After 12 months, working in 4 studios with 5 producers, WE ARE LEO is finally surfacing with a new record. THE RUSH & THE ROAR (Dream Records). WE ARE LEO's 3rd studio album, is a creatively upbeat take on pop, dance, rock & roll.
Born out of a love for music, and an obvious love for Jesus, this record is quickly standing out with some of the best songs the band has written. Tracks "Astronaut," "CRZY AWSM" & "Low Key" highlight the bands ability to share joy and start dance parties for days. While songs like "Warrior," "61/ Twenty-Three" and "The Rush & The Roar" offer insight into the band's experience of a genuine,redemptive faith.
This new record is a snapshot of what the last 3 years of life hasbeen for the band. It celebrates beauty and joy. It hints at pain deeply felt. And it is a sort of road map of how they've come through the hard times to find hope all over again.
We are honored to catch up with WE ARE LEO's David Josiah Duffield for this exclusive interview.
Q: Thanks for doing this interview. David, I am intrigued by a quote of yours when you said, "When I make music I feel his pleasure." What do you mean by that?
It's something i borrowed from this great scene in the 80's classic film Chariots Of Fire, the Christian Olympian Eric Liddle is defending his position to compete in the games, he says: "God made me fast, and when i run i feel His pleasure, to give it up would be to hold Him in contempt, ...it's not just fun, to win is to honor Him." I feel something similar when i'm sat at the piano with my notebook and pencil, or jamming in the studio with the band. Somewhere deep in my soul i recognize, "this is what i was created to do, and i'm doing it as worship and He's pleased." Those are special moments that i treasure.
Q: It's almost 10 years since WE ARE LEO came together, what were some of the highlights for you along this journey?
We've had some cool accomplishments like, #1 Christian Rock Song Supernova Sunrise, Christian Festival Association's New Artist for 2013, nearly 2 Million Spotify plays with "Epic", getting over 200 million plays on Dude Perfect videos with We Are Leo songs, plus pulling off two successful fan supported Kickstarter Campaigns. Stuff like that is very cool. Also, touring with Acquire the Fire for two years, the arenas we played, the thousands of people we met. One night we went into a Dairy Queen, and the employees recognized us and came out from behind the counter to grab selfies with us. Those moments are special, you don't forget them.
But the things we reminisce most about when we get together are things like: getting the bus stuck in a parking lot in Seattle. Or being in Colorado making a 180 degree backwards with a trailer up the side of a mountain. Or any number of tight spots we gotten into and close calls we've had out on the road. When you're in the moment when something goes wrong it can be serious, but looking back, its so ridiculous those are the times that we laugh most about about.
Q: What were also some of the disappointments? How did you experience God's grace during such times?
I think the hardest times for me have been the times when i felt rejected, like i was giving 100% and that wasn't good enough. Going to a town, sharing a song with people and just getting blank stares looking back... for me that's really hard. in those moments you can start to doubt yourself or God's call on your life. It's a slippery slope. But in that dark place, when i'm dealing with my own imperfections & insecurities i've found Jesus reaching out to meet me. In that pain He's brought healing to my heart with a mercy that is new every morning.
I used to be ashamed like i should be stronger or better, and sometimes i still feel like that. But i'm starting to realized that success (as America defines it) doesn't define me. My joy & peace aren't based on how many Instagram followers i have or if people love my music or think i'm awesome. It is based on the fact that God loves me and that He's with me and has a plan for my life. Philippians 4:4-9 is something that i've really held on to the last 3 years. It has had a profound effect on reshaping the way that i think about the world.
Q: Congratulations on the release of THE RUSH AND THE ROAR. I believe you worked with 5 producers on this set, who were they? Why did you choose to work with a variety of producers?
Thank you so much. It feels like a huge accomplishment to be done and have 11 new songs to share. We had been working on ideas for this record for almost two years. A couple weeks ago i came home had dinner and i realized that we'd officially finished writting every word of the record. I starting running around the house saying "We did it" "We did it" I felt like some combo of a little kid or like the guys who win the Superbowl. Just elated with joy and accomplishment. When you first start out a project its such an huge unknown/dark abyss, and your thoughts are all over the place and unorganized. You have all these emotions inside and you're trying to transform them into something that will connect with other people. For me that's not always an easy gap to bridge. To take it from something that feels real to me to something that will translate to other people, and makes sense.
