David Leonard is a singer, songwriter and producer. Today this conversation is a good reminder to go. What is a dream that you have on your heart that you want God to bring to fruition? What does God have for you in the waiting? Join the conversation about the whole journey. The going, the arriving and the in between.
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David Leonard: The arrival is, is rarely the thing that we talk about the majority of the time. It’s usually the trip to get there is what we tell stories about, but it’s the thing that we want to happen the fastest and to move past it and to get on with it. Even this conversation is a good reminder to go. what is it in this moment that you can, that you can learn from? I mean, obviously a faith journey, a trust journey, a letting go journey, for me.
Sarah Taylor: That’s our guest this week, David Leonard, on the Passion Meets Purpose podcast, where we really just explore those unique ways that God has gifted you, and how you use those talents to give back to the world. David is a wonderful example because not only is he a gifted singer songwriter on his own, but also, he loves to be behind the scenes working with others, bringing out their best gifts and talents. And think, think you’re gonna hear some familiar names as we talk about some of the projects that he’s currently working on. So, I do want you to get to know a little bit more about David as we start though. So, tell us a little bit about where you came from.
David Leonard: Yeah. I, I’m born in southeast Arkansas. Ended up going to college in the northwest corner, john Brown University. Started a band there, started a band called Jackson Waters and ended up signing a deal with Word Records back in 2005. Moved out to Nashville, did the whole thing for a little bit, and that ended. Then in 2008 started playing keys for Need To Breathe. Did that for a few years and then during that time started writing songs from our church; me and a friend of mine, Leslie Jordan. We started a band called All Sons & Daughters. And so, we did that for seven or eight years and then that ended in 2017. Kept writing songs and producing and now doing my own thing.
Sarah Taylor: For someone that heard a little record scratch when they’re like, Oh, cool. He played keys in Need To Breathe. If someone were to say to you, like, How could I go about getting that opportunity, would you say, Get stuck in an elevator?
David Leonard: I that, that would be my number one answer. Yeah. Back in the 2000, man, that would’ve been 2006, I think. They used to, we used to have GMA week where everybody would come in and they would do all their radio interviews. We’d do showcases, we’d do all kinds of stuff. And we would have it at the Renaissance Hotel, and so, there were, you know, everybody was there. That was like the time where you always got to see everybody. And so, we were there and I ended up, me and my whole band, we were trying to get up to the, like the 10th floor or something. And this elevator opens up and it’s Need To Breathe. Need To Breathe in there, and then this other band After Edmond, and then some random radio person, which I wish I knew who it. So, there were 16 of us in this elevator and we tried to go, and it was not going. And so, we fell below like a couple floors. We were like in between floors and we were stuck in there for like 45 minutes. And that’s how I joined Need To Breathe.
Sarah Taylor: It’s just such a good story. Was there a moment, was anyone in who was the one that was most freaked?
David Leonard: I mean, I, I don’t know if everybody was freaked out. I think we were all annoyed cuz there was condensation rolling down the wall. It was hot there. And you know, you get 15 dudes in the elevator and it’s sweaty. It’s, it’s not a good situation.
Sarah Taylor: And so, that is literally how you got to play and Need To Breathe. And I even, I feel like a little bit of those need to be breathe vibes in your new song, Good Lord. Which is still my favorite song on the station. This is your first time you’ve had a song like, Do this on radio. How are you feeling about that?
David Leonard: I mean, I feel blessed that I’m still around doing this thing, you know? I talk about the music industry being this kind of like that, that whole game of like, you put your hand on the car and whoever takes their hand off the car last wins, kind of situation. And I just feel like I’ve kept my hand on the car and it’s just been really beautiful to see how people have come around it, and how people are reacting to the song. And you know, I just turned 40 years old, so I’m like, what am I doing still putting out music? Does anybody even still care? And it’s been beautiful cuz people still do and they still, you know, I still feel like God’s given me something to say and it’s just, it’s been a lot of fun.
