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Leeland: Lost in Love

By Chris Carpenter Program Director NASHVILLE -- When you first meet the four members of Grammy and Dove nominated progressive rock act Leeland, two impressions are immediately formed.  Number one, they look like typical, mischievous college age men searching for their next prank.  And number two, they are completely on fire for God.

It is that second impression that has influenced a generation of new worshippers.  With each of their first two albums nominated for Grammy Awards it is only natural to think the Baytown, Texas natives would continue building upon that successful formula.  They have but with a twist.  Released on Tuesday, Love on the Move is a response to both physical and spiritual poverty in the world around us. Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with band members Leeland and Jack Mooring, Jake Holtz, and Mike Smith, to discuss what a spirit-filled transformation looks like, what it means to truly love people, and how your life can be overflowing with action and love.

The new album is called Love is on the Move.  Your last outing, Opposite Way, had a very finite concept in that, as Christians, we are to go in the opposite direction from the way the world is going.  What message are you trying to convey with the new record?

Leeland Mooring: When we went to record this album we didn’t really have a huge theme behind it like Opposite Way.  That had a really big theme in it and even a Web site for it.  It was really great and we had a lot of testimonies from that.  With this one, we went into the recording process saying, ‘God, we just want to make songs for you.’  We don’t have a huge, major theme but we just want to write love songs to Him.  We wouldn’t move at all or do anything until we felt the presence of God in our spirits.  Then we would start writing or recording.  That particular approach is cool because it is like what Moses did with the people when they left Egypt.  They would not move until the cloud of glory moved.  In the same kind of way we tried to take this same aspect into the studio.  It was amazing.

Jack Mooring: We were on our way to the studio one day because we were just writing some songs for the record here in Nashville.  We were sitting at a red light and there was a homeless man sitting right there beside us on the sidewalk.  We were about to give him some money because he was right there but then the light changed to green.  There were tons of cars coming and we were in this big van.  So we just kept going.  At that point we just had to go.  So, we were driving down the road and the thought crossed my mind that we should just keep going and get along with the day.  It was convenient there at the red light to just hand him some money.  But now we were driving down the road and I would have to turn around to go back.  That is inconvenient.  But Leeland said that we should stop and go back.  So, we stopped at a gas station and he got some money out of the ATM.  He ran it down to him about a block away.  He said, ‘God bless you.’  Then we went on with our day.  We go to the studio and start writing about some random idea, a happy idea.  Then, all of a sudden, Leeland gets on the piano and starts playing this melody – a real beautiful, moving melody.  He starts singing, ‘Love is on the move.’  Within minutes, this whole song just, whoosh, came.  When we were writing the song we weren’t thinking about the fact we had just given money to a homeless man.   It was almost like we took part in what God was doing that day.  The heart of God just filled out what we were doing. 

Holtz: We didn’t really think about it until the song was finished. 

Leeland Mooring: What was really cool about that is that it says in James that faith without works is dead.  I think if you take that literally, it is a little bit freaky in one sense because I think about the times I don’t step out of my comfort zone and I just kind of hoard the love of God for myself and I don’t take those steps of faith. It seems like slowly your faith kind of shrivels up and your heart can start turning into a stone again.  It seems like the connection with God is not there.  But as soon as you step outside those comfort zones and you do something as simple as giving money to a homeless man, being the hands of love to him, or witnessing to somebody, it seems like your heart just seems to open up.  To me, I feel more connected to God after those experiences.

Jack Mooring:  That is what Love is on the Move is all about.  There is a song on the record called "Via Dolorosa".  We actually wrote about the road that Jesus walked in Jerusalem to the Cross.  That was purely ‘love on the move’.  He was willing to give His life and He gave it for you and me.

Leeland Mooring: I think when you begin to think about how much God loves you as a person and how much He wants to be your Father and how many times you have messed up, how many times He has brought you back, and how many things He has brought you through.  When you think about that personal love and that kind of intimacy with God you can’t help but want to share that with the world.

Well, I think you have answered all my questions, thanks! (laughter)  Seriously, you have written and recorded a song for this album with Brandon Heath called “Follow You”.  He is a great songwriter in his own right.  What was that experience like?

Leeland Mooring: All of our eyes have kind of been opening to the social justice issues around the world, everything from sex trafficking to unclean water.  I think Brandon is in the same boat with us.  He started a ministry where he is helping women get out of the sex trade in India and giving them jobs – honest living so they can take care of their children and get out of that whole world.  He has been very busy with that in India and we just hooked up with Food for the Hungry, a non-profit that does sponsorships, feeds children, and tells them about Jesus all over the world.  We are all excited about being involved in different work.  So, when we knew we would be touring together, we asked Brandon to record a song with us.  He joined us when we were recording and he did an amazing job.  His heart connected with it too because he is in that same boat. 

Smith: It is awesome to be able to do that kind of stuff with Brandon because we have been really good friends with him for quite a while.  It is really cool to work on a project like this as friends and be able to share that kind of experience.

If you had to pick one song that you think sort of defines the listening experience what do you think it would be and why?  I don’t mean for this to sound like a Barbara Walters question so I apologize in advance.

Jack Mooring: (laughs) We all love a million different songs but I think it would be the song we were just talking about (“Follow You”) and “Love is on the Move”.  They both have a missions aspect, especially “Follow You”.  It is talking about following God to the homeless, the broken, and the needy.  Leeland actually wrote that in Australia.  We were at the Hillsong conference and this guy was speaking.  He played this speech from Bono (U2) that he made to the NAACP where he was receiving an award.  Bono just starts going off about how God is with the broken.  God is with the needy.  If we are going to be with God we need to be with them.  That is who Jesus gave His life for, even the ‘up and outers’.  The rich executive that needs God too.  The chorus of “Follow You” says, ‘I’ll follow you into the homes of the broken, I’ll follow you into the world, I’ll meet the needs of the poor and needy.’  I think that little idea is all through the record.

Do you consider yourselves to be more of a worship band or more of a rock band?

Leeland Mooring: I think we are a little bit of both.  Our heart is worship in everything we do.  If you come to our live show you will definitely see that we don’t try to entertain as much as we just try to get into the presence of God.  Whenever we entertain God and just get into His presence, everything is changed and we don’t have to do any work.  God does all the work.  That is the cool thing about this new record.  You will definitely see a lot more of the worship side of us.  I think the last record was a lot more theme oriented.  This record is just as creative.  I think the last record wasn’t necessarily singing to God but more about singing to people about issues.  That is great but this is very much like what we came from when the band first started.  We would totally sit around and do worship for 10 or 15 kids and that is how we developed.  Much of our first record, Sound of Melodies came from that.  This record is a lot like that.  It is just singing to God.  Everything is very vertical.

Leeland will be co-headlining the "Follow You Tour" this fall with Brandon Heath and special guest Francesca Battistelli.

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Jake Holtz, Mike Smith, Leeland Mooring, Jack Mooring

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Love is on the Move
Love is on the Move




did you know?

In February, Leeland and Jack Mooring were selected by the White House to participate in the Compassion in Action Roundtable spotlighting the innovative leadership of an emerging generation of social entrepreneurs in America.

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