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It’s a big week for five regular guys from Texas.

Six months ago, few people outside Baytown were familiar with Leeland, a progressive rock band composed of Leeland and Jack Mooring, their cousin Jake Holtz and friends Austin Tirado and Mike Smith.

However, on Tuesday, they’ll be performing at Astro Hall in Tokyo’s Harajuku ward and, next Sunday, they’ll be watching eagerly as the Grammy envelopes are opened. Their debut disc, “Sound of Melodies,” has been nominated in the Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album category.

“We’re just so excited,” said Jack Mooring, pianist and vocalist. “… Our pie-in-the sky dreams were a Dove Award — maybe.”

A Dove from the Gospel Music Association is still a distinct possibility, but the Grammy nomination was very unexpected.

“Leeland got a call from a guy in Nashville, who told him, and Leeland didn’t believe it at first ,” Jack said of his brother, the band’s 18-year-old lead vocalist and primary songwriter.

“… Within 30 minutes, half of the population of Baytown knew about it. There was a big earthquake in Baytown. We were all jumping up and down and freaking out.”

Despite the excitement, Jack Mooring is humble. “We’re up against some pretty stiff competition, some guys who really, really deserve it, so we’re cool with just going. Whatever God wants, we’re cool with it.”

Jack and Leeland Mooring grew up in a musical family that served as traveling worship leaders. Leeland set his sights on a music career at age 10, and Jack Mooring said the band of family and friends gathered around him.

“It just started building and a few years later, we were signed through a miraculous turn of events. And here we are, about to go to Japan next week. It’s just really wild,” Mooring said.

The trip to Tokyo is unusual for a Christian band. However, Leeland’s label, Provident, recommended them to its parent company, Sony, which decided to take them to Tokyo for four days of publicity events and the band’s first concert outside the United States. Jack Mooring said the guys are looking forward to seeing Tokyo and experiencing its culinary delights.

“We’re going to eat some pretty crazy foods,” he said. “We’ve already made a pact within the band that whatever they put in front of us we’re going to eat.”

Whether in Tokyo or Tulsa, Leeland’s music and message is the same. The band is known for its progressive rock sound and lyrics filled with praise — and a bit of prodding.

Jack Mooring said the band’s members — who range in age from 18 to 23 — see their mission as ministering to their own generation. As a result, Jack Mooring said they seek to provide a tangible experience with God that sparks action.

“We know that our age group is hungry for something big to happen, hungry to change the world,” said Mooring, who also serves as a church youth pastor. “… When a kid our age hears our music, we want them to be changed, to have an experience with God to where they sit down and say, ‘Hey, what am I doing with my life? How can I really change the world in my way, for God to use me?’”

The song that best captures this sentiment is “Tears of the Saints,” which Mooring believes is the band’s favorite song from the debut disc.

“It talks about the lost and those who don’t know God, who have just lost out with God… or are really hurt by the church,” he said. “… It says: ‘This is an emergency.’ We feel that this is an emergency, we really need to wake up and show the love of God to the nation.”

This includes caring for the disabled and poor in America, the persecuted in the Mideast and those with AIDS in Africa. And Mooring even sees the nation’s military as having a role in this, “ministering freedom to nations that otherwise wouldn’t have had it.”

“We’re really proud of our country and proud of what our troops are doing right now and stand completely behind it,” Mooring said.

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Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry.


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