Needtobreathe Mends Fences, Recalibrates its Faith Focus and Finds Even More Success

To those looking from the outside in, the last few years in Needtobreathe’s band life appeared to be the epitome of what every ascending rock act could dream. The group’s 2011 record The Reckoning (Atlantic) topped the Billboard Rock and Christian charts, catapulted the South Carolina-bred players on an arena tour alongside Taylor Swift, found them playing many of the world’s major festivals (Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and even opening for Sting in France), not to mention a sold out headlining excursion. But just because everything looked like it was going to plan, the behind the scenes situation was unraveling so rapidly that the band even considered throwing in the towel prior to releasing 2014’s highly anticipated follow-up Rivers In The Wasteland (Atlantic). needtobreath-up“I think it probably started a little bit on the Taylor tour, and not necessarily because of her, but because the tour was such a high profile thing and the band was starting to get noticed more and success was coming our way a lot easier than it had in the previous eight or nine years,” reveals guitarist Bo Rinehart to “Along with that, I think we got a little off the road map for a minute and it’s an easy thing to do. I don’t necessarily think we got caught up in the success as much as we wanted to continue it. We felt like we had to do everything possible in order for that to happen and we were looking at the tiny details. We had not been off the road in seven or eight years playing 200-250 shows a year and just lost the point. I think for us when stuff wasn’t going right or fast enough, then we started to blame each other.” Taking a break to recalibrate About halfway through the recording sessions for Rivers In The Wasteland, tensions were so strained amongst the band (which also includes Bo’s brother Bear on lead vocals and bassist Seth Bolt), that Needtobreathe took a three month break to decompress from the stress and reassess what goals were most important to the group. Of course, there’s no hiding the fact that the group got its start in the Christian market and had considerable crossover acclaim in the process, but were the mainstream charts and the massive shows going to be the only future focus? “Bear and I are brothers, we tend to be competitive and I hadn’t really spoken to him in those couple of months,” admits Bo of the temporary schism that at one point found the family members setting up separate dressing rooms backstage. “But when we came back together, we said basically the same thing. Our identity is not in this band or how successful this band is. For us, it’s something way bigger than that, and if we’re gonna do it, we have to do it for the right reason. Immediately there was a shift in us being on the same page and being able to create together without the same stress we had before. We weren’t trying to impress anybody or chase success or anticipate what people might like. We were doing something that we loved and doing it to glorify God and what He does with it is completely up to Him. If we’re gonna make anything great ever, it’s because He is the biggest part of it. We just got to the point where if we were gonna do anything worth doing, that God was going to have to breathe on it or otherwise we were done. [From that point forward] the rest of the record started flowing together in an incredible way. The first song I played Bear was a song called ‘Brother,’ which I joke is my little song to him and now he sings it back to me on stage. It’s about the whole band and how we should be lifting each other up.” Back on top So how exactly did the fellas fare after ironing out all those creases and even stripping down its sound from the powerful production of the previous project to the more bare bones rock n’ folk approach of the current collection? Well, let’s just say the triumph keeps coming at lightening speed, starting with a #1 slot on all of iTunes, another Billboard Rock Albums chart topping debut, an impressive #3 slot on the entire Billboard Top 200, plus prominent appearances on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” all within a mere week’s time! needt-breathe-story“Honestly I was completely shocked,” shares Bo, still reeling from the groundswell of attention. “I think we’ve had high expectations before with previous records and it’s not a new thing for us, but I think this was such a hard record for us to make and it took so long. I knew we were doing something special, but I had no idea how anybody would take it. I didn’t know if people were going to dig it or say it doesn’t sound like the last one. We didn’t go for the huge sounds, the big electronic drums and all the stuff that’s going on in radio today. We set out to make an honest record and be vulnerable and 90 percent of the record is live. It was kind of getting back to what we wanted to do and we’re beside ourselves right now that people dig it.” Authenticity at every turn Considering the way this privately faltering group was able to continue steering the ship towards such public positivity begs the question of why the players didn’t just let family matters stay behind closed doors rather than sharing their struggles with fans? After all, these types of brotherly tensions can’t help but draw comparisons to Kings of Leon or Oasis, whose on-again/off-again relationships have become frequent tabloid fodder, and while Needtobreathe might not be quite as famous as either act, they sure are getting close. “It’s one thing to say ‘let’s make an honest and vulnerable record, let’s leave mistakes on there and let’s talk about the things that aren’t comfortable to talk about,’” ventures Bo. “Then once you go down that path, you realize this is going to come out and be talked about. When we were getting close to the deadline, there was a nervousness about that, but coming to terms with that was a God thing for sure…For the last eight months to a year now, we’re coming to the band with a totally different mindset and we respect each other and are encouraging each other rather than tearing each other done. It’s been incredible the amount of creativity that reflects that kind of attitude. Not that there won’t be some hard times in the future, but right now it’s pretty amazing. As long as we keep our focus on God, it shouldn’t be a problem.”