NeedtoBreathe Charleston band driving all night to the homecoming conclusion of tour


NeedtoBreathe seems to be in constant motion. Band members conclude the Drive All Night Tour in their hometown of Charleston on Saturday while also preparing a new album for a fall release.

Tentatively titled “La Differencia,” the name alludes to its previous music efforts. The band’s 2009 “The Outsiders” was highly polished and exhibited a more country sound with the banjo prominent, while the 2011 “The Reckoning” was edgier with a more straight-ahead guitar rock feel.

Co-songwriter, lead guitar and backing vocalist Bo Rinehart cited changing influences and a different attitude toward both the writing and recording process.

While lead singer and guitarist (and brother) Bear Rinehart cited Tom Petty as an inspiration for “The Reckoning,” the band’s influences keep changing.

“We’ve each been spreading our ears as far as we can and in different directions but then we find common ground,” Bo Rinehart said.

NeedtoBreathe experienced its first change in the core, nontouring lineup of the band with drummer Joe Stillwell’s decision to leave the group last year. Rinehart described the feeling as different yet the same as the personalities have changed but they are still doing what they have always done.

“We miss our buddy, but we have a fresh feeling and as much excitement as we ever have,” he said.

The Rinehart’s have altered the writing and recording process for the upcoming album.

For the former, Bear and Bo have been writing separately further into the process. As the brothers remain very competitive, Bo said he is judging his works more thoroughly and harshly than when tunes were brought to the whole band earlier in the development of songs.

“We have a lot of material to work with, and there are a limited number of slots,” he said.

The band is stripping down the recording process using 2-inch tape rather than digital and restricting the number of tracks used, which they are calling “forced limitation.”

“While we want something very transparent and with a fresh new angle, we will overdo things but at some point we have to stop,” Bo said, comparing it to the moment when a painter puts down the brush on a finished piece of art.

The band is in the middle of making the new album with a few songs completed, six ready to be mixed and 12 ready to be tracked. Rinehart describes the recording sessions as more open, with a certain magic playing together as a unit.

“It feels amazing and a more live setting than separate tracking,” he said.

While he has no idea right now, as with the previous two albums, Rinehart said to expect the unexpected with the first song on the new album. “We have a tendency to want some shock and awe to open things up.”

The current Drive All Night Tour marks the first time the band has concluded in Charleston. This was not coincidental, but planned.

“This has been on the calendar for a long time,” Bo Rinehart said, adding, “We’ve always wanted to end a tour in our hometown. It’s a proper celebration of the tour. We might be a little tired, but this amps us up.”

With four full albums under its belt and new songs in the works, the band realizes the time constraints of a show and the sensitivity of the fans to hear their favorite songs.

On a rare and recent day off, the band attended a concert by The Black Crowes in Dallas. “They did a great job of mixing recent and old material and their hits. I would hate to go (to a concert) and a favorite song didn’t get played,” Bo Reinhart said.

Changing the perspective from fan to performer, Rinehart expressed the feeling that the band has an obligation to and respect for the fans.

“They don’t owe us anything! We have a job and career only because of them,” he said.

The band takes giving back to the fans and community very seriously.

The annual NeedtoBreathe Classic golf tournament recently was held in conjunction with the Commonwealth Cares Foundation benefiting the Palmetto Medical Initiative.

“We do a lot of things for ourselves and for selfish reasons. Giving back is simply and honestly the right thing to do, and we’re fortunate that so many people have rallied around the cause. PMI changes lives for the better,” Rinehart said. “We have to appreciate what we have and be grounded. We recognize our blessings and how this brings an opportunity to help others,” he added.

With all tips donated directly to PMI, NeedtoBreathe’s recent digital EP is available at Live versions of old songs are included as is a demo of the new song “Happy If You Could.”

With the band’s increasing popularity, “The Outsiders” reached No. 20 on the Billboard 200 album chart while “The Reckoning” penetrated the Top 10, peaking at No. 6, the band does feel more pressure. “It’s a constant struggle, and the situation can be surreal at times where we ask ourselves, ‘Why are we here and how did we get here,’ ” Rinehart said.

He knows the band can’t put the brakes on the stress that success brings, but he said he feels the fans trust the band. “If the fans don’t like it, its not good and if we don’t like it, we won’t do it,” he said.

Rinehart said that most pressure and stress actually come from trying to get the band members to agree on songs and ideas.

“I can love something the band doesn’t like and we won’t use. Most importantly, we live and die by our own hearts, emotions and the things we love,” he said.

Rinehart confidently stated he is writing his best material ever by a long shot.

He had described “Something Beautiful” from “The Outsiders” album as the best song the band had recorded to date. But he knew “White Fences” from “The Reckoning” was special even before he had written the bridge section.

For “La Differencia,” Rinehart said the band “is just getting going,” but added that “Wasteland” and “More Heart Less Attacks” should be on their fans’ radars.