Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We Are Leo Interview

I got a chance to catch up with David Duffield, lead singer of We Are Leo. I asked him about how the band got started, what he is passionate about, and also about their brand new album Fightback Soundtrack!! Which is a fantastic album! You can read the review of Fightback Soundtrack here

Can you give us a little background history on how you personally got started playing music?

  I loved music and I can remember as a 4 year old plunking out notes on my Grandma's piano. Later as a 7 year old I remember singing my heart out on my swing set and feeling like I was flying. I started piano lessons at age 8 and I have now been playing for 24 years. Piano and music always came naturally to me. 

  Singing has been much more of a long road. Lots of people told me I couldn't sing. Lots of people told me that I couldn't be the front man for a band. For me it was never about proving them wrong, I just knew I had music and a message burning inside of me and I wanted to share it, so I kept working to get better. As a 19 year old I studied music at Santa Barbara City College, but soon discovered that my classes weren't nearly as helpful as just practicing on my own was: I needed experience, not lectures. So I moved on to live touring when I was asked to play keyboards for the ATF worship team. I learned a ton from that tour that I still use today. 

  After graduating from their ministry internship I enrolled in the Living Light School of Worship in Kenosha, WI. My voice teacher there, Teresa Reynolds, helped me immensely and I began to practice really hard. Also I had the privilege of studying keyboard from Korey Cooper of Skillet. I studied on and off with Teresa until about 2 years ago when I started taking voice lessons from SuperiorSinging.com with some of their coaches. Those guys at Superior Singing have done wonders with me and even though I haven't arrived yet, I'm super stoked about my progress vocally which makes me just want to get that much better.

  We Are Leo started in my (David) spare room with a keyboard and a MacBook and a heart full of songs that we're pounding thru my head and heart keeping me up at night. Then it was up early to work at Starbucks for 8 hours and back to music when we got off. We did about 3 years of this. Writing a song then rushing to the internet to figure out how to record it and share it on MySpace. We built a makeshift studio in my garage where we recorded a demo CD and burned copies to share with all our friends. We knew that we had been given these songs and we wanted to do everything possible to share them with the world. Then it was all about finding the right people. 

  The band started with The Brothers, me and Jonny. The strength of that relationship and shared vision has been a huge reason why we've been able to keep rocking for the long-haul. Later we discovered the incredible playing of Doug who is killer at guitars and has evolved into a force as a producer and programmer. The last piece of the puzzle was finding Andrew our other vocalist, bassist, musician all around big hearted guy when we played a show at a youth group in Detroit where he was serving as a worship leader.

  Moving forward as a team we got a huge boost from Ben Kasica who discovered our band and proceeded to produce our 1st studio record HELLO which introduced us to the music industry. Two years later we won the Christian Festival Association's new artist contest in 2012 which propelled us to an unforgettable summer at more than 14 festivals. 

  Following that summer we had a blast rocking on the Acquire the Fire tour and after being and indie band for 7 years we finally signed with DREAM Records in Spring of 2014. We've been in the studio on and off for about 8 months now and just got out a few weeks ago. We're super excited for everyone to hear what we've been working on.

What is the story behind the band name, We Are Leo?

  We Are Leo is basically about our aspiration to cultivate a community of faith, people who live strong in The Lord with lived reflecting His courage and bravery. Leo is Latin for lion, & the name is all about taking that journey together to become lionhearted, overcoming fears and living by faith. It's alos nice symbolym with the constellation Leo and Phillipians 2:15 which talks about shining like stars.

How would you describe your sound musically, and who are some of your influences?

  Musically the best way to describe what we're doing is a New Wave Throwback. So like we all came from a background of listening to pop punk but then as we got older I got into 80's inspired synths and then just added our own artistic eclectic mix of individual influences including the bandwidth of Dance Pop beats and basses.

  We've never approached music from a genre stand-point like: "oh, what kind of band should we be?" we've always approached it like we love great songs and we just wanna make each and every song totes awesome and so we're doing whatever we can as musicians to take it there.

