, Matthew - of Kings of Leon knew, that the choice to leave the church to pursue a music career laid solely on their shoulders. Like the saying be careful what you wish for warns; Caleb, Nathan, Jared and Matthew got exceedingly and abundantly more than their hearts could imagine. The tradeoff, a critical reception and warning of eternal damnation from their father.
To look at the booze drinking, gun slinging, rock stars now, it’s hard to connect their upbringing to the men they are today.
“When we are on the road, the loneliness is gone,” Nathan explains.
However that wasn’t always the case. Especially since the Followill boy’s childhood consisted of crowded road trips spent in uninviting churches, following their then Pentecostal preacher and father Leon.
“As a kid I remember spending sleepless nights, over and over, having to turn on the TV to drown [the church noises] out” Nathan explains. Caleb was at one point sure he’d follow in his father’s footsteps. “I’d put my faith in my dad and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I’d always looked up to ministers, but at about 15, I started to see they were just normal men and it broke my heart”. A broken heart still evident in the lyrics to Cold Desert, “Jesus doesn’t love me, no one ever carried my load”.
Caleb affirmed the honesty of these feelings, "There's still lingering guilt, and once I start to drink you don't want to be around me because there's a level of brutal honesty, if not just pure meanness. In a way, I lash out at everyone else because that's when I start to point fingers at myself. And that's when I write lyrics."
In 1997 the Followill family split up, the boys moving with their mother to Nashville. Six months later, after honing in on the secular music their father previously denied, the boys signed to RCA Records. “It was almost as if God was smiling down on me, saying, 'finally, you made a decision, you quit struggling with yourself.’ And the voices [of the calling of the church] went away, for a little while,” notes Caleb.
While they’ve traded in missionary road trips in the back of a purple 98’ Oldsmobile, for world wide album tours on busses, their strict religious upbringing will always be a part of them. “There's not that deep longing for something new. When we are writing songs, it's almost as if we're buying ourselves some happiness. For me, it's a momentary resolution. But those deep issues, I think they will always be there. And, whenever they go away, I would hate to hear what kind of songs come out," adds Caleb.
However the world of rock has not drowned out the teachings of the church, and in fact, is something they still discuss and practice. Even diverting from the interview to converse about the apocalypse, “In prophecy, it says at the end of days there will be wars and rumors of wars. Look at all the hurricanes and earthquakes and everything that's going on, to me it’s almost like what has been done in America has brought on the feeling of a religious war, and along with that a lot of other prophecies are coming to pass. It scares me’’, says Caleb.
Check out the trailer for Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon and if you find yourself in Europe in the next few months go see Kings of Leon on tour.
Mediabox photo credit: hitpredictor.wordpress.com