A bond that goes beyond music: Meeting the men behind Leeland
Known worldwide for hits like Lion and the Lamb, Leeland is no stranger to the Christian music scene. Since forming in 2004, the band has gone on to receive 4 nominations for the Grammy Awards and 8 nominations for the Dove Awards. In their first visit to Singapore, Thir.st took the opportunity to sit down with Leeland Mooring and Casey Moore over dinner.
It’s just 2 hours to go before Leeland’s first-ever worship night in Singapore.
My team and I step into Bethesda Cathedral where the band will perform. Warm industrial lightbulbs draped across the ceiling wrap the hall in a soft glow.
Onstage, singer Leeland Mooring and lead guitarist Casey Moore are having a soundcheck. I am surprised at the sight of an elderly woman who arrived even earlier than I did, seated in the middle of the still-empty hall.
Just as I am about to make my way towards the band, Leeland finishes his microphone test, hops off the stage and walks towards the elderly woman, saying: “Hi, what’s your name?” A wide smile spreads across his face as he shakes her hand.
The lady is surprised, but introduces herself. They begin to chat for the next few minutes. I can’t hear them, but I can see they are enjoying the conversation. I watch as this scene unfolds, unable to pull away. There is something magical about the moment.
The conversation soon ends and Leeland walks towards us. He welcomes us with the same friendliness he had greeted the woman with and asks for our names. I tell him my Chinese name and he fumbles a bit, trying to get the pronunciation right as he laughs at his attempts.
After our brief introduction, we are whisked backstage to dinner.
As we dig in to chicken rice, we talk about many things.
Leeland and Casey weren’t always that close. It was only after Jack Mooring (Leeland’s brother and the band’s keyboardist) left the band to pursue other interests, that the both of them began to spend more time together.
Leeland tells me: “He’s almost like family now. There’s a point when you know somebody long enough and they transition from friendship to family.”
Not surprising that it was music that bonded them together – specifically the song Goodnight and Go by Imogen Heap.
“There’s this melody in the bridge of the song that I would freak out over – alone in the car. I’d rewind to that part a million times just to sing it,” Leeland shares. “But I don’t usually talk about this to other people because people would at most think it’s a lovely melody, but not freak out about it, you know?”
“So when Casey first brought up the song, I was like ‘NO!’
“And I said, ‘The bridge, bro!’ And we jammed in the van and started singing it together.”
Of course, their bond goes beyond such silly moments. Years of worshipping together – “spiritual moments” is how Casey puts it – have built the foundation of their friendship.
Casey tells me Leeland is like a brother to him. The feeling’s mutual for Leeland, who describes Casey as the “kindest person I’ve ever met”.
“When you get on the road and you start meeting a lot of people, it’s easy to get your guard up because you don’t know how many people you can trust. So you put up walls by default.
“But I remember when Casey came to the band, the first thing I noticed was how kind he was. His kindness is shown in consistency in small things. And it can almost go unnoticed because it’s so gentle and meek.
“When you start thinking about it, you go ‘Wow, that person really cares about me, my life, my well-being and my family. So I don’t think I have just one brother. I have two. I consider Casey my brother too.”
I think back to the old lady Leeland greeted earlier and can’t help but wonder if the band’s culture of kindness was cultivated under the influence of one another.
Leeland is right to say that Casey’s a keeper. As Leeland slips out for a second, I try to get Casey spill some embarrassing facts about Leeland, but Casey protects his friend’s honour. A true friend indeed.
Unfortunately, ladies, they are both taken. While Leeland and Casey used to spend a third of the year touring together, they have since cut back on shows due to family commitments. Leeland tells me he has just adopted a baby girl with his wife last year. Casey’s wife has also welcomed a second child into their family.
And that’s why the pair doesn’t travel as much now. It’s a different dynamic, Casey admits. But it has also been awesome.
A stage manager approaches our table and gestures for us to wrap up the interview. As we head to the hall and I take my place among the 500-strong crowd, I wonder what else Leeland will share about his faith journey.
“God has been reviving my hunger for His Word and that has been life-changing,” the singer-songwriter says, in between songs of worship.
He goes on to share that the Bible is not just a book of good ideas. It’s inspired by God. It’s infallible and unchangeable.
“What you see is logos – the written form. But the Holy Spirit can turn the words in the Bible into rhema, life-changing, and mind-transforming. If you treat it like that and you read it like that, it’s very weighty.
“So meditating and praying the Word of God is so powerful. As much as possible, try to find pockets of time throughout the day to do so,” he encourages the room of worshippers.
But it goes beyond that. Leeland explains that our lifestyle is important too.
Referring our eyes, ears and mouths as gates to our mind, he says: “Everything I watch has a seed. Everything I do has a seed. Everything I say has a seed. It can be good or bad, and it’s a harvest of good or evil; life or death.
This echoes what Leeland said about his songwriting process earlier on. “There’s the practical side of songwriting where you set aside time to write songs. But there’s the metaphysical side of writing, which is the lifestyle that you’re living. So the lifestyle that we live determines the kind of art we create.”
And as he gathers the crowd to have a moment of silence with God towards the end of the session, I think to myself: Who we are in front of others is truly a reflection of who we are with God behind closed doors.