During GMA Music Week 2009 in Nashville, TN, we finally sat down with the Leeland guys to discuss the impact of their
"Opposite Way" movement, their brand new album Love Is On The Move, and how these guys stay
spiritually focused while on the road...
This interview took place on: 4/21/09
Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): Has the impact of your song "Opposite Way" on
the Christian community been what you were aiming and hoping for with it?
Yeah! I think so. I think just the whole message has been pretty powerful. Since the record came out last year - which is a year
ago, that's kinda crazy! - we've gotten to do a lot of dates, travel across the country, and I feel like the message has taken
root - especially with our generation. Because we played a lot of events with people our age and kids younger than us and I
feel like, in our shows, Leeland's always shared from his heart about this message. Like, "Guys, let's not live this same mundane
life that the world is trying to sell to us. Let's stand up and go the opposite way." And we explain what the opposite way is - it's
just following Jesus.
And the return on TheOppositeWay.com, where kids go on and tell their stories about how they're living the opposite way,
has been awesome seeing their responses and seeing these kids get a chance to be a part of a community.
JFH (John): Do you have a favorite example of one of those stories?
Yeah! There was actually a specific girl who talked about how she'd grown up in the church, actually, and so she didn't have this
typical "I did drugs my whole life..." or whatever. She grew up in church and she had just kinda got numb to God and she talked about
how recently, God had shaken her up out of her complacency. And she wanted to really just go the opposite way. She wanted to DO
something and stop just kind of talking about it. So, a lot of examples about that. And even kids that struggle with a lot of
serious stuff and so it's been cool to read those and hear our generation talk back, y'know? It's good to hear that kind of stuff
because the band you feel like is kind of one-sided sometimes and you're singing all these songs...
Yeah, cause you don't necessarily hear a lot of that. I mean, sometimes you'll have the occasional person come up in the signing
line and say something, which is really awesome. It's encouraging, cuz you know every night you're going out playing these different
shows, but to get online and see this stuff as well. Y'know, people that didn't say anything that night and you remember the night
you were there. That's really cool to experience that. Maybe that night we didn't think it was really affecting people but
"wow!" it really affected this one person. It's pretty incredible.
JFH (John): How has married life changed your perspective of touring?
Well, we're actually not going to be touring anymore now. *laughter*
No more dates for the rest of our LIVES!
Marriage has been amazing, so marriage with touring: obviously you want to be home more. Y'know, when we were young...
...bachelors. Cuz, y'know, we're old married men now... *laughter* We could be out more. So yeah, you want to be
home as much as possible, but I think it's just getting into that groove of being home enough and being on the road enough
to keep the ministry going.
When we're out on the road, it's cool cuz we're talking to our wives and they "get" what we do. They get our ministry,
and so they encourage us with feeling like, "Ugh! I want to be home!" And if I ever say that, my wife's like, "Jack, you get to lead the most amazing
life ever. You're getting to do what you're called to do!" And so, she'll keep me in shape - that doesn't have
to happen a whole lot, but in those moments, you're both there for each other and to pick each other up! So that's helped us
all, I think, too.
And I think, too, marriage has been really cool because it really, really helps you to learn how to sacrifice yourself, y'know?
- In a very good way, I mean that in the best way possible. You really begin to realize what the true meaning of love is. Being
selfless and giving yourself away. Jesus said to love your wife just like Christ loved the church and I think whenever you come
off the road and you wanna go sleep, but your wife has been home the whole week and she wants to go do something... but
it's awesome, it's so great! It's like the coolest thing in the world! I've been married a year now. I'm the young buck
in the group.
Yeah, I'm a whole month more better than you. *laughter*
I sit at his feet and gleam from his wisdom! *laughter*
My young Padawan.
And Leeland IS not seventeen anymore. *laughter* Like, we did an interview when we first released
our first record when he was seventeen, and I think he's been seventeen for about four years!
JFH (John): Now you are seventeen.... and a half.
Yeah, really!! *laughter*
He's getting younger. He's sixteen!
I'm getting younger, I'm like Benjamin Button! No, I'm twenty. I'll be twenty one in June.
