Kings of Leon Biography and Profile

kings of leon
Photo: Dan Winters

Kings of Leon are a Southern rock group whose music is closer in spirit to indie-rock than to the mainstream sensibilities of Southern contemporaries like 3 Doors Down or Saving Abel. Perhaps consequently, Kings of Leon have enjoyed more commercial success in Europe than they have in America. Still, the band’s albums command a decent amount of critical acclaim and, starting in 2008, respect from the Recording Academy in the form of Grammy nominations.

Kings of Leon's Origins

Kings of Leon are made up of members of the Followill family: three brothers (singer Caleb, bassist Jared, drummer Nathan) and a cousin (guitarist Matthew). The band formed in 2000 in Tennessee, putting out their first EP, Holy Roller Novocaine, three years later through RCA. Novocaine established the band’s sonic building blocks: Caleb’s sandpaper-gritty vocals, Matthew’s unvarnished guitars and a swinging rhythm section that had a swampy, stormy vibe to it. Novocaine contained a few songs that would soon reappear on the band’s full-length debut.

A Southern-Fried Debut

Appearing about six months after Novocaine, Youth & Young Manhood revealed that Kings of Leon were extremely confident with Southern rock, particularly the lazy grace of prime Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Black Crowes. Whether it’s the stoned sunniness of “Dusty” or the bar-band rock of “California Waiting,” Kings of Leon eschewed mainstream accessibility for a hard-edged sound whose old-school qualities drew comparisons to other retro-leaning bands of the time like the Strokes and the White Stripes. Manhood failed to even break the top 100 of the Billboard album charts, but the band began attracting a loyal audience.

Loosening Up a Little

2005’s Aha Shake Heartbreak came out in the U.K. several months before its debut in the United States. If Manhood suffered because of the band’s debt to their influences, Aha Shake Heartbreak felt looser and more assured, expanding into country-rock without giving in to tear-in-my-beer clichés. “The Bucket” managed to get some attention on the American charts, but Kings of Leon’s lack of mainstream success was at least partially due to the fact that the group’s lively songs were simply too understated to cross over to large audiences.

Getting Moodier and More Adventurous

Kings of Leon got considerably more adventurous and interesting on their third record, 2007’s Because of the Times. Though still playing Southern rock, Kings of Leon had evolved into an edgy, moody band, and on the brooding love song “On Call” they showed an ability to absorb modern-rock influences organically into their sound. Because of the Times resonated with a new urgency that the band’s earlier retro-rock albums had rarely shown. They remained an indie favorite – Kings of Leon still couldn’t secure much of a foothold on American radio, although Because of the Times did go to the top of the U.K. charts.

'Only by the Night' Grabs Grammy Attention

Kings of Leon started making headway commercially with 2008’s Only by the Night. The dynamic, moody album got the nation’s attention with two blockbuster singles, “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody.” In addition, Kings of Leon also landed their first three Grammy nominations at the end of 2008 – for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album. The band won the Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals Grammy for “Sex on Fire.” Then on January 31, 2010, the band won three Grammys for “Use Somebody,” including Record of the Year.

'Come Around Sundown'

Kings of Leon looked to build on the success of Only by the Night with their follow-up release, Come Around Sundown. The album dropped October 19, 2010, preceded by the lead single “Radioactive.” The album debuted at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and hit No. 1 in Australia, Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Canada, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and the U.K. The album was nominated for Best Rock Album at the 54th Grammy Awards on November 30, 2011.

'Mechanical Bull'

On September 20, 2013, Kings of Leon released their sixth studio album, Mechanical Bull. The album's first single, "Supersoaker," was released July 17, 2013, and the second single "Wait for Me" was released August 6, 2013. The album received was nominated for Best Rock Album at the 56th Grammy Awards in late 2013.

Kings of Leon Lineup

Caleb Followill – vocals, guitar
Jared Followill – bass
Matthew Followill – guitar
Nathan Followill – drums

Key Kings of Leon Songs

  • “Molly’s Chambers”
    “Sex on Fire”
    “Use Somebody”
    "Wait for Me" 

Kings of Leon Discography

  • Holy Roller Novocaine (EP) (2003)
  • Youth & Young Manhood (2003)
  • Aha Shake Heartbreak (2005)
  • Because of the Times (2007)
  • Only by the Night (2008)
  • Come Around Sundown (2010)
  • Mechanical Bull (2013)

Kings of Leon Quotes

  • Caleb Followill, on the Followills' upbringing.
    "When we were growing up our parents didn't talk about politics and they never voted because they were all wrapped up in the religious life. The family listened to nothing but gospel music and didn't own a TV so when we got to the U.K. we were like, 'Wow, so that's what's been going on out there!'" (Scotland on Sunday, September 21, 2008)
  • Caleb Followill, on the band members' occasionally contentious relationship.
    "We'd have the biggest knockdown drag-outs, but every night we'd tell each other 'I love you' [and] then go and do the show. As the band, we've never lost sight of wanting to conquer the world." (Scotland on Sunday, September 21, 2008)
  • Nathan Followill, on Caleb's lyric-writing process.
    "The way he writes, it's kind of weird. He just sits back and observes stuff. And he'll sing you a song that he wrote about something you did four nights ago that you don't even remember." (, May 2007)

Kings of Leon Trivia

  • Kings of Leon have opened for U2, Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam.
  • The band's favorite college football team is the Oklahoma Sooners.
  • All the band members live in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • The title of every Kings of Leon album is five syllables long.