NASHVILLE (Billboard) - With the 2006 release of "Sound of Melodies," Texas-based rock band Leeland became the critical darling of the Christian music community. Its debut disc earned the group a Grammy Award nomination for best pop/contemporary gospel album as well as four Dove Award nominations.
Now Leeland is hoping to deliver big with its sophomore album, "Opposite Way," released February 26 via Essential. The first single, "Count Me In," is No. 28 this week on Hot Christian Songs.
In addition, the songwriting prowess of the band's 19-year-old frontman, Leeland Mooring, caught the attention of Christian music titan Michael W. Smith, and the teen co-wrote several tracks for Smith's 2006 Reunion album "Stand."
Mooring began writing songs about his faith at an early age. He signed his first publishing deal with EMI's Christian publishing arm when he was only 15. By the next year, the band had signed a recording deal with Essential, a label under Sony BMG's Provident Music Group umbrella.
For the new album, Mooring says the band "wrote some on the road and finished most of the songs in the studio when we recorded them. I think it's a good thing. I'd rather be recording in a fast mode than a slow mode."
It has indeed been a case of life in the fast lane for Mooring, whose bandmates are elder brother Jack, Mike Smith, Jake Holtz and Matt Campbell. The band has been on the road opening for Casting Crowns on the Altar and the Door tour, and Mooring says that interacting with other young Christians while touring helped fuel the new material.
"One of the things we've seen is how our generation wants to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves," Mooring says. "There are so many types of pleasures the world has to offer, but everything in this world ultimately leaves you empty and alone. Nothing in the world will satisfy that kind of spiritual void in your life."
Mooring says the band's goal with the new record was to encourage young people to stand up for their beliefs. "(We want to) raise up a new generation of worshippers," he says, "who do whatever it takes to make that 'opposite way' a reality in their lives. We really hope this will change a lot of kids' lives."