Sarah Taylor: Not only do they still care, but you’re also making some of the best music of your career.
David Leonard: Come on. You are… Come on. I received that.
Sarah Taylor: Does, didn’t you post something on your Instagram where your daughter was singing along to good Lord, requesting it on the radio?
David Leonard: Yeah, I think so. I’ve, I’ve posted a bunch of videos. Yeah. She, they were singing at the of the day. I think they were riding back in the car or something. All of a sudden it came on, which is a pretty cool, pretty cool thing.
Sarah Taylor: Another thing that you do that’s very much behind the scenes is you help a bunch of artists. I’m gonna, I’m gonna list some names. Okay? And if I say one that’s not on your list, let me know. But I think, I think all these people you have had something to do with either songwriting with them, or producing a, a single or an album. I am they. Third day, Brandon Heath, Matt Maher, Co-wrote Greater You Lord, with Jason Ingram. Mercy Me’s new single, then Christ came, Ellie Holcomb’s project. Katie, Nicole, Josh Baldwin, Kane’s, Worship record. Cody Carnes. Michael W. Smith. I’m sure I missed some, but oh, 10th Avenue. And then of course all sons and daughters. Is that yes.
David Leonard: Yeah. Yeah. That’s all I guess. I was afraid of, I was gonna have to call you out on one, but No, those were all yeses. Yeah.
Sarah Taylor: Let’s, let’s talk about that. I mean, how do you get in each space when you’re working with each of those artists to really understand what they wanna create, and then how you can come and support them in that?
David Leonard: Yeah, I mean, I think all those people that you named are all pretty special people and they all kind of carry this, This beautiful thing. And I, I think me being an artist, I, I have learned to understand and appreciate what someone has to say and who they write songs for. And so, when I get to come alongside ’em from a production side or from a writing standpoint, it’s, it’s just simply trying to, trying to get in their space, trying to get in their world of, of, of figuring out who they write for. And then, then let’s just write song and or we’re trying to create something that’s gonna connect. And I, I just, I’ve, I’ve always loved the collaborative effort of making music and yeah. Just I feel blessed that I’ve got to do it for this many years and, and with so many amazing people.
Sarah Taylor: Charles from your record label, and I have a theory on why you’re so good at this, and we think the first thing is because you really value community.
David Leonard: I do. I do. I, I think, I think because I have gone for years without it. You know, I think when you have moments where, where you’re creating an isolation or you feel like you have to do stuff alone, I think once you do have that moment of, of doing it out of community, I, I think it’s an experience that is unlike any other. And that’s, I, I think I saw that, and I was like, I never want to go back to the other. And I think that’s a, that’s a thing. Is like I, I’ve, I’ve kind of vowed on a mission to, to show people that creating a community is, is worth it. And I think so much of music nowadays is created in isolation, and we’re trying to change that. We, even with starting, you know, making records the way we did it, me and to my buddies, Seth t and Barry King, we started this thing called The Creek Music. And it was just simply like a revolving door of people. Like anybody where they were on the journey could come hang out at the studio or whatever. And we just wanted to create a place where everybody felt welcome, and everybody felt like they could come in and get something. And they love it.
Sarah Taylor: And spoiler alert, we’re gonna talk a little bit more about that toward the end of the podcast on the next way that’s gonna happen. But I wanna stick with this track of Charles from your label and me we’re talking about this. He thinks that the other reason that you are so great at coming along artists and helping produce is because you, you don’t wanna be the center of attention, and you are a really great listener. He says that your strength is one on one. You really wanna get to know someone, wanna get to know their story, and you’re soaking it all in.
David Leonard: Yeah, I mean, Charles should know I spent a lot of time with him in a car. Yeah. I, I don’t know. I just, I value people. I value, can hear stories. I, you know, it never gets told to me. We’re all kind of on different paths and different journeys and but you, if you listen, you, you tend to find the common threads and that’s what I, I love that. I love it.
