I was given the extreme pleasure of getting to interview acoustic folk singers Leslie Jordan and David Leonard, from “All Sons and Daughters”.
In this feature, we were given the pleasure to share their story, inspiration and the roots behind a few of their favorite songs.
Did you guys grow up playing music? How did the two of you meet?
David: I grew up singing in the church where my dad was a music minister. I didn’t really start playing any instruments until I was in high school. It was one of those things where I was the only guy in my youth group who knew how to play guitar; so obviously, I would lead worship. It was one of those things where I didn’t really know what I was diving into, but I was a part of it. I grew up loving music and being around it. In college, I started a band with some guys and fell in love with the art of creating.
Leslie: David and I didn’t meet until 4 years ago. We met at church through the worship pastor at the time. Both of us were interested in writing songs for the church. I was serving on staff and he was traveling in another band. My story’s similar to David’s. I grew up in church and started playing guitar at a young age. Very similarly to David’s the church said, ‘oh you play the guitar we need a guitar in the praise band.’ It’s really cool because I tell kids a lot these days in both high school and especially our youth group, ‘you just don’t know, how God’s writing your story right now. The things you might not seem that interested in or might not feel that interested may be exactly how god is shaping your story down the road.’
I wasn’t very interested in worship music at the time. For me it was a way to play music and be a part of something. Over the years, God totally grew my heart for it. I would have never said that I would be working at a church in high school or college. But God really grew my heart for the church, and for the local community. It was a really cool way for God to write two stories together. David and I had come from similar places, but were in opposite seasons of life. We both found a very deep connection to the church and wanted to give back in some way. We were able to do that through songwriting and sharing those songs with our church. That is the origin of all sons and daughters.
What was the first song you both had written and what was the inspiration behind it?
Leslie: There’s a song called “Ready to Move”, we never released. It was one of the first songs we gave to the church before we were really doing anything. It was kind of the catalyst for this turning us into All Sons and Daughters. Also, I watched a movie called, “Sunshine Cleaning”, there’s a scene where they acknowledge God. It was such a moving scene for me; I realized there were these characters who were stuck in this season of life but were longing for something deeper. A deeper connection was something I was seeing all around me in relationships and people I was all connected with at Journey Church. So I had written this chorus idea for that, and David really connected with it; I think we wrote it in maybe 30 minutes or an hour. It was cool a fun beginning for us.
Everyone has a different song writing method? How do you go about writing your songs?
David: A lot of stuff comes from lyrics first. It’s more difficult for us to stem from creating music and picking something to fit it. We always start with conversation, whether its’ me and Leslie or someone else. We talk about church and what God’s doing in our small groups and in our congregation. We always try to tie it back to scripture and back to the truth. We dive into things that have already been said in scripture, hymns, and the book of common hymns. Places that continue to inspire that truth. 649
How did you end up working with your producer?
David: We all go to church together. Leslie and I led together one Sunday, and Paul was actually playing drums that week. We did a song called “Spirit Speaks”, on our “Reason to Sing” EP. Paul heard it and thought, we’ve got to record that song.
What is the story behind “Brokenness Aside”, and how did you choose the name for the album?
Leslie: That song came at a time in our church where we felt like we were experiencing a lot of people, including ourselves, in places of shame, regret and brokenness. They forgot that God is a God of healing, redemption, restoration, reconciliation and relationships. So that song was birthed from a moment of weakness in my life where I realized I made a dumb decision and I caught myself singing that chorus, “I’m a sinner if its not one thing its another.” Literally everyday you’re walking into making good or bad decisions. It was almost in a prayer sort of way, acknowledging brokenness, but also acknowledging the power of Jesus. We come from a church that really values telling stories and acknowledging pasts and wounds, but then moving forward into something beautiful. We really felt like that song embodied a lot of the message we were trying to communicate to our church and for us; it felt like a fitting name for that first EP.
“All the Poor and Powerless” is really popular and powerful. Was there a story behind that song?
David: It came form a sermon series our pastor was doing in Psalms. It came from Psalm 22. It’s this beautiful image of what it will look like when we all one day join together and all praise as one. That was the first song we had written. I had a part and she had a part and we just sandwiched them together. It was one of those, ‘Ok here it is; this is going to be it.’ It turned out to be one that is really beautiful in the church.
Which songs have impacted your lives most powerfully?