JFH (John): Love Is On The Move is the new record, right? Tell me about it!
Jack: We just got out of the studio two weeks ago. And so, not to date this interview, but we're getting
mixes right now. It was an amazing experience, just the whole process of recording it.
Leeland: Yeah, actually, I told a friend earlier, "Man, after the process of this record, I feel like I drew
closer to God through the recording process. I think sometimes the recording process in the studio can be stressful
or you're SO concerned about making it sound really awesome and cool and you're worried that people are going to like it and
sometimes you can lose aspect of the whole reason why you're making it - in the busyness of making the record. Afterwards, you're
like "Ugh!! I'm glad that's over!" Y'know? But then you listen to it and you're like, "Oh, it's amazing!" But this recording
process was NOTHING like that at all. It was really cool. We recorded the record with two different producers - Steve Wilson
and Ed Cash. It was just amazing. There were times when we'd sit with the producer and we would just worship for like 30 and 45
...Get lost in the presence of God.
Leeland: We didn't even MEAN to! One thing we prayed for - we asked God, "God, we just want this record to be
just songs for You. We don't want to try to impress people. We're not making a record for a radio single or something." I said,
"God, we just want to make a record for You and just love songs to You." And literally every song was spawned out of some incredible
moment with God and an experience with God. Most of them were all in the studio. And we went into the studio and had all of these
parts. Like, I write in parts a lot and I don't tend to finish songs that easy.
He had like 50 ideas going into the studio.
Leeland: Yes! Like 40 or 50 "parts" - like either it was a verse or chorus or like a melody idea or musical or
chord progression that I really liked. So we had all these ideas when we went in for me and Jack to work with for like two and a half
weeks with the producer to work on songs and write, and it was amazing! We just sat there and we would invite God
and we got to put a lot of the parts together. It's my favorite record that we've EVER worked on.
"Love Is On The Move" is actually, probably one of our favorite songs. There's a really cool story behind that. We were having
a writing session for the record and we were driving here to Nashville, and there's this homeless man on the side of the road
and he was asking for money and we're at this red light and it's 5 o'clock and there's traffic everywhere and we're in this
huge van and trailer. So we're two lanes away from him and Leeland was like, "Hey Jack, give him some money." And the second
Leeland said that, the light went green. And all these cars started honking [at us], so we just kind of drive off. And I had that
thought in my head, "We could go back... eh, let's just go," y'know? And it's that moment - we've all done it - it's too much of
a hassle now. I would have handed him money if it was easy, but now it's hard! So I'm not going to go back and hand him the money.
But Leeland was like, "No, dude, just stop." So we went to the gas station and he ATM'ed some money and ran down to the guy
about half a block. And then handed him a little bit of money and said "God bless you" and then Leeland ran back to the van.
Totally didn't even think about it, he just did it! So we went into the studio and started writing. We were writing some random
idea and all of a sudden, Leeland just starts playing this melody and starts singing "Love is on the move," and it's like all of
us just focused in and literally, we got that whole song in minutes! God just gave it to us and we started writing it.
And the song is about a homeless man is on the side of the road that needs God. There's a rich man in a high rise building that
has everything - he needs God. And then there's Jesus who came down to change the world. And each chorus talks about "Love is
on the move." God's doing something and we need to be a part of it. Y'know? And looking back, we were like, "We just gave money
to that man and it's almost like..."
God kind of honored that.
Yeah. It was like that was a whole process of writing that song. It was really cool, so things like that were what went throughout
the [making of] the whole record.
JFH (John): Are there any other songs you're really excited about?
