BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
How Needtobreathe Spent Their Summer Vacation
By Jennifer E. Jones
Needtobreathe is fast becoming a band you need to know.
In January 2006, you could have walked past these guys on the street without knowing who they were (or stood beside them waiting for an elevator, like yours truly). However, all that changed when a series of events kicked off a summer none of them would soon forget.
It all started back in April. When I first met Needtobreathe, we sat down for lunch at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. It was their first time at Gospel Music Association Week; it was my first lunch interview. Needless to say, everyone was a little nervous – them more so than me because this little known band just made the coveted cover of CCM Magazine just in time for thousands of GMA Week attendees to read their story.
“There are stars around us… people we grew up with,” lead singer Bear Rinehart told CBNmusic. “Last night, we were talking with people from our label, and Martin Smith from Delirious was there. We’re looking at him like [wow]… When we first started writing music, we were writing worship songs, and he had such an impact on what we do now. He’s so cool." Bear adds with a laugh, "You almost feel weird about talkin’ to him.”
Star-struck as they were, the foursome from Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, were humbled to walk amongst such major players in the industry – especially since they were generating a buzz of their own.
“It’s obviously flattering but we’ve been making this music for a long time. We’ve been touring as is for years,” Bear said. “So it kinda feels like every little thing that happens is like an inch closer to something.”
As we continued to chat and dine, no doubt the boys were thinking about their new album Daylight. On the day of our interview, it was releasing in stores and out to the critics. Luckily, good news could be heard all around. Daylight received rave reviews from several outlets including CCM Magazine and Christianity Today. Sales were good too.
Bear’s brother Bo Rinehart remarked, “We got a few calls [saying], ‘We just went to Best Buy. They only have one left!’”
Needtobreathe has kept their ear to the streets not only through tireless touring but via a personal connection with fans through MySpace.
“It’s much more of a real reaction. It feels like we’re really talking to fans,” says Bear. “You can really get a sense about them. If someone leaves you a comment, you can go look at their profile and who else leaves a comment for them and a list of bands that they love. You really get a sense of the people who like your music.”
The buzz about the band throughout cyberspace and beyond helped get them attention from more than just the Christian music industry. Less than a month after GMA Week, news came across the wire that Needtobreathe would spend a few tour dates with Train. For the month of May, they traveled along side the kings of adult contemporary rock as the opening act – allowing Needtobreathe to play much bigger venues than they were used to.
Nearly four months later, I caught up with the boys again when they stopped by Norfolk, VA. By this time, things were a little different.
For starters, everything about their career blew up… including their van.
On April 18, the band posted video of their van on fire for all their MySpace Blog fans to see. I confess to the guys that the first time I saw the video, I thought it was a hoax.
“I’ve got it right here on my phone if you want to see,” drummer Joe Stillwell says. The fire was definitely real. Luckily no one was harmed, and with a new van, the band was able to hit the road and see their audiences get larger and larger.
“Train was a great tour. It was our first extended big tour,” Bear tells CBNmusic at the NorVa Theater in Norfolk. “There were nice theaters every night. Something for us to get used to – playing to a sit-down crowd. It was a good experience.”
They hopped off the tour with Train at the end of May and joined labelmates Big City Rock on the Love and Heat Tour. The traveling rock show not only let the band go to new cities on the West Coast but also let them reconnect with their already established fanbase.
“We’ve just started to go back to the same [cities we’ve played before],” says Bear. “We’re seeing the same faces, which is what touring is all about… We’re seeing more people and people that know every song. We’ve never had that happen.”
Besides their heavy touring schedule, increased radio airplay on both Christian and mainstream stations has also helped the band’s songs get ingrained in the minds of listeners.
“We get to see the single ‘You Are Here’ playing in the Christian market go up to No. 2, which none of us thought was possible,” Bear confesses. “Not that we didn’t want it to but we’re a new artist.”
“Every couple days a friend will call up and say, ‘I’m in the mall. I’m in Chik-Fil-A and I hear your song,’” bassist Seth Bolt adds.
“Haley” and “Shine On” are the new singles impacting mainstream and Christian radio respectively, and the hype growing around this band doesn’t afford them much free time.
The guys admit that between interviews, promotions and shows (“Everyday there’s something scheduled,” Bear says), trips back home are few and, at times, weeks go by without a day off.
“We were on the radio this morning, and people assumed that we slept,” Bear says. “A lot of times we’ve slept for two hours then get up and do the radio thing. We did ESPN’s Cold Pizza, and it was the same situation -- maybe two hours.”
With a schedule like that, the guys have found creative ways to find rest. For example, when they arrived into Norfolk, they caught some shut-eye in the most unusual place – at the movie theater watching Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest.
“We needed a place to nap,” Bo says, laughing.
“It didn’t really work for me," Joe says. "I got into the movie."
After six years of touring, thousands of miles, and a couple of vans, Needtobreathe continues to leave their audiences holding their breath across the U.S. with absolutely no plans of slowing down. Tour dates are in the making with some pretty heavy-hitters including Casting Crowns.
Bear says, “It’s been a wild ride but it’s been a lot of fun.”
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