Producers, For the most part we self-produced the record. 3 of the 5 producers are the band members: Me, Doug & Josh. We also pulled in Geoff Duncan & Nick Rad both of whom worked on Fightback.
When i'm looking at a song, I try to think, "Who has the specific skill set to take this particularly song all the way where it needs to go?" So rather than approaching the record as a whole, we just took each song separately. Geoff Duncan (who produced The Rush & The Roar, and Shine Forever) gives you a really good Cinematic Pop feel, with great programming and good lyrical sensibility. We've learned a lot from him over the years as far as how to produce and how to layer our tracks better. More than anything though, Geoff has taught us to have confidence in ourselves. He kept saying, "you guys are great producers, i don't think you realize this, i just want the best for you."
That confidence has gone a long way, and we ended up self-producing or co-producing around 9 of the 11 tracks.
Nick Rad co-produced Salt Life and 61/Twenty-Three with me and Josh. Nick has worked on all three We Are Leo records and has an amazing ability to take a vibe that's in my head and turn it into real guitars & drums. When we took 61/ Twenty-Three in to him it was just a vocal and piano track. He started by pulling some of the piano hits out and then three of us just started jamming the drums. About 4 hours it was feeling amazing. It was very collaborative, Josh would come up with a drum fill or play a line on guitar, then Nick would play a line. He has a way of simplify ideas and choosing the best bits and making them stand out.
My band mates Josh & Doug were amazing through the whole process and their both incredible producers. We really developed a great feel for working together. Very open, collaborative atmosphere. I think on this record more than before we got passed our insecurities and learned to say what we think, while keeping it positive. Nothing kills creativity like negativity so when you're not feeling something the key is to communicate a positive idea that can get the song back on track without bringing down the vibe of a writing session. We have a lot of music going on inside and i'm excited to keep cranking out records with them.
Q: I love the titles of the songs! They sound like titles of great novels or movies! What is "Astronaut" about?
Astronaut is about that emotion when you're so blessed you feel like you can fly. It's like you're an astronaut walking on the moon in zero gravity. I'm a Sci-Fi nerd so i'm into Star Wars and Star Trek and love the idea of being in space. Astronaut to me is all about focusing on all that God has given us to be genuinely pleased with in life, the blessings, and to deeply enjoy and be grateful for them. Super fun track. I think people will dig it.
Q: What about "61/Twenty-Three"?
This is a song born from thinking about Isaiah 61, and Psalm 23 which are two of my favorite chapters in the Bible. The chapter from Isaiah is something Jesus quoted, talking about how He mends broken hearts and gives people beauty for ashes. Psalm 23 is about God as our shepherd, leading us both to beautiful places and also being with us in dark valleys of shadows. The song is about my journey thru the brokenness of my past to a place where, "My heart is slowly un-breaking, With Your touch, You re-make me."
I love how the song came together in the studio. It was one that we hadn't considering doing until very recently and only came together at the very very tail end of the recording process. It's upbeat and positive but real about the struggles and the pain. It is an articulation and a sort of testimonial of my realization that Jesus is the one who heals my heart and saves me.
Q: What about the title cut "The Rush and the Roar"?
The Rush and the Roar is a concept song about the sound and motion of our lives. From the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, to music on the highway with the windows down, and for me it's about the voice of God like many waters, the voice that has called us from death back to life.
Q: What are your hopes for this record? How do you wish this album would impact God's kingdom?
My goal is that we will connect to people with the hope, creativity and inspiration that i've found in Christ. Some of the songs like Astronaut, CRZY AWSM, Low Key, are just for fun. They are like, blow-your-speakers-up-awesomeness without the smutty, sexual, swearing nonsense of pop radio these days. So we're an alternative. Music that's full of hope and purity and truth and that will make you wanna sing in the car or start a dance party with in their living room. People play our stuff for sports videos on youtube, Youth bonfires, workout playlists, wedding reception dance parties and skating. I want our music to get played at stuff like that. Soundtrack for life kinda thing.
In addition to the fun, dancy stuff, songs like 61/ Twenty-Three, Warrior, Young Eyes, and Shine Forever that speak of life, joy, brokenness, hope, struggle and finding Jesus in the midst of all it. The more i listen to these songs, the more i'm impacted with a profound sense that God is real. That He is with us. And, ...that He loves us. It is my prayer that this album will have that same effect on everyone who listens with ears to hear.