With all the stuff on their plate, you have to wonder if NeedToBreathe has had any time to, well, breathe. The rock band from the South are currently on their Drive All Night tour and are in the finishing stages of completing their fifth yet-to-be-titled studio album (due out in the fall). Before their Reckoning tour last year, NeedToBreathe were opening for Taylor Swift’s Speak Now tour. This time, though, all eyes are on them with Drew Holcomb and the Neighbours as their opening act.
NeedToBreathe’s lead singer Bear Rinehart chatted with ANDPOP over the phone about what it was like to open for Taylor Swift, what to expect on their new tour and new mystery album.
ANDPOP: You’re currently on your Drive All Night tour. What can your fans expect at your show, old material or some stuff from your new album?
BEAR RINEHART: It’s a good mix, we’re playing a few new songs, we’re playing some of our old stuff and trying to do it in a new way. We’re having a lot of fun. We’ve been out for a few weeks, and I think [we’ve had] some of the best shows we’ve ever played.
How’s playing your own music different from the last tour you did, which was opening up for Taylor Swift?
It was definitely different. We get to play more songs, do our own thing a little bit. It’s definitely more of a rock and roll show and we’re having fun with it. We try to change up every night, we like to play to the audience. It’s not as if I’m playing the same show every night, I guess. I feel like the crowd should influence the show and we try to let that happen.
So you’re fifth album is untitled. Do you have a title in mind, is it all a mystery?
Oh definitely, we are deciding on that right now. We are still working on the record to be honest, we’re about 3 quarters of the way through it.
How does it differ from your last four albums?
We went up to L.A. to make this record. It’s a very live sort of sound, we have 16 tracks on the whole thing. It’s the first time we ever did that – where we weren’t in a place trying to do a lot of other stuff. It was about doing what we can do in a room and living with it, it was about trying to get the magic to happen – not some sort of post production where there’s stacking on top of it.
The Reckoning, we are very proud of but we definitely stacked away and tried to make it as big of a sound as we possibly could. [The new album], in a way, is the opposite of that, very stripped down and raw.
What’s it like reflecting on the fact you’re going to have 5 albums worth of music and material out in the world? A lot of people struggle to get one or two good albums about.
It’s because we’ve been doing this for so long, to be honest; the band’s been together almost 14 years now. When we first started the band we said, “Well, we have a couple of weeks,” and that changed to a couple of months, then maybe we had a year left we can do this for sure. Just nothing’s ever guaranteed, and you’re always struggling [with] your whole existence really. To look up to see it come as far as it has, we are really just humbled by it to be honest. We love what we do. When we first started out, we’ve always said if we can make any money at all, if we could just make a living doing it, we would do it forever, and that’s what we’ve been able to do, it makes us really happy.
With all the albums you’ve done, is it a new experience every time you go into the studio? Or do you just feel more comfortable, that it’s something you’re more used to?
We’re more comfortable definitely in the studio, [but] it’s new every time. The last record for us was a really emotional time with the band—a lot of stuff was going on internally with us. It was the first sort of [time] going into the record we knew [it] was going to do well that we were making it—which was a weird sort of place for us to be, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and that just changed the dynamic of the whole record. I think this one we were confident going into it and we were all on the same page as the fans with what we wanted to do. We closed out all the other opinions—you know the label, management and all the kind of stuff—we were going to the record we wanted to make. It’s been much easier to do.
Do you think you had more freedom with this album?
Yeah, I think we’ve had a lot of freedom in terms of nobody said, “you have to do it that way or this way.” I think there’s a certain thing about being southern and the way we were raised, you know very humble, you always are yielding to people. It seems like we were always wanting people’s opinions or letting people in a little too much. And I think — not in an arrogant way — but I think this time around, we really felt like, “hey, lets not do that this time.” I think it’s much easier to go with your instinct than having to try to work around everybody’s agenda.
Can you tell me a little bit about your opening act?
Yeah, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbours We had them on the last tour, and he’s a real great rock singer and we actually have them guest on a couple of our songs. I definitely think our fans will dig it.
Speaking of opening acts, what are some other differences between opening for Taylor Swift and having full control of the concert? Is it less stressful being an opening act?
I think in our situation with her it was more stressful. It was shocking; her fans were even younger than we thought they were, and younger than we expected them to be, and a little younger than our fans normally are. I think for us it was a big learning experience too. We have never played in [a venue] that size — we were playing in stadiums which was a little bit crazy. For us we learned how to communicate in that sort of way. We grew up playing clubs and had just started playing theatres. It was a challenge for sure. For the first couple months of the tour, we were watching the video of [our performance] every night trying to decide how can we get this across what we normally get across in a certain way. I think it was a real challenge for us and we probably took it harder than we should’ve but we really just wanted to get better and it definitely made us better as a band. Coming back and playing these venues I think we learned a lot from being on that sort of stage.
So did you find the change in demographic a conflict or difficult to work with?
It wasn’t a conflict, just a difference. We always looked at it like it was Elvis when he was on TV you know, he wasn’t a niche man. So much now is like “oh I’m in this type of band”; we never wanted to see ourselves as that. We always felt like, look if we got up in front of people and we were good, they should like it. There wasn’t a “well they don’t like this type of rock,” we never saw that as an excuse. That’s why it was a challenge for us, you know, [with] these kids that haven’t been to a rock concert. I think some in the first row were scared of what they were seeing. It took a bit of warming up yeah, but it really was [a growing experience] for us. Hopefully every experience we have is that way.