Songwriting Tips From Leeland Mooring

Issue 33  //  · 

What is your songwriting process like? 
Over the years, I’ve learnt that there are two sides to songwriting. There are moments when you’re just inspired. It could be something as simple as the squeal of a brake of a car that made a melody, and you’re like, “Oh that’s kinda cool!” and you start messing with it and singing it over and over again till something interesting happens. It’s like trying to catch smoke, you know. It’s really difficult, but you get used to it. I call that “the suddenly”, when something suddenly lights up inside of you, and you try to catch it.

The other part is “the gradually”, which is the day to day grind of songwriting. There are fundamentals to songwriting — how to get from the verse to the pre-chorus to the chorus, how to build up the song till it tells a story and how to focus it on something. You need them both.

How would a songwriter get these “suddenly” moments?
As a creative the thing that’s super important is lifestyle. Everything that we watch, everything that we listen to and every word that we say has a seed attached to that thing. So if it’s a good word, it has a good seed, that means there is a good harvest attached to it. If it’s a bad word with a bad seed, it’s a bad harvest.

So if all I’m doing all day long is surface level stuff that doesn’t spark inspiration, like spending all my time on social media, just kinda mindlessly going through it, what happens is as I do that, there’s nothing of value and of depth in my daily life, so it becomes a lot harder to write songs that have value and depth. But if I put in good things, like let’s say reading a good book, taking a walk, or meditating on the word of God, basically changing your lifestyle to expect “suddenly” moments to happen, then when these moments happen, you actually have a lot of good things in you to pour back out into the song.


What has been your most difficult song to write?
It has to be “While We Sing” from the album The Great Awakening. It was a hard song for me to write because it challenged me personally. The idea of the song is basically saying that our singing has to do something. It can’t be just coming together and worshipping and singing for no purpose. Worship has to lead us to action.

In my city in Houston, there’s a lot of homelessness, there’s a lot of poverty, there’s a lot of drug addiction. Houston is actually the second largest city for sex trafficking and slavery, and that surprised me when I heard that, because it convicted me and made me go like “Man, what am I doing about that?” I’m singing songs about Jesus, I’m singing songs about the goodness of God, but am I living the gospel?

As I was reading Matthew 25:31-46, God moved me with compassion for not just the lost and unsaved, but also those who are helpless and don’t have anyone to speak up for them. As the body of Christ, we are not just called to reach the influential, but also people who are addicted to drug and substance abuse, and people that are sold into slavery and made bad decisions and are just in a bad position. God wants us to reach those people, and that was a challenge to me the whole time we were writing it.

What kind of effect do you hope your music will have on your listeners?
Ultimately, a good song gives language to something in your soul that you didn’t have before. That happened to me when I heard the song “How He loves Us”, and then Jonathan Helser’s “No Longer Slaves”. Those two songs were big for me because I’ve never sang those words to God before. I didn’t know I could sing that. To me, a good song inspires you to move to God instead of moving away from Him. It pricks your heart and it convicts you and it fills you with compassion for the world around you, to love them, and then to love Jesus with all your heart and to pursue Him. That’s what I hope my music does.

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