Leeland Mooring and Casey Moore of Christian band Leeland share their hearts about worship, writing songs, meditating on the Word, and how being fathers has changed their own relationships with God.
Multi Grammy- and Dove-nominated Christian rock band Leeland has five albums under its belt and hits such as “Lion And The Lamb”and “Where You Are”. Hailing from Baytown, Texas, Leeland has been part of the Christian music scene since 2006, and the band in its current iteration comprises lead vocalist Leeland Mooring and lead guitarist Casey Moore. Both members were born into musical Christian families, and both have been blessed to have been shaped by parents and grandparents who love the Lord.
Recently in Singapore, Leeland visited City Harvest Church on the weekend of March 3 and 4. They not only ushered in a deep atmosphere of worship at both Saturday and Sunday services, they also conducted inspiring workshops with the City Worship team (see box story).
City News writer Megan sat down with Leeland for a chat, and was, honestly, blown away by their deep love for God, the spiritual legacy they enjoy and their Christ-centeredness.
CITY NEWS: What made both of you say “Hey, I’m going to do this (write songs) for the rest of my life?”
LEELAND MOORING: My parents were a massive part of that. My Mom and Dad were worship leaders (while I was) growing up. My Dad would lead bands in church and play the piano, while my Mom, a singer, would teach harmony parts to these massive choirs. We travelled as a family worship band for about two years on the road, leading worship with Mom and Dad, my older brother Jack and little sister Shelly. Then, I started getting little melody ideas here and there. My parents would help me write songs: my dad would help with the melody and chords of the song while my mum would help me with the lyrics. I’m really thankful that I have parents that saw that and brought that out.
CASEY MOORE: Kind of a similar story for me. I grew up in church and my family was quite musical too. My mom and grandmother played the piano and my whole family sang. We were in church every time the doors were opened and I got to play specials (anniversaries) and my mom would sing. My mom, my brother and I had a little trio called Victory, Boldness and Courage—our names started with V, B and C. I got to play in youth group and was just around a lot of people that encouraged me, inspired me and believed in me. They saw potential, which is so important, especially in church. I think that kinda catapulted me into everything that God had for me.
LM: (to CM) Our family’s band was called Majestic Praise. We could do a reunion concert!
Your band’s first album, Sound Of Melodies debuted in 2006. The worship scene was very different 13 years ago. How has your songwriting process changed since then?
CM:When Leeland (the band) started writing, I wasn’t in the band yet—I joined about eight years ago. The Christian music scene was pretty different; there were a lot of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) and radio artists. Now, we see this culture of worship bands and churches building their own studios. It’s really cool how it has changed from just the artist mentality to a group and family. I’m so inspired by movements like Bethel Music, Jesus Culture and Hillsong Worship—we’re all just doing our own thing.
Maybe in the past, I was a bit cynical about it, like, “Oh, we’re trying to do the same thing”. But our songs, melodies and lyrics are going to be different because each church is going through a different season. Even when we play (in churches) now, we try not to just go in for a day, but for two or three days so that we can try to help fan that flame. That’s what we want to see, and that’s when revival begins to happen in each one of us. Songs come from that, and the secret place. Worship music has changed a lot but I’m really excited.
LM: Our band was first started from our youth group and we were writing songs for a group of about 30 to 40 kids. From there, we began to grow. Six out of 12 songs in Sound of Melodies were written in our youth group. But I think Casey is right: the new thing that is happening now is there it is a local church expression of worship. There is something powerful when a group of people that are dedicated to the Kingdom of God and the will of God being done in their city, write songs for their city. Because they know their people better than anyone else does.
Could you share any particularly memorable experiences while songwriting?
LM: You can get songs anywhere. I love those moments. Songwriting is kind of twofold. You have these spontaneous moments—the chorus for “Lion And The Lamb” actually came from a church service. In 2013, our band was playing the last event scheduled for the original Leeland band. Everyone was ready to part ways and do new things—we didn’t know what we were going to do. We were in a season of fear of the unknown. I was kind of depressed going into the event because I knew it would be one of the last times we’d get to worship together.
We were ministering to the youth for about two to three days, and on the last night, at the end of the service, after singing about two songs and worshiping for an hour, and we were just singing “oh” and “ah” and “holy” and “worthy”. All our voices were gone from all the singing and yelling, and my brother preached while I was playing the piano. There and then, God just dropped the chorus for “Lion And The Lamb” in my heart. About a year later, I finished the song in a songwriting session with a friend. All the verses, new melody and new lyrics came out of him right there. Almost like how the chorus dropped. It was just such a supernatural process and it was pretty cool.
CM: A lot of special times for me personally are soundchecks with our band. We’re all just playing what’s in our hearts and sometimes something beautiful just comes from that. It’s like an open “secret place” time.
LM: Our last record is called Invisible and there was a soundcheck that became a flowy moment. The opening intro was spontaneous and we still play it now and then. David (the band’s touring keyboardist) and Casey were playing, and I thought that it’s such a beautiful chord progression and melody and we were just singing over it.
Leeland, congratulations on having your first child last year! What’s it like being a father?
