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A need to breathe

6/4/2014

After playing together for more than 12 years, NEEDTOBREATHE needed to get back to its roots. 

The South Carolina band experienced some growing pains recently during the making of its fifth album, “Rivers In the Wasteland,” which debuted No. 1 on iTunes and No. 3 on the Billboard 200.

“During the making of ‘Rivers In the Wasteland,’ we nearly broke up,” said bassist Seth Bolt in a phone interview. “It kind of looked like everything was going to be over and done with. Now that we are on the other side of that, we are experiencing a joy and appreciation. We feel like we’ve been given a second chance to tour again.”

NEEDTOBREATHE will perform at the Simon Estes Amphitheater in Des Moines on June 10..

NEEDTOBREATHE will perform at the Simon Estes Amphitheater in Des Moines on June 10.

“Rivers In the Wasteland” is a reflection of the band’s life in the past year-and-a-half: dark times in the beginning that transform to hope and joy of a renewed faith in the end.

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“I think that without faith we wouldn’t be doing this interview right now because we had basically lost sight of our faith and allowed success and our ambitions to cause us to spin out of control,” Bolt said. “We kind of forgot who we were and where we came from.  The renewing of our faith is what restored us.

“We’ve always tried to have really honest lyrics and just write about what’s happening in our lives. But definitely on this record, it was like a way of processing all of the mess that we were going through. The latter half of the record is sort of the healing and the joy that came with it.  There is definitely a wider palette than before, and it’s immensely gratifying to hear that somehow a song has helped someone through a tough situation.  It blows my mind sometimes to hear the stories that come out of that.”

Bolt and brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart were childhood friends, and Bolt said the kinship inevitably built what has become the band’s unique sound.

“I think part of it goes all the way back to us growing up together,” he said. “We were like 7, 9 and 10 when we met. We played sports together on teams and were in little kids’ musicals and stuff like that. There is a little bit of an intangible thing to just growing up with somebody, something you can’t really buy.

“Also, I have a recording studio I started when I was 16 years old, and we were able to make a lot of mistakes without anybody watching and take chances. Ultimately, a lot of those chances worked for us, and we were able to figure out where we wanted to go with it.”

After taking some time off from the grind of the album/tour/album/tour cycle, the band is eager to get back in front of its legion of fans. Although the down time was needed, Bolt said, performing for their fans is where the greatest joy lies.

“There has been a lot of recent growth and blooming that has happened that has really changed all of us, and I think changed the way we look at what we get to do,” he said. “I think we realized how fortunate we are to have such great fans, to get to play music for a living, to share our story with people and to hear theirs. We’ve never been more excited to be touring.”

NEEDTOBREATHE is signed on with Word Records, a Christian music label featuring acts such as Switchfoot and Skillet. Bolt said a new wave of Christian artists is raising the standard of Christian rock.

“I think it is going to be really cool to see how that plays out in the next three to five years,” Bolt said. “We have a responsibility as Christians to make great music — to make better music. A friend of mine once said that he thinks that Jesus would like to listen to better music, and I agree with him.”

The band’s current tour lasts through the end of September, but work has already begun on a new record.

“We are always working behind the scenes,” Bolt said. “Historically, we’ll start writing the next record immediately after the current one comes out.  I’m actually in the studio today working on a song that we started to demo about two months ago before we left for tour.  It usually evolves a couple times. For a little bit we might want to do something really stripped down or over the top. That’s probably why we make records that are kind of all over the place. It’s really made the live show what it is.  It gives us the ability to go a lot of different places in two hours, and that helps keep things fresh for us and the fans as well.” CV

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