Sarah Taylor: Let’s talk about a couple of these specific songs. Let’s do some of the more recent ones like Mercy Me, their song, Then Christ came.
David Leonard: Yeah, I mean, that started as a song me and Bart and Mike started writing. Man, that’s probably two, at least two years ago. And then ended up bringing in Ingram and Phil Wickham and finished it. And yeah, it’s been, it’s been really beautiful to kind of see that. I, it’s one of those that I, I’ve thought that it might not ever see the light a day. And so, when it, when they were, they did come and they were like, Hey, it’s gonna be a single. My mind was blown cuz obviously I grew up going to camps where Mercy me was leading worship and you know, so when I started singing and I started leading, I would play, I can only imagine every time, guaranteed. So, you know, to be able to work with them and to be, and to call them friends, they have become friends. And It’s, it’s, it’s been really fun and, and I’m excited. I love the song. I think it’s a great song. I’m excited for them. I’m excited for it to get out and…
Sarah Taylor: and not just friends. You bought Bart’s Golf cart.
David Leonard: You got all the dirt. Where, Where’d you get all this dirt from? Who you been calling?
Sarah Taylor: It’s not dirt. Did he give it to for a deal? I heard that he said sold as is. As in no takebacks.
David Leonard: Yeah. His kids, his kids probably ran it in the ground a couple times, but yeah, no, it was a good. We have a lot of fun with it.
Sarah Taylor: Let’s talk about Cain’s worship record, which I want all the exclusive, cuz that thing’s not even released yet. I know that you love harmonies, so it must be a dream to work with those three.
David Leonard: Oh man. I mean, it, it is you can tell them any song and they can split it into three parts. They, like at any second. They’re, they are prepared and ready. I love working with Cain. I got to work on the, the last album. And then did, I produced I’m so Blessed, which is their single that’s out right now. And yeah, they’re, they’re just amazing people. They love so well. And this record’s gonna be really beautiful to be able to show that side of the, of, of them. Just the worship side and being able to connect that way. So, me and Jonathan Smith and, and Brad King, the guy, do all the studio stuff; we’re all kind of producing it together and it was a beautiful night and it captured beautifully, and so can’t wait to get it out.
Sarah Taylor: With Josh Baldwin, he also golfs you can take him for a spin in your golf cart.
David Leonard: Yeah.
Sarah Taylor: What would you define as a producer? Like how are you gonna produce one of his tracks? Like what is he going for?
David Leonard: I mean, Baldwin has become a really, really great friend. You know, we live in the same neighborhood. We hang out all the time. I talk to you know, he’s, he’s the guy that I call him to drive home, just to see what he’s doing for the day or whatever. And but yeah, I, for him, he’s such an amazing, so and an amazing communicator when he sings and when he plays. I think the big thing with him is just getting outta the way of the song. It’s, it’s allowing the song to be what it is. And you know, he doesn’t sing and if he doesn’t believe it and he doesn’t, you know, he doesn’t write it if you didn’t believe it. So, It’s, it is just an, it’s an honor to be his friend and to be his buddy and to be, you know, have a front row seat of what God’s doing in his life. And this new record, come be beautiful.
Sarah Taylor: I love that you guys live in the same neighborhood. Who? Yeah. Who’s the better lawn maintainer?
David Leonard: Oh, I think we, we actually shared the same lawn guy, so.
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Sarah Taylor: Are you ready to tell us about this, this place that you found that’s gonna be a studio and the way that it happened? I’m so excited to hear.
David Leonard: Yeah, I mean, so we had a studio for like eight years. We had this little house in downtown Franklin, and it was beautiful. I mean, all those records you were talking about was created in this little house. And so, so many memories. But we had kind of outgrown it about five years ago. And We kept looking and kept looking and kept looking and ended up finding a little church in downtown Franklin. And We, we ended up buying it and we’re redoing it into the new studio. And it’s a lot to bite off, but if feel like it’s gonna be so worth it, especially from that communal side. Like we’re directly across the street from the Boys and Girls Club and so we’re partnering with them and another organization here in Franklin called Franktown, where we’re doing Like internship with kids and, and like kind of mentorship programs. And it’s, it’s gonna be a sweet space. It’s, it’s a twitch in my eye right now because we just haven’t been able to get it done. But Lord willing, this thing’s gonna come along this year.