L: Our baby girl Journey has changed my life. She’s changed our marriage, our household; she is literally a little chunky, fat bundle of joy. My wife (Amanda) got her a sparkly dress the other day, and it was her first time seeing sparkles on a dress, and so she’s just grabbing it with her little hands and looking at it, holding it up, mesmerised that it was sparkly. We started talking about it to her, and she’s just smiling and laughing, getting excited about the sparkles. She’s got this loud little voice, she’s only six months old, and she has so much personality already. She’ll look at you and talk to you, and make noises. She’s such a good little girl.
Your child literally doesn’t have to do anything. They come out completely dependent on you. The first thing I noticed when she was a baby—she’s bottle-fed because we adopted her—and when she was an infant she just went through the rhythm of eating and sleeping, eating and sleeping, eating and sleeping. She would cry out to me, and I’d feed her. All she could do was cry. It’s almost like God was trying to speak to me, like there’s a same rhythm God wants us to be in: to become like little children in the Kingdom of God where there’s a holy rhythm. We’re totally dependent upon God.
I don’t need to do anything to impress Him because He just loves loving me. All I have to do is just cry out to him and open up His Word and feed on His Word through the Holy Spirit, and His Word leads me to a place of peace and rest where, no matter what kind of trials and troubles you’re going through, or even victory, there’s just peace.
CM: Just to reiterate what Leeland said. People tell you once you have a kid, you know a little bit more, you feel like you have this deeper connection with Jesus, just because He’s our Father and we’re His children. And that’s true: that first moment I saw my baby girl, Ella, she’s almost three now, it was just like an instant love. I would do anything in the world for her. She could do no wrong in my sight. That simplicity of a love that I can’t even comprehend, for both of my children—that’s exactly how Jesus feels about us.
Do you conduct family worship sessions?
CM: We love listening to worship music and we have our alone times with Jesus, but there’s this M83 (French electronic music artist) song actually that’s been my go-to song that I put on.
LM: It’s called “Midnight Souls Still Remain”, it’s really weird, it’s literally just a pad.
CM: It’s 11 minutes long, you just put it on repeat and it’s beautiful. It’s practical because melodies and songwriting and stuff like that inspire me so much. So if I put that on I can just soak and sit—a lot of times I want to go to the secret place and I have so much to say or ask of Him, and then it kind of flips on its head and I just end up soaking and crying and it’s Him speaking to me. It draws me closer to Him. I don’t care about what He gives me but I just want to know Him and have that intimacy. Music is just a big thing that personally inspires me.
LM: Every time I got to Casey’s house there’s usually worship (music) going on in their house. My wife plays worship music in the morning and she’ll pray and it inspires me. Actually I remember I had some special nights with Journey at night. When she was an infant I’d hold her and sing the Word of God over her and pray, and the presence of God was just there. I try to do that as much as I can, singing over my baby girl.
Everyone in our family plays and does music. My brother just brought that up to me when I was last home. He was like, “Hey, we need to schedule a time for us to get in the house again—the whole family, brothers, sisters, kids—and let’s just pray together and share dreams and visions. Like, what is God doing in our family and then ask God to touch us again, refresh our families.”
I think God really cares about family. If your family’s far from God, don’t be discouraged. If one is the majority, if there’s one person in the family that’s in love with Jesus and is being changed by God, you’re already the majority. If the rest of your family doesn’t know God, that’s okay; God will use you to turn the tide in your family and change generations.
Who’s the one person you look up to?
LM: My Mom and Dad are amazing. They’ve stayed so faithful to God throughout the years and they’re a great example to me. My Mom, with her hunger and love for the Lord and His presence, she’s always wanting more of Him. And my Dad, just for his Christlikeness. My Dad is seriously the kindest person I’ve ever met in my entire life —we jokingly call him Jesus. He’s always serving somebody. Both of them demonstrate God in different ways. And I want that. They both inspire me so much.
CM: For me, it’ll be my grandparents. And my mother.
Are there any favorite verses that you hold on to in tough times?
LM: I don’t know if I have one. I should pray that the whole Bible will speak to me, but a few of my favorites right now are all sort of saying a similar thing, specifically on the idea of beholding on the new thing.
2 Cor. 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV)
1 Pet. 1:13 – Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (ESV)
Isa. 43:18-19 – Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (ESV)
I think God is trying to teach me to be filled with optimism and hope, that He’s doing a new thing in my life, and even in people’s lives that I’m most familiar with. Familiarity breeds contempt. It’s easy with the people you’re most familiar with. When you see them, you see all their mistakes, all the things they’ve done wrong, it’s almost hard to honor them because you have such close history with them. You know all their faults, they know all of yours. I think for me, it’s not treating people according to their faults. Because God doesn’t do that to me. But treating people according to their destiny.
2 Cor 5:4 – From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. (ESV)
You have the destiny of God in your life. Looking past whatever that family member that you know, whatever they’re showing on the outside that maybe might be lacking Christ, looking past it and singing and thinking life and hope over them.