Leslie: I think for me, “Reason to Sing” has been a big one. It came from a conversation with my sister, so it’s very personal for me. We’ve seen that story take on it’s own life in a lot of people’s stories. This is because it acknowledges the fact that you might find yourself in a place where worship is really difficult, but the irony is that you’re singing that you need a reason to sing. You’re doing the thing that you don’t think you can do, by singing it. We actually took some of it from Psalm 13, the scripture from David. I realized at the very end, after David asks God all these questions, he says, ‘But I will sing for the Lord has been good always.’ David was a worshiper and we know that it was something he did naturally. That scripture seems like it was tough for him to worship, but he does. It’s an example for us as worshipers; that even when you don’t feel like it, you can still do it, and God can really work through that by changing your spirit and your heart.
David: For me, “Your Glory”, is this constant reminder of the need for submission to God. ‘My life is yours and my hope is in you only.’ Every time I get to that line, it doesn’t matter if it’s the last or first song in the set. It’s one of those amazing reminders of the need and the submission to it. It is this reminder that in the mess of all of this life, whether home or church stuff, that there is this beautiful story being played out with this God who’s there to stand beside us.
Churches sing your songs nationwide. How does it feel to know that your songs are being sung and used all over?
David: It’s amazing to see how the body is connected with these. Whenever we wrote these songs we didn’t have the vision for other churches singing them. We just had the vision for trying to resource our church with music that was specifically for them. So it’s been really cool to be able to see the pulse of the church outside of our four walls. The people that are in need of God, the people who are in need of actually admitting our weakness; being in an honest and vulnerable state. I can remember the first time we were in Denver, we went to a Sunday night service, walked in and they were doing one of our songs. It was a bit surreal to watch people sing the lyrics and connect with them. It was an eye opener to. I just thought, ‘ok, gods doing something with this stuff’ and we are just happy to be a part of it.
What is the biggest hope you have that people will take away from your songs?
Leslie: Something we always talk about is a two fold really. We hope to connect with other worship leaders and communicate that there is something really special about knowing your people. Some worship leaders feel called to write songs for their church and others don’t and that’s awesome; we encourage both. At the core of it, we say know your people, because we believe that when you know your people, you can lead them better. There is more to community in the church than I think we have given credit to in the past couple decades. It’s used to be more about programs and other stuff, but when it gets down to it, it’s really about relationships, knowing people and how to lead people well. We encourage worship leaders to do that. If they desire to write songs for their church, the only way they are going to know what songs their church needs, is if they know their people and are willing to walk in relationship with them through both the good and really difficult stuff. For those who are not worship leaders, we hope that somehow our story, and that fact that these songs are birthed out of community, instills some sort of passion and desire for local church again. We hope that this encourages people who might be taking a step away from church or feeling isolated. We hope they are reminded that God is still moving in the church and that he hopes to do miraculous thing through it. We are really passionate about that.
What’s one of the biggest challenges about writing music that you guys have come across?
Leslie: I think it doesn’t feel challenging because we go into each session knowing that it might be for that moment. We don’t have an expectation that each writing session is going to produce a song for the church. We do know that the conversation is for a purpose, and we know that we are going to worship in the moment. We try not to feel challenged by it. I think the only time we ever felt challenged is if we don’t see eye to eye with the person we are writing with. It gets tough if David and I are writing with another person whose expectations or desires are different. Other than that, it’s fantastic to be able to sit and dialogue about scripture and relationships; then to see God create something really beautiful through it.
Do you see yourself touring outside the US in the future?
David: Yeah, we are actually going to the UK, where we are going to play Big Church Day Out, a big festival over there.
Leslie: Yeah there’s a few dates this year, there’s one in Sweden and a couple in Germany. Our church planted a church in Cape South Africa, so we’ve been trying to get over there. Going international is something we are just starting to have conversation about, so we’ll see how it goes in the next year.
Is there anything you can tell us about the up and coming albums?
Leslie: We are excited. We have a lot of songs we are seeing come to life. Just in the last week we’ve been in the studio and watched the songs taking on their own identity. We are really excited about sharing them with people. Half of them we have already starting singing in our church. It’s fun that we get to put them on a record. There’s a sweetness to the songs that’s really rooted in a deep love and understanding of God’s grace. I feel like that’s where they really originated from, so that’s really sweet.