by Tracy Darlington
"Our main cry is to draw kids closer to God and show that they can have an intimate, tangible relationship with Christ." --Mike Smith
BIO: Passionate, progressive and worshipful are just a few adjectives to describe the band Leeland, and the heart behind its sophomore album, Opposite Way. Not only does the GRAMMY and four-time Dove Award nominated band live up to the buzz from Christian music’s most influential artists (including Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Third Day, Chris Tomlin and Switchfoot to name a few), but the Baytown, Texas-bred five piece exceeds expectations through eleven gems of prayerful power, and life-changing substance.
Tracy: A quote on your MySpace page says “our hearts must break before our hands will move.” Why is it important to have your heart prepared ahead of time before you do an event?
Jack Mooring: Events and festivals are so pivotal. I remember when I was younger coming to a festival, watching the bands, and God totally ministered to us and changed our lives. It’s very important for those who are just coming to a festival to have their hearts prepared for God to do something. Secondly, as a band, before we come to a festival like Creation or something large like that, we are on our faces before God. Playing for that many people is really humbling. It really is. It makes you feel really small.
How has being in this band allowed all of you to mature in Christ?
Leeland Mooring: We’re not in church as much, so whenever we can get back home for a Sunday, we’re all really involved in our church. We feel it’s very important to have a base there. I think a big thing that has helped us grow now that we are on the road so much, especially the last year and a half, we have to depend on each other. We have to literally force ourselves to make that time for God. Whenever you have a chance, before you go to sleep at night, just making that time to spend with God. If you don’t make time to spend with God, it’s easy to drift away. Our prayer lives help us a lot.
If you could share one thing with this generation what would you share?
Mike Smith: Our main cry is to draw kids closer to God and show that they can have an intimate, tangible relationship with Christ. They don’t have to wait until they’re of legal age or an “adult” to do something for God and have a ministry. At ten, eleven, twelve, and even younger . . . God can use any age. It’s not about how old you are. It’s about where you are with your relationship with Christ. You can be a light to your friends in school. Our main thing is to call our generation to a deeper walk, to an actual intimate relationship with Christ. A day to day thing.
What do you like to do for fun?
Jake Holtz: We play a lot of Risk, a lot of Risk. We practice for fun. We play soccer, we like movies, board games. Honestly, we just sit around and banter. We just talk. We’re like a bunch of girls. We’re either talking about the most pointless things, or we’re talking about really, really deep, spiritual things. One or the other. We also like really dumb videos online. Being on the road we have a lot of free time, so that’s one of our outlets. And video games.
In your opinion, what makes a band or artist Christian?
Jack Mooring: If you’re a believer you’re a believer. We all have a certain calling, if you are believers in music, to show the love and the gospel of Jesus Christ to whoever you come in contact with. I’ve seen some bands do it very vocally and direct from the stage, and I’ve seen some bands do it a lot more subtly which gives them access to a crowd that maybe we couldn’t access because of how blatant we are. It calls for both. You can’t really judge other bands by what they label themselves. It’s all based on the fruit of their ministry. To me, what defines a Christian band is do they have the fruit—are they winning souls? That’s what defines it for me.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get closer to god?
Leeland: A huge deal in all of our lives is a prayer life, making sure we make the time to spend with God. That is the major thing. We just got back from a youth camp in Ohio, and I had countless kids come up to me after the worship service and ask me, “What do I do to get closer to God?” I kept telling them that God wants to be intimate with you, He wants a relationship with you. Spending time with God, locking yourself in your room and turning on a worship cd, or praying or reading the Word, hiding it in your heart. Ask God to draw you deeper to where He begins to speak into your life and it becomes so evident in your life that people around you begin to notice.
What would you say is the biggest challenge facing your ministry today?
Jack Mooring: To not become jaded and to have integrity. We haven’t been doing this very long full time, but there are artists like Tobymac who have been around a long time, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman. All these guys are squeaky clean. Those are our role models in the industry. I think one of the biggest problems in the industry is getting jaded, forgetting what you wanted this to be about before you ever got signed. Not losing sight of that.
What are some bible verses that have inspired you and your songs?
Jack Mooring: Lots of messages have inspired us. Recently Leeland and I have been talking about Colossians Chapter 3. It’s been one of our recent studies.
Leeland Mooring: I stumbled upon this whole passage a few weeks ago. I’ve heard different speakers preach on this passage, but it really hit home with me. It’s in Colossians Chapter 3. All throughout it talks about putting off the old man and putting on the new man. It says “Now that you died, put off wrath and anger and malice. Put off all those things. Now that you died and your life is hidden in Christ, so when Christ appears you will appear with Him in glory.” And that hit me. I’ve always thought of “when God appears” as when God comes in the end times, or when He comes back for us. But God was speaking to me that it can mean when He appears in a service, when He appears in a Walmart or a grocery store. He was saying to me that “when My presence is with you, then I appear.” Because you’ve spent time with the Father diligently, then you will appear with Him in a type of co-labor with God. We’re in His perfect will and His perfection. That’s a major thing that’s really hit home with me. I try to read that every day.
Please tell us about the inspiration for your song “Tears of the Saints”.
Mike Smith: Leeland wrote that on a Sunday afternoon after hearing a message by a certain minister about the lost and the Prodigal Son. A couple days later we were at practice and he started playing it for us. We started playing it with him. The first time we hear a song it’s usually him on the piano singing the words, and we dissect it and decide what we’re going to do with it. Listening to it that first time, I was thinking that this song is really the heartbeat of our ministry. It’s a cry to wake people up to do something about people who are lost. A lot of times you can just get comfortable in church, doing your thing, and you forget that it’s about saving lost people, people who don’t know God. Our heartbeat is that song. We’re pleading with people to wake up and get out of the normal Sunday routine. Just reach out to someone and tell them “God loves you.”
Tracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.