“Leeland is the best thing I have heard in a long, long time,” says Grammy Award-winning artist Michael W. Smith. “I can't stop singing the songs in my head. Great melodies. Great band. Great voice.” Produced by Matt Bronleewe, Marc Byrd and Steve Hindalong, the 11-track project is no doubt poised to be one of the year’s biggest and best debuts.
Fronting the enthusiastic five-piece Texas outfit is the gifted 18-year-old songwriter and charismatic performer Leeland Mooring. The youngest group member, this unassuming, fresh-faced vocalist and guitar player writes with wisdom beyond his years. He’s transparent in his love and gratitude to God and unflinching in his passion for reaching his generation for Christ.
“So many kids are lost when it comes to having a true relationship with God, even ones who go to church,” Leeland says. “Whenever we play, our main goal is to be able to minister to our generation.”
The debut album from Leeland erects a doorway to God’s welcoming presence. Musically, the album contains layer upon layer of emotional, majestic melodies constructed on rock influences, European groups such as: Travis, Coldplay, Delirious, Doves, and Godfrey Birtill, among others. Lyrically, Sound of Melodies tips the scales at being vertically oriented, yet operates at the ground level of human relationships.
Acclaim is building quickly for Sound of Melodies, crediting a slew of vertical, God-centered lyrics and a barrage of and guitar- and piano-driven tracks. According to RELEVANT Magazine, “If Leeland’s live show is any indication of the band’s promise, we’d better brace for big things.”
“What people hear on the record is five young guys that have hearts to glorify God,” says Leeland’s brother Jack, Leeland keyboardist and youth minister at the band’s home church in Baytown, Texas. “That’s what it’s all about for us: Declaring to God and to people how amazing He is.”
The title track and album opener, “Sound of Melodies,” represents the band’s heart towards their gifts from God. Jack says, “We feel that the melodies God has given us are straight from heaven. Now we’re giving them back to Him because they don’t belong to us. Here, we’re inviting others to come do that with us.” The dynamic “Reaching” initiates a grateful response to God’s ongoing blessing, beautifully crafting an invitation for listeners to join in.
Other standout tracks include “Can’t Stop (Falling In Love With You),” in which aggressive guitars markedly contrast singer Leeland’s understated vocals. The syncopated, happy-go-lucky rhythms of “Hey” celebrate the discovery of God’s faithful love, while the album’s social consciousness burns brightly on “Tears of the Saints,” already a favorite among Leeland fans.
“There are many prodigal sons/On our city streets they run/Searching for shelter/ There are homes broken down/People’s hopes have fallen to the ground/From failures/ This is an emergency….”
Closer “Carried to the Table” is steeped in the implications of Christ’s resurrection, re-imagining personal healing and completeness in the presence of God’s holy communion with creation.
Leeland Mooring wrote his first song at the age of 11 as the Mooring family, including brother Jack, traveled with two evangelists ministering throughout the United States. Like flint to kindling, that single spark lit a fire in Leeland’s heart for songwriting. It was during this spiritually formative season that Leeland began to sense a spiritual calling to music.
The Moorings exchanged fulltime itinerate ministry for parish work in 2000, launching a church in the family’s hometown, Baytown, Texas, near Houston. At age 14, Leeland began to take his efforts to a different level. He entered Embassy Music’s Ultimate Talent Search where he was a finalist in the songwriting and artist divisions. Although he didn’t take home a trophy, Leeland garnered a bigger prize: the attention of contest judge and now-manager Kent Coley, who felt Leeland possessed something extra special. A year later, Leeland grabbed the attention of Eddie DeGarmo, President of EMI CMG Publishing and signed a songwriting contract with EMI CMG Publishing.
Ferrying between Houston and Nashville for songwriting sessions, Leeland eventually demoed songs with producer/songwriter Marc Byrd, putting the band on Provident Label Group’s radar for a recording contract. Terry Hemmings, President and CEO, Provident Music Group, “Rarely does an artist come along that embodies both a fresh new approach musically while offering lyrical ideas that are powerful and compelling. Leeland has such a gift. I can’t wait for people to hear it.”
As much a performer as a writer, Leeland itched to play his new songs live. He easily convinced friends back home to join him. In addition to his brother Jack, Leeland is comprised of: Jake Holtz, who played bass for the music team at church, plus friends Austin Tirado (guitar) and Mike Smith (drums). Practicing nightly in a funeral home parlor, the men learned to turn mourning into dancing.
“Our responsibility as a band,” according to Jack, “is to be a light to people and to fulfill the Great Commission. Secondly, our vision is to write songs that are vessels for the presence of God. Through our songs, we hope people experience God in such a new way that they are inspired to draw closer to him.”