THIR.ST TALKS: Leeland on “Waymaker” and their latest album “Better Word”
Back with their first-ever live recorded album after a three-year hiatus, Leeland Mooring chats with us about the inspiration behind the band’s new songs and the lessons they’ve learnt along the way.
Your new album, Better Word, comes three years after your previous album. Why the long break?
At the end of 2014, we had a major transition in the Leeland band. A lot of original members, like my older brother Jack who went to pastor a church in Tennessee, left. So we went from four solid members to two. And it was just me and Casey.
On one hand, it was really tough for me to say bye to my original members but at the same time, I was so excited about the future.
We joined Bethel Collective soon after and did worship with them for almost three years. And it was an amazing time singing “Lion and the Lamb” on their live album, writing and pouring into their community and also receiving from them.
Near the end of 2017, we were asking God if we should move to Redding, California where Bethel is, but my wife and I sensed that God wanted us to stay put at where we are. So we slowly phased out of Bethel because they are mainly a church first and a music label second. It made more sense for us to move on.
Why the title “Better Word”?
For a long time in the church, we didn’t understand emotional health. So in the last 10 years, there’s been a wave of being in tune with your emotions…
But we have a tendency to overcorrect, and one of the overcorrections I’ve seen is that you can be so in tune with your emotions that you listen to them. The problem with that is we were never called to walk by feelings but we are called to walk by faith.
Emotions are involved in love. Can you imagine married to somebody who never showed emotions to you? That marriage won’t work. But my love for my wife is not just emotional. It is deeper than my emotions. It’s actually a commitment.
Similarly, the Bible says that we are married to Christ. What that means is that there are going to be days where we wake up and our emotions are going to tell us one thing and the Word of God will tell us another. And “Better Word” is one song that doesn’t sweep the emotions under the rug, but it speaks to our emotions and to our situation.
That’s why we wanted “Better Word” to be the album title. It’s saying something unique, a reminder that I need right now – even the body of Christ.
“Waymaker” has been a huge hit from your album! Why did you guys decide to include a rendition of that song?
My mum was on Facebook two years ago and she sent me this video of a worship leader from Nigeria singing “Waymaker”. Immediately our whole family grabbed onto the song.
So we started singing that at our home church for the next year. Then we sang it at churches. It didn’t matter what the demographics of the people were or what denomination the church was. Every time we sang “Waymaker”, everyone would latch onto it too. It was something very special.
There’s something powerful about the chorus because you’re basically singing the names of God. And when you sing the names of God, you’re singing hope over your life, family, city… It just brings hope in the room.
So when we decided to make the album, we wanted to include a few songs that were from other nations, and one of the songs was “Waymaker”. We almost had Sinach, the original singer, come and sing it live with us, but she wasn’t able to make it. But it was still a powerful moment.
Tell us about a moment that really stood out to you during the making of this album.
There is a spontaneous track called “Gold”. And that was a piece I got in Norway after a service where the pastor referenced this Japanese art style where they take shattered vases and put them back together by binding all the cracks with gold. And it actually makes the vase more valuable than before it was broken.
I got inspired that night in my hotel room and I wrote this little tagline: “God is healing all our wounds with gold”. I wanted to include it in the album, but I didn’t know if it would fit in anywhere.
During the dress rehearsal the night before the actual live recording, we got to the song “Where You Are”and I was like, “I’m going to try to get into this “Gold” chorus.” I went into it and it was kind of a powerful moment. And my producer was standing back there and yelling, “You have to do that tomorrow night!”
That kind of championed me and gave me the courage to do it during the live recording. So when we came to that part (of the set), it was really still and quiet. And what was so special was that our baby girl, Journey, who was about eight months old, cried out and tried to sing along with me.
I could barely hold it together when I heard that because my wife and I have been married for six years and we’ve dealt with infertility for about six years. Journey was a miracle from God because we adopted her from birth.
And so it was a really powerful moment because our baby is actually on the song where it talks about God healing our wounds and restoring us to a better place. It’s really special and I’ll have that forever.
Which song on the album do you think people would find most comfort in?
“Wait Upon the Lord”. The chorus was written by my dad. For a season, my dad was driving trucks for eight hours every single day because he was let go from his church’s full-time job.
My dad is one of the most anointed pianists and worship leaders, and during that season it was difficult for my parents to trust God with His calling on their lives and their future.
Sometimes we go through seasons where we feel isolated and far away from God, and we wonder if God has forgotten about us or our destinies. But Paul says in the Bible: “I want to be one with Jesus in suffering so that I can be one with Him in the resurrection.” (Philippians 3:10)
Some of the greatest relationships are forged in pain and suffering. It’s a tough thing to understand, but those are the best times to sing and shout and dance and worship, not by feeling but by faith.
And the awesome thing is that we can ask Jesus for faith, and He gives us belief and hope. And it becomes a testimony to others because you should be broken and torn apart by this tragedy, but God can give you a heavenly peace in the midst of it so that you can still be filled with faith, hope and joy.
That’s what testifies to people that there is something peculiar about the people of God because non-believers don’t have that hope. They just have pain. They don’t understand why they are going through it or if there’s a way out of it. But believers have that hope and that’s why we should be ministering to them.
What do you hope for the listeners to take away from “Better Word”?
For our band and our producer, our prayer that night was – and still is – that it would become a support and encouragement for people to create their own secret history with God that no one sees or know.
Jesus said that if we close our doors and pray in secret, then He’ll be our reward in the open. You have to pursue God alone and create your own secret history with Him so that when we come together in a local church and family, we are actually edifying and blessing people instead of draining them.
In my alone time with God, there have been worship albums or songs I’ve listened to on repeat so I hope “Better Word” inspires people to create their own secret history with God too.
What is one thing you have learnt through your walk with God and you wish young people would know?
I wished I understood the life-changing power of meditating on the Word of God with the Holy Spirit earlier.
I didn’t understand what it meant for a long time. I only heard of meditation in yoga until someone said something powerful: “If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate.”
So when I worry, I’m actually marrying my imagination to fear. But when you’re meditating the Word of God, you’re asking the Holy Spirit to marry your imagination and creativity to the promise of God in your life.
Let’s say you’re dealing with a big issue and you don’t know what to do; you’re at the crossroads in your life. Maybe you have just been let go from your job and you worry every night thinking: “Man, I’m going to be poor. They are going to take my home and car away.”
That’s what worrying is. You start meditating on it long enough and it becomes fear.
But the opposite is true in God’s kingdom. I invite the Holy Spirit in and say “Holy Spirit, you know that I just lost my job, but you said in Jeremiah 29:11 that you have plans to give me a future and hope.”
You start singing the Word of God in your life and the Holy Spirit starts to fill you with faith because His Word can drop like a seed into your heart and mind.
So when you meditate on His Word at night, you’re sowing seeds for the next day so that when you wake up, you wake up in faith. And when you’re meditating on the Word of God in the morning, you’re sowing seeds for the lunchtime so that during lunchtime, you’re already in a positive and hopeful atmosphere. When you’re meditating in the afternoon, you’re sowing seeds for the midnight hour when your thoughts usually spin out of control.
You’re sowing seeds in each chapter of your day – and you’ll reap a harvest if you keep doing it. It changes the way you think and the way you live.
THINK + TALK
- Is your faith rooted in emotions or in truth?
- What are some names of God or encouraging verses you can meditate on this week?
- Do you have a secret history with God?
- Have an original song to share? Do drop us an email with your song recording and you might be featured on our next Thirstacoustic!