Sarah Taylor: So, Is that a hard place for you to be, is that in between?
David Leonard: Yeah. I mean, isn’t that for everybody?
Sarah Taylor: I think I was just talking about this with my husband cuz he, he doesn’t like to be in the in between cuz we’re like talking about like moving, or like moving or staying. Yeah. And I guess I’m okay with the gray. I’m like, you know, if it happens, if the Lord brings it about, so I, I sort of just wait, but I, but for him doesn’t like it. So, I’m, I’m curious more about that personality quality in you that doesn’t like to be in the in between.
David Leonard: Well, I, this is also the part, and I talk about this often, but you know, the, the arrival is, is rarely the thing that we talk about the majority of the time. It’s usually the, the trip that to get there is what we tell stories about. But it’s the thing that we want to happen the fastest, and to move past it and to get on with it. And So, I think it’s it, even this conversation is a good reminder to go, Alright, hey, what is it in this moment that you can, that you can learn from? And I mean, obviously a faith journey, a trust journey, a letting go journey for me in this whole thing. And yeah, I’m, I’m just, I’m ready to see it. Lots of dreamin’, but it’s gonna be awesome.
Sarah Taylor: Well, that part I totally understand, like if, I know we can’t like say what next year or five years from now would look like, but if, if the pictures you have in your mind’s eye, can you describe what, what this studio, what’s the name of it? You named it?
David Leonard: It’s gonna be called The Tabernacle.
Sarah Taylor: Okay. What would the tabernacle look like five years from now in your hopes and dreams?
David Leonard: I mean, the hope is that it’s just this beautiful communal hub for people that to feel safe, and to feel like they can come in and forget about everything else and, and just create. Whether it’s music, art, whatever, just letting it be a, a a communal hub for creativity.
Sarah Taylor: And who dream is this with you? Did you already.
David Leonard: Yeah, me and Brad King, the guy that do all the serious stuff.
Sarah Taylor: Got it, got it. Okay. Yeah. Charles, when I was talking with him earlier, he said that your goal is you just wanna write songs that help people be closer to Jesus.
David Leonard: I mean, I think, I think we all desire to feel this connection with God, and I think music is this interesting thing that kind of crosses all lines and allows us to connect without rules. And I think the, the way we get to do that, and the way we get to craft songs and the way we get to, to put down what’s on our heart and what’s coming out of our soul is, is a really beautiful thing. And, and, you know, sometimes it looks like connecting people to God. Sometimes it looks like being really honest and, and desiring God to show us things that we don’t see ourselves. And I think for me, just creating that space of, of being able to live in that, that moment of the gray. Of, of being okay to be where you are. But I think music has, has been one of those places for me that’s pulled me out of those and, and you know, I continue, continue to see it even with the songs I’m releasing now, just with responses back and see how people have connected with it. And I, that for me is, is it, You know, it’s like, why, why else do we do this? It’s really fun to play shows. Yeah, it’s great. It’s fun to have people listen to it, but when people have their lives changed because of people make decisions that will shift the outcome of their life. I think that that’s everything.
Sarah Taylor: That’s it right there. So good. David, thank you so much for your time. Our thanks to Provident Label Group and Sony BMG with Charles Van Dyke for setting up this interview. Our thanks to Rebecca Beckett and Luke Swanberg, who are part of our content team, and of course our producer, Scott Karow. And thank you as always to you for listening. We will link you up to purposely podcasts where you can find other great content about the gifts and talents that God has put into your life, and how you can use those to give back to the world. My name is Sarah Taylor. I’ll see you again in two weeks.