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Speaking With... Needtobreathe 03.30.12



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♦ 7:30 p.m. March 30

♦ Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine

♦ Tickets, $24

♦ (773) 275-6800;

Updated: March 28, 2012 7:47PM

Their music — which has been featured in films, movie trailers, television series, network promos and pro sports shows — may be more familiar than their name. But make no mistake, Needtobreathe is as tenacious a band as there ever was.

Started by Bear Rinehart (lead vocals, guitar, piano) and drummer Joe Stillwell when the two attended Furman University, the band also boasts singer/guitarist Nathaniel Bryant “Bo” Rinehart (yes, he and his brother Bear are named for legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant), and bassist Seth Bolt.

The Rinehart brothers began their music careers at a young age. Their father was a preacher, so his Assembly of God church in rural Possum Kingdom, S.C., was the perfect outlet for their voices. The family moved to Seneca, S.C., and the brothers’ love of music only intensified. School, college and football got in the way for a while, but music was always part of the Rineharts’ life journey. And while Needtobreathe may have won a best album Dove Award (the Christian music industry accolade) for their “Outsiders” CD, this band is all about Southern rock.

Well, sort of. Truth be told, it’s hard to pigeonhole the band’s blend of roots rock, pop, rock, contemporary Christian, multi-genre approach to music. And Bear Rinehart likes it that way.

The band is out on their latest solo tour (after spending half of 2011 opening for Taylor Swift) in support of their fourth CD, “The Reckoning.”

Question: Tell me about your earliest experiences with performing live — in your father’s church.

Bear Rinehart: It was one of the old Southern gospel, full-band churches. It was the first thing we were exposed to musically and it was a great opportunity for me and my brother.

Q. Going into business with a sibling can sometimes be troublesome. Do you and Bo really get along?

BR: [Laughs] I think “get along” is a good word for it. Truth is we fight a lot. We’re really competitive and completely different people. But that’s all been great for our songwriting. I’m more of a Type A-driven person. I really like soul music. He’s more atmospheric and artsy, the dreamy kind of stuff musically. It’s nice to have both perspectives when writing a song. We write together sometimes. But when we write alone and bring it in, [laughs] I have to try and top it, of course.

Q. You guys were compared to a lot of bands early on, like the Black Crowes, for example.

BR: I had no idea what people were talking about. We just got the weirdest comparisons. We got four records out, it’s been 12 years, and the band has changed musically over that time. People say you sound like these guys on this song and those guys on that song. And we’re like, what are you talking about? This is a rock band, that’s what we do.

Q. Did you want “The Reckoning” to make a real statement about who you guys are as a band?

BR: It’s true. Most of our career we had this chip on our shoulder trying to prove something to everyone. But we knew our audience was growing. So going into this record, we didn’t have this “us against the world” feeling. We were like, OK, now there are enough people listening, let’s just do something special. And it really had nothing to do with the sound. It was all about the intensity and the meticulous manner in the way we went about making this album. And we’re more rock and roll on this one. We really love how we take some of these backbeats and shuffles that we grew up with and make them more modern. We definitely wanted to make a guitar album.

Q. What did you learn about yourselves from touring with Taylor Swift?
BR: We learned a lot. We learned how to play bigger venues and still make it an intimate experience for the audience. We took the tour as a challenge, to try to have the same effect in front of 50,000 people that we do in front of 1,000.

Q. So where did the band’s name come from?

BR: It came from a story about Socrates. He was teaching his students along the water’s shore and one of them asked him, how do I know when I’m doing the right thing? And Socrates pushed the student’s head under the water and held it there until he was gasping for air. And Socrates said when you need something in your life as much as you need air to breathe, you know you’re doing right with your life.

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