CM: It’s John 15. Through everything in my life, if I’m not connected to Him, it’s useless, and I can’t give any life to anybody else. John 15 says, “I am the vine and you are the branches” so we’re just like a part of His tree of life. “If you remain in me and I in you, you’ll bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that has thrown away and withers. Such branches are picked up, thrown away into the fire and burned. If you remain in me, and my words remain in you…” Like Leeland said, He’s been challenging me lately a lot to really dive into His Word—because His Words are life, full of Spirit—and live it out.
“If you remain in my word and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you” And He goes on to say that, “this is for my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” If we just abide in Him and in His love, everything we need, He is the source of life. He’s the source for everything we need.
When we’re in Him then everything that comes out of our mouth and our worship and our relationship with people are full of Him. We’re just like Him and it’s not us anymore.
Special thanks to CityRadio. Listen out for their interview with Leeland on April 22.
BEING CHRISTLIKE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR MUSIC
Leeland Mooring and Casey Moore held a session with CityWorship on March 1. Leeland shared about worship and songwriting and thereafter laid hands and prayed for the church’s worship team.
Born to worship pastors, Mooring was only 11 when his parents had to uproot the family to move to another church where they helped set up a band. His mother taught him, his 14 year-old brother and 9 year-old sister singing while his father taught them music.
In the six months they were there, they met a pair of traveling preachers who held revival meetings. On the last night of the revival meetings, Leeland and his siblings received prophecies that they would be in a worship band, traveling and writing songs.
So as children, growing up in an environment where they depended on God for provision and saw Him come through; and one in which they witnessed miracles and healings taking place in revival meetings, Leeland shared that whatever rebellious streak they had as all teenagers do, didn’t last long. “There was a revival meeting happening every other night and we’d experience the presence of God.”
It was in the atmosphere of God’s presence that Leeland and his brother, Jack, began writing songs. “Dad helped us with the melody, while Mom helped with the words,” said Leeland, describing the conducive home environment that led to his call and ministry as a songwriter and worship leader. Growing up with the presence of God and spiritual encounters made the children hunger and thirst for God even more. Casey shared that it is important for Christian parents to pray over their children, to prophesy and declare the Word of God over them. “There is a generational purpose in our families,” said Leeland.
On the topic of spiritual legacy, Leeland shared, “Your destiny is linked to the local church, the Body of Christ. While we see in the present, God sees in generations.” He encouraged the worship team to have an eternal perspective in their call and to leave behind a spiritual legacy for generations to come.
Leeland shared that the worship team builds the spiritual atmosphere of the presence of God through song, helping to “weaponize” the Word of God. “People’s eyes are lifted off their problems and become open for you to deposit the promises of God into their hearts,” he explained. When people leave that atmosphere of the presence of God and go back to their routine of life, the Word of God is what will renew the mind and bring a change in lives.
ADVICE FOR A BAND
“What’s a new sound? What’s a sound from heaven?” asked Leeland. “It’s not the production that makes the sound different. It’s the authority.” He shared that authority comes from knowing who you are. “Knowing Jesus is knowing who you are, because in Him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). The more I know Him, the more I know who I’m meant to be.” He shared that having a new sound is not because of a new melody structure, but because God is touching each one in the band, and each band member bears the authority of Christ. He encouraged the worship team to be in a place of revival constantly.
Leeland cautioned that the thoughts we think toward a person impacts that person, and that band members must be mindful not to allow their thoughts to go into a cynical and negative direction. “Let God’s thoughts become your thoughts,” he offered. “Your knee-jerk reaction to a conflict should not be offense; rather, it should be peace and reconciliation, because that’s what God would want.” One could either partner with God or combat what God was doing, he challenged.
He also cautioned against sarcasm masked in humor and witty cynicism. “Being cynical is easy and fleshly. But it is not impressive. Hope and honor requires you to die to self,” he said, encouraging the band to season their conversations with life and hope, and to make kindness and honor a culture in the team.
HOW SONGWRITING HAPPENS
A fundamental part of songwriting is meditating upon the Word of God. “If you know how to worry, you will know how to meditate on God’s Word,” he explained. Worry is imagining every terrible outcome possible. Meditating on God’s Word is the exact opposite of that. Imagination leads to substance, and just as worry leads to fear, meditating on the Word leads to faith.
“How do we live our lives? We are body, soul and spirit. One of them will take the lead. Which one?” asked Leeland. He shared that the spirit feeds on the Rhema Word of God. So it is a person’s lifestyle that will determine the authority and authenticity of the song. He encouraged the team to fill their time with the Word of God and with things that have depth and value. Activities such as journaling and reading exercise one’s creative muscle, as opposed to just watching and being entertained by a movie.
Leeland also shared that co-writing is another fundamental of songwriting, and it promotes unity and honor among the band. He shared examples of voice notes that he and his brother Jack would send one another daily. Through Facetime and voice notes, the brothers have written songs together across the distance. Incidentally, Jack is the son-in-law of renowned Christian artist, Michael W Smith.
He also shared that there are two aspects to songwriting—suddenly and gradually. “Suddenly” comes in an inspirational moment, while “gradually” involves the mundane principles of songwriting. Both are equally important. He encouraged the songwriters to position themselves to experience the creative ideas that are constantly flying over them all throughout the day—and to change their lifestyle to expect it to happen.
BY SERINA PERERA