  Some of our influences lyrically are Switchfoot, Hillsongs, P.O.D, and Skillet. Musically: 80's pop, 80's New Wave, EDM stuff, and coice current pop stuff. If I walk into a stare or gas station and I like a beat or synth part or melody line, I'm always looking it up right away to find out who it is and then dissecting the music to find out what I can learn from it.

What is the main message that you are trying to convey to listeners through your music?

  God's love is Epic. Jesus came to mend broken hearts, give us beauty for ashes, & Joy to replace despair as we  surrender our rights and will to Him.

Your new album Fightback Soundtrack releases on October 7th. What can you tell us about this album?

  This album was funded by our fans who have been begging us for more music since we released HELLO fall of 2011. As much as making new music can be a daunting task as an up-and-coming band with very limited funds, it was very motivational for us knowing that we were making this record because those 200 people believe in us enough to fund us to make music for them and for the world. 

  Last weekend we received rave reviews for the opening show: the Fightback Soundtrack CD Release. It was more than 3x bigger (attendance) than the release show for our last record. 

What is the story behind the album title?

Thanks for asking.
Fightback Soundtrack: If our lives were a movie, then this record would be the soundtrack that's playing reminding us to be brave, courageous and to be strong in The Lord and fight the fight of faith. Also, ....it sounded cool.

How does Fightback Soundtrack compare to your previous release?

  I'm not sure how people will perceive the songs from the outside, but since this record started as a Kickstarter funded project, from the creation standpoint we had a LOT more freedom artistically than we ever did before. 

  A majority of the record was self-produced and DREAM Records was really good about just letting us do our thing: they did a great job of not interfering with our creative process. In some ways that felt great, but in other ways it was really hard. We weren't being told on a daily basis that the songs were good or bad, or to do this or do that. We had to grow up a bit and decide what we thought was good and just rely on our own instincts and our God given intuition. It felt like making art. 

  We wanted to make stuff that we loved, rather than just do what we thought would sell or what other people wanted us to make. I think the result artistically was fantastic. That sort of not knowing if what were doing would work really brought our team together and caused us to rely on each other a ton.

How long does it typically take you to write a song, and where do you get your inspiration?

It usually takes me about 3-5 months to write a song. Their are exceptions: With Epic it came together fast, so like about a month. Captivated took about 10 months, Diamonds about 8 months. In that time period from when we started writing last September till 13 months later when we are releasing we wrote about 45 songs. 12 of them made it onto the record.

What is something that you are passionate about (other than music) and why?

I love sports, being active in our church community, art, cinema & literature.

If you could put together your dream tour with 5 other bands, who would they be and why?

  Switchfoot, Skillet, FF5, Rapture Ruckus & Lecrae. These are 5 bands of awesome dudes who make sweet music and are cool to chill with. We've opened for every single one of them and it was awesome each time. Multiply that 5x. Boom. Epic.

Five Random Bonus Questions:

1. What is the craziest thing that you have ever done?

  Stared a Christian band. LOL. It's a ton of hard work and the odds of who is able to make it for the long haul are very slim. But faith is stepping outta the boat, and for me it's not about "making it" but about investing the "talents" that God gave us, and about sharing melodies and lyrics that will inspire and encourage my friends and fans and anyone who will take time to listen.

2. What is the last song or album that you bought?

Well I bought Fightback Soundtrack on iTunes yesterday (the pre-order) but before that, Fading West by Switchfoot.

3. What is your favorite movie line?

Lord of the Rings: Gandalf - "So do all who face such times, but that is not for them to decide, all you must decide is what to do with the time you were given."

4. What is one thing that most people don’t know about you? (or something they would never guess about you)

I was the starting WR on my State Champion high school football team, the Wiggins Tigers.

5. What is your favorite food/drink to have with you on tour?

Tacos. The real authentic Mexican ones.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thanks so much for doing what you do to share the Love thru music. God Bless.

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