Entertainment Music Country Longtime Pals Jimmie Allen and FOR KING + COUNTRY Team for the First Time on 'CMT Crossroads' The "Down Home" singer and the popular Christian duo show off their chemistry — and some of their biggest hits — in the upcoming hour-long special By Nancy Kruh Published on February 14, 2023 02:05 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Jimmie Allen and hit-making Christian duo FOR KING + COUNTRY are the latest collaborators on the popular "CMT Crossroads" series, PEOPLE announces exclusively. Their hour-long concert, to be televised Feb. 28, marks the first time the three artists have shared a stage, but given their history, you have to wonder: What took them so long? Allen and the duo, brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, have been friends since meeting at a studio about 14 years ago when all three were unknown, unsigned and struggling for a toehold in the Nashville music community. Jimmie Allen and FOR KING + COUNTRY. Catherine Powell/Getty Joel Smallbone, especially, remembers how regular breakfast get-togethers with Allen at a Nashville-area café soon followed. "We would just lick our wounds and we would spur each other on and pull each other out of proverbial music ditches," Smallbone, 38, recalls to PEOPLE. Jimmie Allen Says 'Most Challenging' Part of Success Was People Not Seeing His 'Potential' at First Over the years, the three have stayed tight as they've all risen to the top of the charts, but they never had any collaborative opportunities — until now. When CMT reached out to Allen, 37, with the "Crossroads" invitation, he says, "Joel and Luke were the first call." Jimmie Allen and FOR KING + COUNTRY. Catherine Powell/Getty The CMT series is known, of course, for mixing genres to see what magic will occur, and this time around, there's both magic and chemistry, as evidenced in the sneak peek of the three men performing Allen's chart-topper "Freedom Was a Highway" that PEOPLE is debuting exclusively. The harmonies sparkle, their camaraderie is palpable, and both Allen and the duo are bountifully generous as they blend voices and take turns singing verses and choruses. It's a spirit that pervades the entire show, PEOPLE can report after being present at the filming earlier this month. As usual with "Crossroads," the setlist is split between the two acts' catalogs. Other Allen songs include his first No. 1, "Best Shot"; "Alright," a song Allen co-wrote with Christian artist Rhett Walker, which Walker released in 2021 (with Allen on the track); and "Down Home," Allen's latest No. 1. "I wanted to pick some of my favorite songs," Allen explained before the show, which took place before a live audience at the Factory at Franklin, just outside of Nashville. "But at the same time, these guys are my brothers, and I didn't want to pick any songs that I felt they would be uncomfortable singing. So it was about putting on the best songs people might know, but also songs that would fit us both." Jimmie Allen and FOR KING + COUNTRY. Catherine Powell/Getty "Down Home" is a tribute that Allen co-wrote in memory of his late father, who died of kidney failure in 2019. The Smallbones, in turn, pair it with "Unsung Hero," which they wrote and recorded in honor of their mother. That song appears on their latest album and also has served as an inspiration for their upcoming feature film by the same name, which tells the story of their parents' emigration from Australia to raise their seven children in Nashville. Lady A's Hillary Scott Talks Collab with FOR KING + COUNTRY at 2023 Grammys: 'A Real Perfect Match' The duo also chose signature hits "Joy" and "God Only Knows" (which earned them a Grammy with Dolly Parton), as well as "Relate," one of two No. 1s on the Christian chart from their last album, What Are We Waiting For? The three men also deliver one major surprise, a brand-new song yet to be released; the recorded version will feature Allen and gospel queen CeCe Winans. As he readied for the filming, Allen reflected on the intersections that he and the Smallbone brothers were bringing to their stage performance. "One of the main things that runs true for them and me — no matter the styles of music we sing — is definitely believing in God and trusting we're on our path that's designed for us," he said. "Other places where I think we cross is the hard work, the love for family, the love for friends and the love for doing whatever it takes to get what we want out of life, not what people think we should settle for in life." What FOR KING + COUNTRY Learned from Pandemic 'Intermission': 'An Amazing Moment to Slow Down' Jimmie Allen and FOR KING + COUNTRY. Catherine Powell/Getty As he considered the "crossroads," Luke Smallbone brought it all back to the music. "We may write songs in a different way," said the 36-year-old Aussie, "but I often joke that there's only two genres of music: There's good music and there's bad music. Well, Jimmie's written good songs. Hopefully, we've written good songs, as well. And that's where we intersect. You can write songs a million different ways, but when you've stumbled upon the craft of writing a song, and it happens to be a good one, that's a special gift. And hopefully we're all getting to share in that gift in this performance." CMT Crossroads: For King + Country & Jimmie Allen premieres on CMT at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST on Feb. 28 with an immediate encore at 11 p.m. EST/10 p.m. CST and additional airings at 11 a.m. EST/10 a.m. CST March 5 (CMT); 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CST March 10 (CMT Music); and 10 a.m. EST/9 a.m. CST and 6 p.m. EST/5 p.m. CST March 11 (CMT Music).