We Are Leo, originating in the Chicago area, has become known for their high-energy pop rock sound and enthusiastic live sets. Currently the band is comprised of David Duffield (vocals), Doug Weier (guitar), John Panzer III (guitar and vocals) and Joshua Sentner (drums). David Duffield shares, "We Are Leo is music for 'Life in Motion.' With songs about life, love, faith and hope, it is music for the dreamers, the artists, and the hopeful souls searching for a genuine, redemptive, human existence."
We Are Leo has matured and progressed since their 2011 debut Hello, which featured the hit songs "Live for Love," "Oxygen" and "Heartbeats," and their 2014 follow-up album Fightback Soundtrack, which featured "You're the Best Thing" and "Epic." Now they return with The Rush & The Roar, continuing their brand of upbeat and worshipful songs. I had the chance to speak with lead singer David Duffield about "61 / Twenty-Three."
Please tell me the personal story behind this song.
The songwriting story is that I have no memory of writing this song. A lot of times when I get an idea for a song and I'm sitting at my piano in my living room, which is where I am now, I will start playing and singing and record a voice memo on my iPhone. We were getting ready for this album, and I was sitting in a coffeehouse reviewing all of the songs for this album. I wanted something cool and definitely Christian with a message that would encourage people. For me, if I try to write a song based on Scripture and I try to force it instead of letting it flow out of my relationship with Christ, it sounds forced instead of heartfelt.
I had songs started, and some of those didn't feel right as I had recorded 273 voice memos over the past 3 years. It was overwhelming as I listened back through all of them. All of a sudden, I had this song. One day I sat down and changed the pre-chorus and some of the lyrics, then I recorded a demo and took it to our producer, and the song was done. It was crazy and as though this song was meant to be. I brought it to the record label, and they picked it as the lead single.
I've never had a song like this before. It really felt like a God-moment where He gave the song to me. The song is based on what I've drawn out of Psalm 23 and the journey of what it means to me that the Lord is my Shepherd and He makes me lie down in green pastures. For so much of my life, I've tried to be cool and make things work. I grew up with a perfectionist attitude and looked for affirmation for my accomplishments and getting praises from people. I see that in my life. As an adult and in my walk with God, in the midst of that, God's been doing a work in me and teaching me about rest. It's been so healing for me, and I don't feel like I'm trying so hard anymore. I'm trusting God.
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?
Isaiah 61:10(VOICE): I am filled with joy and my soul vibrates with exuberant hope, because of the Eternal my God; For He has dressed me with the garment of salvation, wrapped me with the robe of righteousness. It's as though I'm dressed for my wedding day, in the very best: a bridegroom's garland and a bride's jewels.
Psalm 23:4(VOICE): "Even in the unending shadows of death's darkness, I am not overcome by fear. Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with Your protection and guidance, I am comforted."
Psalm 30:11-12(VOICE): You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing; You stripped off my dark clothing and covered me with joyful light. You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs! It's impossible to keep quiet! Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.
Romans 8:28(VOICE): "We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan."
What is the takeaway message?
In Philippians, Paul tells us that he found the secret to contentment, that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. What he's talking about is finding contentment in little and in much. When great things happen and when I'm having a bad day, I can learn to be content in Christ. It has a lot to do with rest and healing. That leads to the Isaiah 61 passage, which Jesus quoted, and says that He is anointed to bring good news and to mend the brokenhearted, bring sight to the blind and free the captives and bring beauty for ashes. I see Jesus saying that over me.
Through this process, a lot of the baggage I've carried from childhood of broken-heartedness, God has brought healing from His touch and His Spirit. The chorus is about how my heart is slowly un-breaking. God is giving me freedom and rest. It's incredible to be in front of so many teens. I had a pretty rough go in my teens dealing with depression, insecurity and struggling with big questions about faith and my place in the world. Not to say that I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but through the struggle, I found Christ. Or maybe I should say He found me. Either way, I came through the brokenness, and in Him I'm finding a hope and a future. That's what this song is about: "You know the plans that You have for me, and You heal my heart and You set me free... because You love me."
Being able to sing these words really encompasses the journey I've been on. Feeling the pain of being broken and finding Christ in the midst of that... I know He's my shepherd. Expressing that, creatively, through music? It's a dream come true. This record celebrates beauty and joy. It hints at pain deeply felt and is a road-map of how this band has come through the hard times to find true hope.
Lyrics: A thousands colors in the shadows of a white wall
A thousand stories that were smashed by a wrecking ball
I've been trying to find a way to finally make sense of this mess
But then I catch a glimpse of You
Like sunshine and freedom
Falling on my broken heart
In the golden glow of Your real love
Faith starts to grow
And You restore my soul
My heart is slowly un-breaking
With Your touch
You remake me
You are forever the One who saves me
My heart is slowly un-breaking
You are with me in the shadows of the dark night
You're the hope forever rescuing my life
I was reaching out
And You found me
You are making me whole
And You restore my soul
Restore my soul
I look to You
Come and find me here
And You hold me close
And still my fears
And renew my soul
And You give me rest in Your love
And You know the plans that You have for me
And You heal my heart
And You set me free
In Your outstretched arms
Because You love me
I imagine this song is sung in the way King David said his profound words of comfort in Psalm 23 to the Lord. David was a shepherd, and he knew that the Lord was his only guide and hope and the Good Shepherd of his soul. This song is all about submitting all of your worries, anxieties and stress to God and letting Him be your guide. God wants to walk beside you, and He wants us to be bold and unafraid.
We all deal with some level of fear, worry and anxiety. God knows that about us, and after I read that He tells us to not have fear or worry in His Word 365 times, enough for one time each day, I have been attentive to that concept in my daily Bible study. I have found that by being washed by the water of the Word, I am strengthened with the Truth that God wants us to know that fear, worry and being anxious is not His plan for our lives.
When I meet a band like We Are Leo who makes a fun upbeat pop record, and see them trying to live based on the Word of God and infuse their music with Scripture, I want as many people to hear about them as possible. The musical vibe and inspirational lyrics of this song represent that true joy that we are called to have in Christ, regardless of our circumstances.
700 years before Jesus made the way to Heaven by coming to earth, it was prophesied in Isaiah 61:3 that He would come "to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes." Christ fulfilled that prophecy on the cross, and He promises in His Word that one day He will make "all things new." That's cause to sing at the top of your lungs, "You're the hope forever rescuing my life, I was reaching out and You found me, You are making me whole, and You restore my soul." Amen to that!
Listen to the song below.
NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.
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