Leeland: Yeah! There's one song on the record that I'm really excited about. One song we wrote with the producer
Ed Cash. We were talking with him and he had this idea. I sang this piece of a song that talked about the cross and basically
it was a verse and it said "He traded His crown for a crown of thorns, He picked up His cross and laid down his sword,"
and it talks about the surrender that Jesus gave by becoming a man, first of all, and dying on the cross for us. But I never
had a chorus for it. And so, Ed said "I always had this idea to write a song about the Via Dolorosa, the road that Jesus
walked on." "The Way Of Grief" is what it translates to. It's in Jerusalem. And he said he took a trip to Jerusalem
and he said he got to walk that road and he said it was an amazing experience. So we pulled up pictures of the road on the
Internet, and we had them all on our computers. There were some eerie pictures -- this small, little [road] where the most
incredible sacrifice in history [was made]! He's by himself! Just looking at the pictures was gut-wrenching enough. And then we pulled up
clips from The Passion of the Christ - cuz to me that's one of the most realistic depictions of Jesus and the cross -
and we just took all that stuff and started writing. And the song came up out of nowhere. We just prayed, "God, we want this song
to be a beautiful depiction of the journey You made to the cross! And not only what You did on the cross, but the
journey made there." And so the song's called "Via Dolorosa," and it actually says it in the chorus, and it talks about the
road that Jesus walked on and it's one of my favorites. I like it a lot.
Jake: I really like a song called "Follow You."
Jack: It's probably going to be our first single off the record.
Jake: It's really cool because we actually had Brandon Heath come in and we collaborated with him and had him
sing on it. It's kind of a random idea. We were in the studio... Was it Ed that brought it up?
Leeland: The chorus was just a chorus at first. It was written in Australia.
We went to the Hillsong conference. And in this really awesome worship moment, they played this video of Bono talking
at the NAACP where he made this speech about how if you want to be with God, you need to be with the broken. He said "God is
in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house." And it kind of hit me - the idea of that: that God is with the broken.
I've always heard that, but the reality of it kind of hit me. And I walked out because I started getting a melody, a song idea,
and I walked out and recorded it. We were in the studio and I brought that idea and we ended up finishing it. It became this
awesome worship song talking about following God into the homes of the broken and into the world. And we're going on tour with
Brandon in the Fall and Francesca [Battistelli] which is going to be really cool! We were already talking about that pretty heavily
and we thought, "What if we had Brandon come in and sing this?" Cuz he's doing some crazy awesome stuff in India. He's involved
in some really cool nonprofit stuff that he's doing, like getting women out of the sex trade and supplying them with jobs so
they can have honest livings and housing for their children, stuff like that. So he's - just like us - kind of new
to all the problems of the world. So he came in, caught the vision of the song, and did an incredible job of singing. We kind of
sing together. It's pretty cool!
Jake: I think that's going to be a real powerful moment on the record. It's one of those songs you can get behind
pretty easily and sing along with it.
Leeland: And I think a lot of songs on this record are really cool because a lot of worship leaders will be able
to pick up their guitar and sing them in their churches. We pray it's a gift to the church, too, y'know?
Jack: Next month, we're going with Brandon to Cambodia and Bangladesh and Japan.
Leeland: It's cool! He's - sorry, I just want to talk about this - He's coming from India, doing his thing
there, and meet us in Japan, and we're doing two shows in Japan for this Salvation Crusade for teens, and then we're going to
Cambodia and Bangladesh with Food for the Hungry. We're going to get it all on film and show it on the tour.
Jack: Yeah! We're pumped.
JFH (John): Mike, do you have anything to add?
Jack: *Rubs Mike's Shoulder* Shhhhh!
Jake: Shhhhh! *laughter* We try to keep him quiet.
Leeland: Favorite song?
Mike: Favorite song... You guys took all the really good ones...
Jack: Those are the ONLY good songs on the record!
Mike: One of my favorite songs is a song that came late in the record. And it's "New Creation." It's just a really
fun song, every time I hear it...
Jake: He just likes that song because the drums sound awesome on it.
Jack: It starts off like *Acts out guitar playing and loud riff*. It's exactly like that. *laughter*
I actually do that with my mouth!
Leeland: It's kind of like bluesy southern rock -- and not like cheesy southern rock -- but it's old school,
American rock. We've never really done a song like that before. It kind of reminds me of AudioA, like some of the old school stuff.
JFH (John): Just call the record "Jack Is On The Move."
Jack: There ya go! Gotta get my name in there somewhere!
