Leen graduated from McClintock High School in Tempe, then studied English and philosophy at Arizona State University, leaving during his junior year to devote his energies to music. Leen's friends know him for his sardonic wit, and his extensive knowledge of American music.
He and Doug Hopkins played in a variety of local Tempe bands during the early 1980s, including The Moral Majority and The Psalms before moving to Portland, OR and forming The 10 o'Clock Scholars. His first taste of musical notoriety occurred while playing with the Psalms. The Psalms were asked to fill in for up-and-coming band R.E.M. which had cancelled a show, opening for Billy Idol, at the Devil House nightclub in Tempe.