“I have to go back to – there’s something providential about this whole thing.” And then Smith drops a doozy. He describes Mooring in a way one might assume he’d reserve for personal friends such as the Rev. Billy Graham, President Bush or even U2’s Bono. “I have a real sense that there’s just a special, high call of God on his life in terms of doing some great things to impact the Kingdom here on earth. Of anybody that I know – I’ve never met anybody where I’ve really sensed that. He’s got it. I’m going to really enjoy watching this thing unfold.”

Once again, Mooring’s head is bowed.

Smith continues, “Maybe I’m supposed to hold his arms up. Maybe that’s all I’m simply supposed to do. And provide platforms for him – lift this man up because I think he’s going to be an incredible tool for God.”

Human Spark

And lifting him – and his band – up is exactly what Smith has been doing. Even just days after he first saw Leeland perform, Smith spoke to a small gathering of media VIPs during GMA Week in Nashville. His stunned audience listened attentively as he steered the conversation away from the planned topic, which was his forthcoming album, electing instead to tell them all about his favorite new band and its soon-to-release CD.

And that band, rounded out by Mooring’s older brother Jack Mooring (keyboardist/co-writer), who’s a Smith favorite in his own right, their cousin Jake Holtz (bassist), Jeremiah Wood (guitarist) and Mike Smith (drummer), felt the immediate ripples. Mooring describes what they encountered during their GMA Week press interviews. “People from different magazines kept coming in, and they’d say, ‘We’ve been waiting to talk to you guys. We got out of a meeting with Michael W. Smith. The whole time he just kept talking about you guys.’ We kept having all these people say the same things. ‘Michael kept talking about you guys and didn’t talk about himself. We kept asking about him, but he kept talking about you.’ So it was very encouraging to us. Our album wouldn’t be what it is right now at all without his support.”

Simply put, Smith’s support helped stir up a new artist buzz reminiscent of the anticipation preceding Delirious’ bow in 1998. And, sure enough, when Leeland’s "Sound of Melodies" (Essential) released in mid-August, it was the No. 5 selling album at Christian retail stores its first week out. And Christian pop radio’s response? The band’s title track, “Sound of Melodies,” served as the first single and quickly climbed to No. 6 on Radio & Records’ Christian Hit Radio chart. At press time, the song was still in the Top 25.

Leeland’s "Sound of Melodies" album is that rare breed of recording which is distinctly different, yet extremely accessible to a wide audience. For starters, the band’s modern rock sound is clearly set apart from anything in Christian music, and is every bit as engaging as the general market’s most touted young bands. Leeland’s guitar-infused rock is muscular one moment, gentle the next. And while “worship” is the word most often used to describe the band’s lyrics, Leeland is unusual in this area as well. One listen to the "Sound of Melodies"’ 11 songs reveals an unusual blend of spiritual intimacy,  down-to-earth, poetic phrasing and, for lack of a better way of putting it, a tender-heartedness.