As Taylor Swift's tourmates, findingBillboard
success and as the winners of multiple Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, NEEDTOBREATHE make for quite the musical intersection. With a driving blend of faith-infused rock, the South Carolinian trio of bassist Seth Bolt, vocalist Bear Rinehart and guitarist Bo Rinehart have garnered fans from all walks of life, finding the greatest success with 2011'sThe Reckoning
. Now with a fresh release behind them, last month'sRivers In The Wasteland
, the three are back on the road and playing to crowds that are as ravenous as ever. We spoke to Bolt ahead of NEEDTOBREATHE's set at the Marquee Theatre on Monday, May 5.
As you have an education from Full Sail in music engineering and your own studio, how intrinsic was having that much creative reign early on to the band's sound?
I think it honestly had a really big impact in a couple ways. On one hand, we kind of learned every wrong way to do it at first. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing; we were just trying really hard to get the sound that we had in our heads through the speakers somehow. But it was fertile ground for me as an engineer and for us as a band. I think it was in that way that we kind of found our formula for songwriting and music production. Bear and Bo write so many really great songs, a lot of them that never see the light of day, but they're really prolific writers.
With the success of The Reckoning, did you guys feel like that was the turning point to your exposure, the moment where the band found its traction with a bigger market?
I think I had that feeling a little bit earlier. The Reckoning came out after we were already on tour with Taylor Swift, and I had that feeling that maybe what we had put out there stuck enough that this could be a longer career than most bands get to have. What made me feel that way, in part, was [that] we were touring across the country and going back to all the same places we had played 15 times each. All of a sudden, there were lines around the block and the venues were sold out. We always thought that that was the turning point where you can tell that something's happening -- you can't really put your finger on what it is exactly, other than the fact that you've just kind of been doing it and putting in the work. We hadn't had a mega, Top 40 hit or something like that, so it was really cool to see the fans connect to something that we had started above my dad's garage.
NEEDTOBREATHE recorded Rivers In The Wasteland at both Sound City Studios and in Nashville. Talk me through the recording process at such a legendary place as Sound City and why you guys moved the sessions to Tennessee.
There are some recording spaces and some stages that have a certain air in the room, and Sound City is definitely one of them. I had a similar feeling when I first stepped onto stage at the Ryman [Auditorium] in Nashville. I remember the tunnel to the stage at Madison Square Garden. It's the same air that's been there for all those years. It felt really special, just to trick your brain into doing things that you wouldn't normally do and somehow still harnessing the music that's playing. We went to Nashville from there to work with Joe Cicarelli, he's the guy who's made a lot of records that we love, and on this record we kind of followed suit with how we've done records in the past but we tried to work with a couple different producers to just see what happens. You never know when it's gonna work and when it's not. We grew up as being students of the recording studio environment, and because we started out doing it ourselves, we're always curious to see how other producers make records and what we can glean from that experience.
On the other side of that coin, what is it like having faith being a factor in your songwriting process? I would assume that your faith directly influences the lyrics more so than the melody.
We don't really have any written rules about the message or the questions that a song might ask other than just the conversations we've had. We never wanted to be a band that has all the answers, because our gift is playing music, not necessarily speaking absolute truths into everyone's life. I think we're really guided by our faith and all of that is to say that songs that are about faith are treated with a reverence. It's important to us that all the lyrics really come from a place of honesty. That's the gateway to whether or not the lyric is going to be a lyric on a record. "Is this honest or is this all hypothetical, coming from a real place?" The songs that are about faith are very real and I hope that people can sense that. We don't have any pressure, luckily, to write a Christian song or sing about faith, so when we do it's because it's something that we're really feeling.
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NEEDTOBREATHE are scheduled to play the Marquee Theatre on Monday, May 5.