Mike: But that song was fun. At one point, I think it was just for everyone's amusement *Leeland laughs*, but
they had me in the drum room jumping up and down and we were recording the floor.
Jack: Mike was literally jumping - "Boom! Kah! Boom! Kah!" *laughter*
Leeland: *laughing* And he tried to stay on rhythm! About eighth of the take, Mike is
like, SO tired!
Mike: I ran out of breath... I'm not in what you would call the best of shape, physically. I went back into
the control room out of breath, sweaty...
Jack: But it sounded good!
Mike: It sounded good.
Leeland: It made for an amazing percussion track. It sounded really cool!
Mike: That was one of the most memorable moments on the record.
Jake: "Pure Bride"'s awesome.
Leeland: "Pure Bride"'s a great song. I will totally talk about this whole record. Oh! and Jack actually sings
a lead vocal on this record! He sings the second verse on the song.
JFH (John): Wow. You're taking over Leeland, dude!
Jack: I know! It's this very slow coup. Jack-a-land.
Jake: It's a slow fade!
JFH (John): So what keeps you guys spiritually focused when you're writing these songs
and when you're on tour. It's hard to stay focused. So what keeps you focused.
Jack: It's kind of a collection of all of us, I think. There's always one of us that, at some moment, is having
this awesome experience with God. And when you see that in another band member - if I see Leeland over there having this great
moment with the Lord, it inspires me, "Oh man, I wanna go do that!" So we're not going to each other and being like "Hey dude,
did you read your Bible today?" It's not necessarily like that, but it's like we just try to inspire each other by the way
we live. And there's moments on the road when we just have to retreat into the presence of God.
Jake: It's also really awesome when we get together and have a heart-to-heart. It seems like, when you do that
every couple of months get on the same page spiritually and be real honest with what's going on in your life, it's amazing how
close you come together - not only as a band but as friends, y'know what I mean? Being accountable with each other and showing, "I'm
here for you no matter what." We've had some amazing moments like that. Just getting together and being like "These are my
best friends. Spiritually, we're here together and we're doing this together." And it's been amazing.
Leeland: I think we're due for one right now, so if you guys want to start off? *laughter* The deepest
JFH (John): I will follow YOUR lead. *laughter* It's funny, cuz I've been in situations
where I'll be in church and others are really into a spiritual moment and I feel like I can't get into it for one reason or another
and it'll actually annoy me [that I can't join in]...
Jack: Exactly! It can work both ways. Like, the Enemy can use it to be like "Oh, YOU'RE not that spiritual.
You can't go there." But at the same time, I think you can use it to inspire you to seek after God. God is basically just
waiting for us. I just kind of picture Him like He's on his heels just waiting for us to make the first move. And then
he jumps at it.
Jake: Yeah, I'm kind of the same way. When you have everyone else in the band with their heart on the table,
it's like, "Let's go for this!"
Leeland: It's awesome! I think one of the most important things we're finding out is the love of God.
Y'know? We just realize how wretched we are and how awesome God is! Then what Jesus did on the cross making us perfect
through His sacrifice. I think the biggest thing I've been realizing lately - I cannot stop reading up to where
Jesus was taken, just the whole of Him dying on the cross for ME! And I keep thinking, Jesus when He was on the cross
and He had all that death on His shoulders, He said my name, y'know? He died for me. That's just amazing that He's thinking,
"I'm dying for Leeland right now." The personal touch to that. That's been changing my life recently. Just revisiting that
story again, just revisiting the love of God. It's been amazing. You can really love the world and you can really love people
when you realize how much God loves YOU. Cuz then you can't help but love others. I think that's a big deal. That's why
this record is just all love songs to Jesus.
Jack: Love is on the move!
JFH (John): Any last comments?
Jake: You guys are a highlight to our GMA Week.
Jack: Cuz we've come to love you guys!
Jake: We love you guys! Y'all were there for us at our very first GMA!
Jack: And please check out our blog online at leelandband.blogspot.com
JFH (John): We love you too! Thank you guys!
Leeland's latest project, Love Is On The Move, is in stores August 25!